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Manila Weekend Guide

March 18th, 2011 by

Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, is notorious for its crazy traffic jams and narrow streets that are always clogged with vendors.  Still, it is easy to fall in love with this city.  The people are always helpful, warm, and ready to greet you with a big smile.

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Manila is energized with rich culture, unique traditions, superb restaurants, gigantic malls, idyllic getaways, and superb hotels.  It is a fantastic destination not only for long vacations but also for those who only have a weekend to spare.

Here is a list of things to do during a quick stay in vibrant Manila.


Ride a jeepney and get a feel for how the locals go about their daily lives. The experience can be heart-stopping – drivers tend to be reckless and fearless – but definitely memorable. Bordering on the dangerous, it can be fun for thrill seekers.


Visit Intramuros, a fort built by the Spaniards, to learn a bit about the history of the Philippines. The walls are about 20 feet high and more than a mile in wide.

Intramuros is peppered with landmarks built hundreds of years ago.  The place’s story and artsy appeal are mainly the reason why it is frequented by tourists, students, photographers and painters. Highlights include San Agustin Church, Plaza San Luis, Casa Manila, Manila Cathedral and some of the best hotels in Manila.

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Quiapo Church, for one, is known for the miraculous healing powers of the Black Nazarene. The area is also a preferred hangout spot for vendors, fortune tellers and spiritual healers who set up their businesses outside the church’s doors.  Fridays are usually the busiest as the church is filled to the brim with people who join the novena prayers to the Black Nazarene.


A lot of Filipinos are of Chinese descent so it is a good idea to be acquainted with Manila’s oriental heritage by visiting Binondo, Manila’s version of Chinatown.

Binondo does not disappoint when it comes to stimulating the senses. There are wondrous sights to behold including ornate traditional Chinese houses and décor. Street food is eclectic and bountiful, with zigzagging alleys enveloped by savoury aromas.


To say that Filipinos love to shop is definitely an understatement. SM Supermalls, the biggest mid-range shopping mall chain in the country, has over 50 branches nationwide. There are also high-end alternatives for posh shoppers like Greenbelt 5 and the Rockwell Powerplant Mall.


Filipinos are suckers when it comes to singing. A fantastic way to spend time with friends is by visiting KTV bars scattered all over town. Usually, these KTV joints offer packages for big groups including room rent plus food and drinks.


Flea markets are becoming the “it” places to visit during weekends.  Some of the more popular ones are Mercato Centrale and Salcedo Market. These are the perfect stops to buy fresh produce, homemade goodies such as baked products, jams, and candies.  A lot of specialties from the different provinces of the Philippines can also be found here like white cheese (kesong puti), fish paste (bagoong), and dried products.

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Be brave and try some of Manila’s famed delicacies. The balut or 1-day old duck eggs have been featured numerous times as bizarre foods in several television programs like Fear Factor and National Geographic docs. Other out-there alternatives include chicken intestines, gizzards and pig lungs.

There are also tasty local dishes like chicken adobo, pancit and spit-roasted pig.

Manila’s various Seafood Dampa eateries must not be missed! Dining at these places is a unique experience on its own given that the set-up is unconventional. At the wet market, customers purchase prawns, crabs, clams, and lobsters. These purchases are turned over to the restaurant and are cooked depending on the customer’s preference. Seafood can be grilled, served with soup, and even buttered. Usually, the dishes served at Seafood Dampa are baked mussels, chili crab, and grilled squid. Do not be surprised if you find yourself lickin’ your fingers after a hearty meal!

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