MANILA, Philippines – Manila, once hailed the Pearl of the Orient, has changed drastically in the decades following the 2nd World War.
It’s gotten such a bad reputation that many will balk at the idea of wandering its streets, unless doing so is a part of their daily grind. Remember when one author infamously described it as “the gates of hell?”
But amid the grit and chaos, Manila lives on: there have been efforts to revive some of its historic places, such as the Manila Metropolitan Theater. It hides gems, both old and new, all worthy of attention and will teach people a thing or two about the city’s history. (READ: Manila, through the eyes of a visitor)
Manila has many things to offer that cater to every interest. To get you started, here are our recommendations for a one-day itinerary.
Don’t forget to bring an umbrella and bottled water, and stay alert!
Get cultured at the National Art Gallery
Kick off your Manila adventure at the National Art Gallery. Located along Padre Burgos Avenue in Ermita, just between Luneta and Intramuros, the National Art Gallery is home to Juan Luna’s famed opus, Spoliarium, and other notable works by highly-acclaimed artists like Fernando Amorsolo, Carlos Francisco, Guillermo Tolentino, and Napoleon Abueva. The art gallery plays host to special exhibits from time to time, too. (READ: Entrance to the National Museum now ‘permanently’ free)
Alternatively, you can check out the Museum of the Filipino People and the National Planetarium, all part of the National Museum of the Philippines complex and within walking distance from the National Art Gallery!
Step back in time at Intramuros
Just across the National Art Gallery is Intramuros. Known as the seat of power during the Spanish colonial period, Intramuros is now home to several churches, schools, government offices, residential establishments, and ruins of old buildings, barracks, and bastions.
Walk, ride a kalesa, or bike your way through the streets of Intramuros to fully soak in the history of the walled city. Must-visit landmarks include the San Agustin Church (General Luna St.), Manila Cathedral (Sto. Tomas St.), the Baluarte de San Diego (Sta. Lucia St.), the ruins of the Aduana (Intendencia) Building (Magallanes Drive cor. Muralla St.), and Fort Santiago (Sta. Clara St.). (READ: In photos: The Spanish Manila)
Go on a food trip at Chinatown
While it is possible to walk from Intramuros to Chinatown, we recommend taking a jeepney – especially under the sweltering Manila heat. Take a jeep bound for Recto or Blumentritt (you can catch one plying on the roads outside Intramuros), get off at Plaza Lacson, walk past Escolta and the Santa Cruz Church, and enter Chinatown through Ongpin St.
Manila Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in the world, and it’s always worth a visit if you’re craving authentic Chinese dishes. Grab fresh lumpia rolls at New Po-Heng Lumpia House (Quintin Paredes St./Ongping St.), dumplings at Dong Bei Dumplings (Yuchengco St.), fried siopao at Shanghai Fried Siopao (Ongpin St.), fried chicken at Sincerity Café (Yuchengo St.), and more dumplings and noodles at Wai Ying. (READ: 7 delicious Binondo food discoveries)
Check out one-of-a-kind items by Pinoy independent merchants and artists at HUB: Make Lab
Escolta, once the country’s center of business and commerce, is a stone’s throw away from Chinatown. To get there from Chinatown, one of the routes you can take is to walk through Ongpin until you reach the entrance gate that’s across the Santa Cruz Church, cross the street and walk until you reach Escolta street. It’s right before the Roman R. Santos Building (with a BPI branch on the ground floor), but look out for the street sign so you know where to turn.
Located on the ground floor of the First United Building, HUB: Make Lab is home to hip and young merchants who sell vintage items, quirky finds, homemade food items, clothing by independent designers, and many more.
(Image from http://manila-hotel.com.ph, Article from Rappler http://www.rappler.com/brandrap/xchange/165758-manila-one-day-itinerary)