Oh well, Manila! How exactly did I come up with heading to Manila for a getaway! It all comes back to the Europe trip that I had last summer. I bought the ticket as part of it, from Europe to Manila. It would be nice to have a getaway in January using up this partial ticket. Little did I know that, Manila would be one of the most memorable trip I ever had, given that it is that one last hurdle prior to the COVID situation as well as me getting tangled by the Taal Volcano eruption. Writing this currently during the lockdown period makes me think of travelling so much! I do have to say that I did not do most of the things that I had planned in Manila and given that it is more of a “staycation” we did not do much exploring. Read on for my thoughts on Manila! Did I enjoy it?
I actually got a little scared while planning the trip to Manila after hearing how shady the city might be. The issues with drugs, guns and crimes. It is kinda scary. I do have to say that it turned out to be less scary that expected. I was out in the town during the day and spend most of the other times in the Malls and in the hotels. To state, I was just in the old city, my hotel and malls. I am not trying to say that Manila is safe and all but I will certainly take some precautions. Furthermore I really have to commend their way of doing things. There are security guards and airport kind of scanners in all malls, casinos, hotels and everywhere. You basically have to scan all your belongings before entering. This makes me feel alot better and in fact they are pretty professional and not just those typical scan and move on kind. As a data point, I had a Swiss Army Knife in my suitcase and they were being stopped by my hotel security! Lols. I always do travel with one to open bottles and cut items but it is funny that this is the first time I got stopped because of it.
Time for my time in Manila. I am so glad to say that this is my 29th Country and 96th City on the list! Woohoo! Many more to come. First up, sightseeing in the old city. Here is a couple places that I managed to visited. The main attractions are all located in the Old City or known as the Intramuros. A walled city with roots from being a Spanish colony. Manila is also a place where you can find lots of Spanish influences, from their names, culture and embedded in their local cuisine as well. While there is a lot of opinions on how dirty and overcrowded the city is. I did still enjoy certain places in Intramuros. Do note that traffic is super bad at all times of the day and cater much more time than you think you need. There is always a wait for our ride and even the journey to the city which is not that far away takes close to 45 mins.
Fort Santiago, was the first place that I visited and it turned out to be my favourite as well. It is located to the north of the old city and one of the main attractions in Manila. This is also a very nice place to check out the famed walls of the city. After all, the walled city is the main highlight in Manila. Fort Santiago is the iconic Citadel in the past where the Spanish used it to defend the city. It is built in 1593 by Spanish navigator and governor Miguel López de Legazpi. I really love seeing such sights, where you get a glimpse of the structure in the past. I enjoyed walking the grounds, there are also a couple of vantage points around the fort. You can really spend some time here. There is also a museum onsite that commemorate the local hero, Jose Rizal. There is a small entrance fee but nothing too expensive. Check out some of my pictures here.
Manila Cathedral is next up on the list. This is also just almost opposite Fort Santiago. It is the main cathedral in the city. Roman Catholic are the main religion over here and there are a lot of impressive cathedrals and churches in the city. This cathedral is also known as The Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It is rather impressive and free to enter. I love how vast it is and the stained glasses. It is a very different feeling to those that I have visited in Europe. The cathedral have also been thru the years, built in 1571, more than 400 years ago!
San Agustin Church is another gorgeous beauty. Sadly I didn’t really get the opportunity to check it out since there was a wedding going on. It is really impressive to see how well the locals dress up for a church wedding. Everyone wore their very best outfits full of sequins and crystals. It seems like a ball to me!
Rizal Park is the last place that I visited for sightseeing. It is a vast park just out of the old walled city. Everyone known how much I love parks. Perhaps not so much in South East Asia but it was a nice place for a walk too. The park is very lovely, perhaps in better weather I guessed. I love how they had music played throughout the park and it really improves the overall vibes. A very nice place for a stroll.
Food! When in Manila, you definitely have to check out the local food as well. I am really impressive by the local cuisine which I got to try some at my hotel. I do think that it is my very first time trying Philippines cuisine. Then you also have the fusion kind, where due to their Spanish roots you can find a lot of similarities between them such as tapas and even the famous Lechon, isn’t is so similar to the Spain Suckling Pig? Then you also have to go for the fried chicken. Everyone knows the fried chicken is the best in this part of the world. You have the chain, Jollibee! Then there is also this Max Chicken which you have to try as well.
Manila or Philippines is also known for their malls and casino. Everyone knows how impressive their malls are where everything is prized on being big and being huge. The shops are like the size of 10 in Singapore. Clearly space is not an issue over here. There are too many malls in city to check out. One of the most famous ones definitely have to be the SM Mall of Asia which is the 14th largest in the world. There are more stalls here than your legs can visit in a week. Manila turn out to be a nice shopping destination. If Singapore represent crazy rich asians, Manila definitely represents crazy rich malls!
If you are a risk lover person, you will also love to try your hand at one of the numerous casinos in the city. There are usually located around the same area and there are tons to choose from. From City of Dreams to Resort World. Many integrated resorts to choose from. I am impressive that how low some of the min bets goes and it was a fun time for me. You can place a bet at just 2 SGD. Damn! Vegas aren’t that fun.
In general, the local people are very nice and helpful. I have nothing but good things to say about them. I was impressed by my very first visit to Manila. From the awesome hotel staff to people that I met in casinos, restaurants and drivers. They are nice hardworking people! There is definitely social issues that exists and I also believe that there is a huge income disparity between the locals. It pains me to see some of their living conditions and bare you, this is right in the heart of the old city, just a street away from the glam of the church. Things like this makes me feel fortunate for what I have right now.
I definitely miss out on some places that I would like to visit in Manila. Such as the Chinatown, Binondo. The seafood market Seaside Dampa. If I ever come to Philippines or Manila again, I would also like visit the more rural areas, the islands. It’s been a fun weekend Manila. I definitely enjoyed my hotel and the casinos the most. Paalam Manila and sa muling pagkikita!