In the middle of the hustle and bustle of daily life in the Philippines lies the city of Manila. Locals are often so used to the ups and downs of making your way into this melting pot of Filipino culture, where pure Manilenyos and people from the rest of the 7,107 islands of the archipelago meet.
I remember my first time trying to make my way into this big and crazy city, whose main means of transportation is the Light Rail Transit Line 1, which is situated conveniently at the heart of the city. Luckily, with this train line, you can access almost every single place you need to be to truly say that you've had a feel of what it means to be in Manila.
So if you're planning on a little excursion to the Philippines' capital, PH #TeamClozette share some of our favourite spots when it comes to food, sights, and making the heart of the Pearl of the Orient your second home.
Named after the famous park dedicated to commemorate the country's national hero, Jose Rizal, Luneta Hotel does not fall flat from its namesake. Built in 1918 by a Spanish architect and now currently restored to its original grandeur, the hotel has also been decreed a National Landmark, culminating the beauty of the past and the present in sophistication.
In between Central Station and United Nations stations of the LRT Line 1, you can find yourself in the midst of museums, parks, and landmarks that give you a glimpse of the Filipino history, culture, and love for art. Besides the greenery at the heart of the city in the form of the Rizal Park (also known as Luneta), and taking a photo with the National Hero's statue that's a definite must-do when around the area, there are other underrated areas within the vicinity that I am urging you to give a try.
Because of its renovation back in 2013, a lot of people seemed to have momentarily forgotten about the National Museum. I remember a couple of years back when I was required to visit the place for my Art class in University and being the total history and art geek that I am, I was truly taken by the exhibitions and the nostalgic feel the place exudes. However, there weren't a lot of people who frequented the area as there are still tons of exhibitions back then that were closed down or areas that will lead you to dead-end corridors. But fret not as they have relaunched the publicity for the museum just a few months ago. With the extension to accommodate the National Museum of History adjacent to it, the place is back to its previous glory and should definitely be part of your Manila itinerary.
While you're at it, a 7-minute walk will already take you the the National Planetarium. Nurture your interest in astronomy or simply fall into the stars with the dome shows they offer daily without worrying about spending a lot of money.
What's a trip without tasting the best of what the city has to offer? We highly recommend Binondo. Besides having countless Filipino-Chinese restaurants with exquisite variety that will tickle your palate, it is also the oldest Chinatown in the world, signifying the strong foundation and cultural significance of the Fil-Chi community here in the Philippines.
Therese shared that it's one of her favourite places to grab a bite when in Manila. One place to not miss out on is Masuki — one of the oldest mami places in Asia, found in Benavidez Street. The special original mami (chicken + beef) is priced at only PHP140 (roughly SGD4) and comes with a special sweet sauce and a cup of spring onions. Therese assures that it'll keep you slurping until the last trace of soup is gone from the bowl.
Another one that is both my and Therese's pick is the original Lido Cocina Tsina — home of the best asado (sweet roast pork) — according to Fil-Chi locals in Binondo. A lot of people miss this gem because it's hidden in a tiny second floor store amidst the busy Ongpin street, but it's worth finding as the flavours of the food in their branches in malls and solo establishments still can't compare!
Lastly, an excursion is never complete without shopping. Once you're done satisfying your tummy in Binondo, why not make your way into the street of Ongpin as well to find great deals for jewellery that are authentic but whose price you can haggle for?
On the other hand, if you're more into cheap finds, take a short jeepney ride (because you can't say you've been to Manila without experiencing this means of transportation) to Divisoria. Bargain shops and stalls selling all kinds of commodities stretch by many streets, and we're sure that there will be something to catch your eye.
Plus, make your stop in Divisoria's 168 shopping mall, which can be compared to Japan's chain of Don Quixote. From books, bags, shoes, and more, expect ceiling-high products (literally) and lots of variety that are sure to fill your shopping cart but won't blow a hole in your pocket.
Don't forget to check out our Singapore city guide, too!