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about manila

Manila is the capital city of the Philippines and one of two main places that you are likely to visit when you are traveling to this part of the world. The term “metropolitan Manila” or simply “metro Manila” refers to the city itself as more than one dozen other small cities and suburbs that surround the main city and make up the larger metropolitan area.

As a whole, Metro Manila is the most populous of the twelve defined metropolitan areas in the Philippines. As of the 2007 census, it had a population of 11,553,427, comprising 13% of the national population. Including suburbs in the adjacent provinces (Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal) of Greater Manila, the population is around 20 million.

Manila is often described as the only capital city in Asia that resembles a Latin American city. Next to Warsaw, Poland it was one of the most destroyed cities during World War II, but before this, Manila was one of the most beautiful cities in the world, having been compared with London, Paris and other European cities. Manila was the capital of the Spanish East Indies for 3 centuries and Intramuros, the ruins of the original city founded by the Spaniards in 1571, still stands today despite bombings during WWII.

This modern capital city is considered as the hub of Christianity in Asia and considered as one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world with a bustling growing population of 1.5 million people. Whatever the case, this is a large area and one of the most thriving portions of the Philippines so you can bet that there are a lot of things to see and places to visit when you travel here.

manila history

For over 3 centuries Manila was colonized and administered by Spain which left a great architectural heritage throughout the Philippines, especially with respect to churches, forts and other colonial buildings which can still be seen in the ruins of Intramuros, built in the late 16th century.

Manila began as a settlement on the banks of the Pasig River, and its name originates from "Maynilad," referring to the mangrove plant known as Nilad, which was abundant in the area. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, Manila was home to Muslim-Malays, who were descended from the Arabs, Indians, East Asians and other Southeast Asians.

In 1571, 50 years after Magellan's discovery of the islands, Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi claimed the Philippines as a colony and established Manila as its capital.

Manila was also briefly colonized by the British for 2 years. Manila was also part of the Spanish East Indies until 1898, when the U.S. took over the Philippines after the Spanish-American War.

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manila climate

The Philippines has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons: wet and dry. Typhoons and tropical storms are a common occurrence during the wet season, particularly in the northern part of the Philippines, and occurs from late May till early November.

Dry season starts from late November until late April. December to February is a pleasant time to visit the Philippines. Temperatures during this time range from 24-30°C (75-86°F) at its peak. From March to May, temperatures heat up but as Manila is by the coast, it rarely goes beyond 37°C (99°F)

manila language

English and Filipino (Tagalog) are the common languages in the northern mainland of Luzon. Tagalog is the native tongue of most Filipinos native to Manila and the surrounding Tagalog-speaking regions of Luzon. English comes second as a medium of instruction in any institution including businesses and the like (although some homes in the Philippines choose English as their first language; it depends upon preference).

In Binondo, Manila's Chinatown district, Hokkien is widely spoken while Mandarin might also be known as it is taught in Chinese educational institutes.

places to visit in manila

intramuros photo

At the northern end of the Bay lies the remnants of the old walled Spanish settlement of Manila, Intramuros (Spanish for 'within the walls').

Intramuros contains some of the city's most interesting museums, ruins, and churches including the Manila Cathedral, the most important church in the country.

Fort Santiago
fort santiago photo

One of the oldest and most dramatic colonial buildings in the Philippines, Fort Santiago was built to guard the entrance to the Pasig River and dates back, in its oldest sections, to 1571. Its most famous prisoner was the national hero, José Rizal, who spent his last days here before his death at the hands of the Spanish in 1896. More recent memories of tyranny include the legacy of wartime Japanese occupation, when Philippine freedom fighters suffered and died here. In another cell block, American POWs were left to be drowned by the rising tide - this was one of the rumoured resting places for the legendary wartime trove of Yamashita's Gold and the victims' last resting place has been much disturbed by treasure seekers. The Japanese used Fort Santiago as their final redoubt against American forces and the fort was correspondingly damaged. It has been rebuilt as a park, with its own resident theatre company. At its heart is the Rizal Shrine, which contains very crypto-Catholic relics of the hero - one of his vertebrae, the first draft of his novel Noli Me Tangere or Touch Me Not (1887) and the original of his death poem.

