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5 Unusual (but Worth It) Things to Do in Manila

Updated on April 20, 2019
JM Salgado profile image

Travel, food, and nature are some of the most interesting means to learn and be inspired. JM tries to experience the beauty of these ways.

It is common to hear an advice that you have to ran away from the city proper as fast as you could if you want to enjoy your travel in a foreign country. In the Philippines, even locals would discourage some tourists or friends to stay out of Manila City or anywhere near Metro Manila. There is a consistent rant about the traffic jam, the noisy and congested streets, the loud noisy jeepney barkers (yes, they are called as such) calling for passengers to Quiapo, Divisoria, or some other Manila area. However, you might also consider trying some interesting adventures within this dreaded city.

1. Take the LRT or MRT

Along the busy roads of Metro Manila are the Light-Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro-Rail Transit (MRT). The railways are found on different points and are more convenient if you are in a hurry. Taking these trains will save you from the hassle of the busy streets and traffic jams.

Manila City also has the first lines of the LRT. The first ever LRT was constructed in the 1980s under the late President Ferdinand Marcos. This project was made possible after a 14-month study of the Freeman Fox and Associates which was funded by the World Bank that led to the suggestion of a street-level light railway. These recommendations were made into reality but were revised to be an elevated version because of the many intersections in the city. Then to move forward with the said project, the late president created the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA). This agency is still in service until this day.

Through the years, the LRT has now expanded to LRT-2 and MRT-3. If you should wish to visit Manila you could try to skip the taxi and commute locally. However, remember that this too can be a little challenging especially during the rush hours.

People understand the advantages of taking the LRT/MRT and so you may find yourself in a sardines position if you commute around 7-8AM and 5-7PM. Be prepared to stand still and sweat a little if you are traveling in summer.

One of the LRT trains. An adventure awaits.
One of the LRT trains. An adventure awaits. | Source
Waiting in line
Waiting in line | Source

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2. Dig in to Some Street Food

It is undeniably the most sought-after experiencing when traveling (or maybe to some). People want to eat local food, and have at least an idea about the Filipinos' delicacies.

Then you must be brave and strong. Delicious food can be found anywhere in Manila. You just have to pick a place. There are of course, high-end restaurants, carinderia (cafeteria-like, serving home-cooked meals), or the mighty street foods.

The menu could be overwhelming because many treats are being sold on the streets. It is a Filipino habit that we prefer buying on tingi /tingĀ“i'/ or in a loose English translation: retail sale. People can get five pesos worth of fishballs on a stick. A ten pesos worth of turon (deep fried bananas wrapped in spring roll wrappers and sweetened with brown sugar). These are just some of the ones you could try, so walk along the streets and you could simply call to the vendor.

Useful expressions:

When you want to address them-
Kuya (Older brother)
Ate (Older sister)
Manong (Older man)
Manang (Older woman)

When you buy-
Pabili po. (I want to buy<---loose translation)
Magkano? (How much?)

Salamat po. (polite form of Thank you)
Maraming salamat. (Thank you very much)

Masarap! (Delicious!)
Napakasarap! (Very delicious!)

Buy some fishball and be friendly with the Ate and Kuya :)
Buy some fishball and be friendly with the Ate and Kuya :) | Source

Savor Delicious Street Food

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Some fried provenIsaw and a few view of the toknenengKwek-kwek
Some fried proven
Some fried proven
Isaw and a few view of the tokneneng
Isaw and a few view of the tokneneng

3. Stroll along Rizal Park

Dr. Jose Rizal is the Philippines national hero. His martyrdom and brilliance were seen during the Spanish regime. In 1896, he was sentenced to die from a firing squad which became one of many triggers in the Philippine Revolution. He died in Bagumbayan, Manila which is now known as Rizal Park. However, aside from being named Rizal Park others also recognize the place as Luneta.

Don't be afraid about ghosts here. This is a place where families enjoy their time together. There are also some areas where you can learn about some of the country's history. Aside from that there is also a new monument there. Lapu-lapu's statue can also be seen erected in the park. He was the first hero in Philippine history who fought and won over the Spaniards headed by Ferdinand Magellan, when the explorers came to the country in 1521.

See the famous monument of the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal
See the famous monument of the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal | Source
The statues which shows the day of Rizal's death
The statues which shows the day of Rizal's death | Source

4. Walk through the Walled City: Intramuros

Just next to Rizal Park, you can walk through the past and see a glimpse of the life during the Spanish colonization. The Spanish regime lasted for more than 300 years, and they were able to build cities, influence Philippine society, and brought different ideals with them.

After visiting Luneta, you may want to learn more about Philippine history and you would be amazed of the walled city, Intramuros.

Here you would find one of the oldest churches in the country and a well-maintained Spanish houses and streets. There might be some eerie feeling for others because you would be walking back to time. The city was constructed in this manner to be a defense against foreign invaders. Because the Walled City was originally located along the shores of Manila Bay. You would learn this used to be the old capital which housed the "elites" and the government. The people living outside are called extramuros.

Inside Intramuros, you can visit different museums and churches. If you are not comfortable walking, you can try the kalesa tour. You will travel around the streets on a horse drawn calash

Outside the city wall
Outside the city wall | Source
Inside one of the oldest churches
Inside one of the oldest churches | Source

5. Visit Old Churches in Manila City

The country's capital offers great history. You can find a number of churches which could date back in Spanish times.

Visit these three churches:

1. Sta. Ana Church which is very beautiful because of its arches, columns, and domed bell tower. The church is known for its Camarin de la Virgen which is even a national treasure.

The church is almost 300 years old. It is good to know that even after the World War II, the church survived and locals/tourists can come and appreciate the architecture, the paintings, and the delicate state of the church.

2. Binondo Church which is much older than the first. This church is 420 years old already. Similar with the first one, the beauty of this lies to its arches and pillar, but there is an addition is the octagonal bell tower. This is maybe due to the Chinese background of the parishioners who come to this church. Binondo after all is the place of China town as well.

However, the church has undergone renovations and preservation throughout the centuries.

3. Quiapo Church is surely a place where hundreds of patrons come and go. The corridors and the gate right outside is almost always busy and crowded. The church is also very popular because of its Black Nazarene. They even conduct a yearly event in January where thousands of devotees come to participate.

Sta. Ana Church
Sta. Ana Church | Source
Inside Binondo Church
Inside Binondo Church | Source
Quiapo Church
Quiapo Church | Source

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