First Time in Metro Manila? Here’s What You Must Know

Travelling to a new city in a new country for the first time can be very intimidating and for most travelers, this is also true when visiting Metro Manila.

But one thing is for sure, all the trip planning worries goes away just by knowing a bit more about your destination and making sure you’ve got everything settled until you make it from the airport to your Manila hotel room that’ll serve as your home base for the next couple of days.

This is what we’ll be doing for you in this post, to give you a glimpse of Metro Manila travel facts that we anticipate you’ll want to know when planning for a visit. And yes, you’re welcome.

The Philippine Currency

The Philippine Peso, sometimes referred to as ₱, P, Php, or PHP, is the currency used in all of the Philippines. Looking for money changers in Metro Manila is no problem as you’ll find them in all airport terminals, malls, or in major tourist destinations. Most foreign currencies are accepted, but of course, it helps to have a major currency in hand to get better value and convenience as most money changers readily accept major ones.

Manila Bay Sunset

Manila Bay as seen from the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila

Metro Manila’s Tropical Weather

Metro Manila weather is just like the same as most of the Philippine islands – mostly hot, humid, and sunny, and it all depends on whether there is an incoming typhoon or not. The location of the Philippines in the edge of the tropical Pacific makes the country an easy target for tropical storms, especially during the months of July to October. Having that said, it’s still business as usual in Metro Manila during tropical storms and the fun definitely doesn’t stop, so no need to cancel your plans during stormy months.

Typhoon season aside, the weather in the Philippines is mostly warm and sunny – perfect for waking up to bright days and seeing the famed Manila sunset in the evening. November to February are the coolest months in the Philippines so expect to be met with sunny days and comfortably cool air – just perfect for the holidays.

Metro_manila_map

The cities and municipality of Metro Manila | Image by Seav used under CC

There are 17 Cities and Municipality in Metro Manila

Manila has always been the capital of the Philippines since it was founded in 1571. As the city grew, so did the surrounding cities and towns. Manila and its surrounding cities were then collectively called Metropolitan Manila or Metro Manila.

Metro Manila, a.k.a. the National Capital Region of the Philippines, is comprised of 16 independent cities and 1 independent municipality. Though each has its own business districts and happenings, the cities are all interconnected really well, forming this one huge megacity that is Metro Manila.

  • Manila – The one that started it all. Thanks to its founding as early as 1571, Manila is the nation’s hub for historical sights and landmarks, on top of its vibrant entertainment scene.
  • Caloocan – A haven of pools and resorts just north of Manila, Caloocan is where the Bonifacio Monument sits, commemorating the battle of Andres Bonifacio and fellow Katipuneros against Spanish conquistadors.
  • Las Piñas – Home of the Bamboo Organ, a one-of-its-kind 200 year old musical instrument at the St. Joseph Church. Every February, Las Piñas hosts its annual International Bamboo Organ Festival to showcase its unique melody.
  • Makati – The country’s premier financial and business hub. Aside from the Makati Central Business District (CBD), Makati is also known for its hip museums, shopping, and nightlife scene.
  • Malabon – This is where the centuries old San Bartolome Church sits,  as well as Tanong Fish Market that’s known for the fish bidding tradition called “bulungan”. A trip here won’t be complete without trying their famous Pancit Malabon.
  • Mandaluyong – The location of the historic EDSA Shrine, the Ortigas business district, and numerous entertainment and shopping venues such as the SM Megamall and Shangri-La Plaza. This is also where the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club is.
  • Marikina – Known as the “Shoe Capital of the Philippines”, thanks to its big shoe industry. This is where you can buy local quality shoes and also visit the Shoe Museum (a collection from famous personalities including Imelda Marcos). The Marikina River Park on the other hand offers serenity amidst the hustle & bustle.
  • Muntinlupa – Metro Manila’s southernmost city that has a thriving food scene, as well as commercial and entertainment districts such as Filinvest Alabang.
  • Navotas – One of Metro Manila’s seafood hub, its main industry is fishing and is one of the major producers of fish in the metro.
  • Parañaque – Home to the opulent Entertainment City, Metro Manila’s answer to Las Vegas and Macau. Parañaque is also known for a thriving food scene down south and its wetland sanctuary for migratory birds.
  • Pasay – This is where the NAIA airports are located, as well as really cool entertainment options such as the Mall of Asia, Resorts World Manila, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and the Philippine Air Force Aerospace Museum, among many others. Seafood lovers would also love Pasay’s Dampa seafood Market.
  • Pasig – Pasig’s Kapitolyo district is a foodie’s haven. Tons of entertainment, shopping, and nightlife options are here, too.
  • Pateros – The only municipality among the cities – the “balut”, Philippines’ famed exotic food that is the steamed duck embryo is Pateros’ specialty.
  • Quezon City – Metro Manila’s largest city – you can find everything here from traditional shrines and churches to food adventures, shopping, entertainment, and nightlife. This is also where the Philippines’ TV and entertainment studios are.
  • San Juan – If bargain hunting is your bet, then San Juan’s Greenhills Shopping Center is your best bet. Aside from its vast bargain shopping areas, Greenhills is also a paradise for food lovers because of its unique selection of restaurants.
  • Taguig – Bonifacio Global City (BGC) a.k.a “The Fort” is the metro’s newest and poshest business and nightlife district in Taguig. If gleaming skyscrapers and modern-urban lifestyle is something up in your alley, try and see The Fort.
  • Valenzuela – The city boasts of the Museo Valenzuela historical museum that showcases the city’s historical and cultural landmark. Also in here is the Valenzuela People’s Park, a sprawling urban community park in the city center.