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Manila Baywalk
manila baywalk photo

South of the Luneta is the renovated Baywalk a linear park adjacent to Manila Bay.

Rizal Park
rizal park photo

A substantial open green area that showcases Manila at play, 58-hectare (143-acre) Rizal Park is one of the largest parks in South-East Asia. It is also known as Luneta, after the area it replaced. Its local significance can be gauged by the fact that it is named after Dr José Rizal, the great Philippine anti-colonial fighter and thinker. He is memorialised in the Diorama of the Martyrdom of Dr José Rizal, which becomes a son et lumière exhibit after sunset, and his remains were interred in the Rizal Monument in 1912. The many ornamental gardens include a re-creation of the entire Philippines archipelago in the eastern ponds. There is also a Japanese Garden, a Chinese Garden, an Orchidarium, a chess plaza and a skating rink. The museums and public buildings within its precincts include the Museum of the Pilipino People (see below). In the morning, residents assemble to practise tai chi, Philippine stick-fighting or sundry forms of martial arts, while on most Sundays, there is a free ‘Concert at the Park' in an open-air auditorium.

National Museum of the Philippines
national museum of the phillipines photo

Founded in 1901 as the Insular Museum of Ethnology, Natural History and Commerce, the National Museum of the Philippines houses the official national baseline collections in the sciences and humanities, with particular reference to the environment and history of the Philippines.

The National Museum has many archaeological exhibits of the Philippines' prehistory, including the skull of ‘Tabon Man', the oldest human remains in the archipelago. The Museum of the Filipino People collection includes the preserved timbers and treasures of the San Diego, a Spanish galleon that sank in Philippine waters after a collision in 1600.

Also visit the Juan Luna collection of paintings. Luna was a Filipino master painter known for Spoliarium, an awe-inspiring painting depicting dead Roman gladiators being dragged away after the famed games. Luna won several major awards in his time, beating painters from all over the world.

Chinese Cemetery
chinese cemetery manila photo

Founded in the 1850s, the Chinese Cemetery was designated as the resting place for the Chinese citizens who were denied burial in Catholic cemeteries. A memorial garden considerably more opulent and bizarre than most of its ilk elsewhere in Asia, Manila's Chinese Cemetery houses very complete sets of grave goods - tombs outfitted with air conditioning, plumbing, flushing toilets, chandeliers and all other modern conveniences for the well-off corpse. Entire streets are laid out to honour the dead and the status of their surviving relatives. Guided tours around some of the more baroque excesses are available courtesy of the guards.

Malacanang Palace and Museum
malacanag palace photo

Locally renowned as a historic building, the palace was formerly the summer residence of the Spanish governor general and is now the seat of government and the official residence of the head of state. Its museum houses mementoes of each successive president of the Philippines.

Imelda Marcos' famous shoe collection was once part of the holdings, although they have now been removed to leave more worthy exhibits.

Fort Bonifacio
fort bonifacio photo

This is a section of a city in Metro Manila where you can learn more about the military history of the Philippines. Various landmarks are located throughout the district with the main place to visit being the Heritage Park memorial park. Memorial cemeteries can also be visited here.

Casa Manila
casa manila photo

Casa Manila is a government museum located in a reconstructed Spanish period house of the mid-1800s. The reconstruction is a replica of the original Spanish period house that once stood in that area along Calle de Jaboneros in San Nicolas, Binondo. It is a Colonial Lifestyle Museum, which is part of Plaza San Luis Complex.

The furnishings and artworks displayed in Casa Manila range from the 17th to the early 20th century. It showcases the Intramuros lifestyle of upperclass Filipinos at the turn of the century. Included in this lifestyle is a collection of antique furniture and furnishing from China and Europe, which dates back in the 19th century, most of which are crystal chandeliers. It also showcases Persian rugs, Chinese ceramics, four-poster ebony bed, religious images, antique piano and harp, marble-top tables, and such other items that show the luxury of the era.

Shopping Malls (Mall of Asia)
mall of asia photo

Even if shopping isn’t your thing, it’s worth it to check out at least one of the three major malls in Metro Manila because they’re history-making in their size and development.

These three malls (SM Mall of Asia, SM City North Edsa and SM Megamall) are all on the list of the world’s largest malls, making them historic attractions as well as intriguing sightseeing opportunities.

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