Encompassed by charming islands, gargantuan mountains and cultural treasures, Philippines makes for a good choice for a getaway. Its capital Manila plays a perfect host to both expats and travellers.
Here's what you should not miss out on:
Take A Buggy Ride In Intramuros
Intramuros is a Latin word for ‘Inside the Walls’. A former military base of the Spaniards in Asia, during the period Philippines was colonised by Spain and used by the latter for their political and economic gains. It was also a social and residential area where the Spanish ruling classes lived, and went to school and church. Today, old quarters, cobbled streets, and elegant Spanish architecture help you to get a sense of the period from 1571-1898.
One way to see things are via horse-drawn carriage rides which cost 500 pesos only. While you are here, visit the Casa Manila Museum. For an entrance fee of 75 pesos, you get a glimpse of the lifestyle of wealthy Spaniards, and educated Filipino upper classes who could afford to live in places like this during the colonisation era. From stunning upholsteries to toilets, you will find them all here.
Next, check out the San Agustin Museum adjacent to the church that goes with the same name. San Agustin Church is the oldest surviving church in the Philippines (since the Manila Cathedral was bombed in WW2). It's pretty significant in its own right, boasting of collections of the Augustinian Order that built and manages the church. These include paintings that are more than 5 feet tall! You have to pay 200 pesos to enter the museum, and entry to their church is free, though they will not be open to the public during special occasions like weddings. However, if you pay for the museum, you will be able to access the church’s second floor balcony and watch the proceedings of the function.
Take a walk around Rizal Park. Jose Rizal, who inspired nationalism in the Filipino people through his writings and eventually paved the way for the Philippine Revolution, was laid to rest here. Visit the place where he was shot at and also read his farewell poem (which was hidden in a shoe so that the Spaniards could not find it). Entrance fee is 20 pesos.
Experience China In Binondo
Also known as Manila's Chinatown (the entrance arch displays this in bold letters), it is among the oldest Chinese settlements in the world. It was established in the year 1594 and it should be on your must-visit list whether or not you are visiting the Philippines during Chinese New Year.
Start your walking tour from the shrine of Manila’s first elected mayor Arsenio H. Lacson (before him, the city mayors were appointed). He was credited for running an efficient, transparent and clean administration in the city. An interesting monument is the Arch of Goodwill which symbolises the centuries-old friendly relations between China and the Philippines. Lucky Chinatown Mall is a recent addition in Binondo and you must visit it to know more about the culture pertaining to Chinese settlements in the Philippines. A Chinese traditional food tour experience from the restaurants along Chinatown's streets is the Ongpin area is highly recommended.
How To Get Around
Passengers on the roof, no arguments for seats in the vehicle, more-than-reasonable safety precautions, economical fares, stylish exteriors, and a comfortable ride to almost any area of the country. The jeepneys of Philippines are the favourite choice of swashbuckling adventurers and travellers. You only shell out a few pesos to ply in a jeepney between different areas in Manila, and in other parts of the country.
Food That Won't Bust Your Wallet
You haven't experienced Filipino culture if you haven't had balut. The fertilised duck embryo dish is a must-try local delicacy. You will either love the dish or be put off. Here's how to have it: Gently break the shell top to guzzle the soup and then feast on its embryo and yolk by adding your preferred seasoning. The average cost is 15 pesos at most street food shops. Streetfood shops in Manila also sell rice with assorted meats for prices ranging from 50 to 60 pesos.
The writer has also authored an e-book, The Philippines On $40 a Day.
This article is a submission by one of our readers, and part of our new series #OTReadersWrite.