Geography

Metro Manila is located in Luzon which is the Philippines’ biggest island. This megacity is sandwiched between two major bodies of water aptly named the Manila bay and Laguna Lake, and the Pasig river runs through Metro Manila to connect these two majestic bodies of water.

The Filipino Culture and Language

The Filipino (Pinoy) culture may vary slightly between the city and the other regions of the country, but we definitely share the same attitudes: a little bit shy at first, but once we get to spend some time together you’ll find what the Pinoy culture is. Filipinos are known for their unique hospitality, wherein guests (locals or foreigners alike) are welcome in their homes and are treated with utmost respect and sincere hospitality. Also, Filipinos are generally happy regardless of their socio-economic status, and this is evident when coming in to the Philippines for the first time.

You might have heard that the Filipino people are the friendliest bunch you’ll meet in your travels – this is so true! The people are always willing to invite you over for dinner, birthdays, weddings, fiestas, and even share the food and drinks and merrymaking with you or even host you. The only thing for you to do is to be ready to embrace the kindness of Filipinos with open arms.

Aside from their hospitality and warm smiles, Filipinos give importance to respect especially to their elders. And our respect to others shows in our words – speaking of “words”, although us Filipinos know English and can converse very well with tourists without them having to learn any Filipino (Tagalog) words, locals will certainly appreciate your respect for the country and of the Filipino language by knowing at least a few Tagalog words:

  • Mabuhay = a Filipino form of greeting for many uses which literally means “to live”. You’ll mostly hear this greeting at the airport upon arriving to the Philippines.
  • Saan? = Where?
  • Kailan? = When?
  • Magkano = How much?
  • Salamat = Thanks
  • Maraming Salamat = Many thanks

When pronouncing each word, the general tip is to pronounce it the way read it. Pronounce all letters as how it’s usually uttered.

Manila Luneta Park - elders ice cream

The word ‘Po’

The word ‘po’ is used to convey respect. ‘Po’ is added at the end of each sentence to add a sense of respect when talking to elders, to customers of a business, to your boss, to people you’ve just met, or to anyone, really.

There is no exact English equivalent for ‘po’, but it’s definitely easy to use – just add the word ‘po’ at the end of your sentences and a dash of respect is magically added to your words.

  • Magkano po? = How much? with an added dose of respect
  • Saan po? = Where? with an added dose of respect
  • Kailan po? = When? with an added dose of respect
  • Maraming Salamat po = Many thanks with an added dose of respect

You could also add ‘po’ after your English sentences and it works the same – everyone does it and understands it, thus the term “Taglish.”

  • Where po?
  • What time is check-in po?
  • Thank you po
  • You’re welcome po

You get it – now moving on to the next topic! 🙂

The Philippine jeepney

The ol’ reliable Philippine jeepney.

Getting around the metro

We’re not going to sugarcoat it – traffic can get so bad in Metro Manila especially during the rush hour. We recommend that you plan your time ahead and leave early to avoid missing your appointments and take advantage of the different ways to get around Metro Manila. This map of Metro Manila is also a great way to find out the tourist and entertainment spots as well as nearby train stations to help you plan your trip.

Although we already have several public transportation options in the metro, the government is constantly working towards improving its public transport services and increasing the reach of each.

Calesa in Intramuros

A calesa making its way along the historic streets of Intramuros

Manila tours and accommodation

Metro Manila is full of surprises. Not only is Manila a historically rich and significant site in the Philippines and South East Asia, it also has lots of leisure and entertainment destinations to cater to every taste.

You can definitely go on a walking tour of your own to explore the historical sights of Manila on your own pace, and then grab a taxi to take you to one of the metro’s popular tourist destinations or go to Manila events and sample the city’s best deals and promos. Or, you can also choose from plenty of packaged tours if you wish to avoid the hassles of planning and if you’re short on time (we have listed down our recommended tours here). Whatever it is, you will definitely enjoy all that Metro Manila has to offer.

No need to worry about where to stay at the end of each day, too, because we have created and handpicked a list of recommended hotels, serviced apartments, budget hotels, and hostels to best enjoy your MNL experience.

 

 

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