Welcome to Metro Manila, the political, economic, social, educational, cultural and recreational hub of this vast archipelago of 7,107 islands that is the Philippines. Nowhere else in the country can the visitor acquire a greater dose of local color, a better understanding of the country's multifaceted culture, or as many glimpses of its contrasts as in this pulsating, vibrant metropolis. The streets are alive with colorful jeepneys, rumbling buses and sleek automobiles. In old sections of Manila like Intramuros (the old walled city) and Chinatown, clip-clopping horse-drawn carriages pick their way through traffic. Glass and concrete towers rise side-by-side with Spanish colonial houses and neo- classical government buildings. Dragon arches, gold-domed mosques and elaborately-styled mansions define the enclaves of the Chinese, the Moslems, the rich and famous. Outside the civilized bustle of air-conditioned shopping centers, sidewalk vendors haggle and press with the sweaty, hurrying crowds. The glare and gaiety of marketplaces are mere steps away from the peaceful greenery of parks and the hushed silences of churches.
Premier gateway to the many islands and tourist destinations north and south of the Philippines, Metro Manila has its own share of attractions to suit every interest. Here, churches, museums and theatres vie for the attentions of history and culture buffs. Malls, boutiques, flea markets and antique shops offer endless surprises for shoppers and souvenir-hunters. Posh restaurants and sidewalk eateries entice gastronomic adventurers. Snazzy discos and cozy bars entertain the night owl. Golfing greens, country clubs and accessible out-of-town resorts provide recreation and relaxation for all. And everywhere, a friendly, festive people who smile readily, adore music and love to welcome visitors with their world-famous brand of hospitality.
Manila is an international gateway city. The Ninoy Aquino International Airport, seven kilometers from the city center, services 26 major international airlines as well as charter flights from Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other countries. Its has adequate facilities such as duty-free centers, tourist information counters, hotel and travel agency representative, banks, postal services, car rental and chartered flight services, a medical clinic and a baggage deposit area. Philippine Airlines, the official flag carrier, links Manila to 26 cities in 19 countries and provides daily service to and from 42 major destinations within the country.
Manila's passenger and container ports bustle with the activities of several local and international shipping concerns. Cruise ships, as well as chartered and private vessels, find berth in the calm waters of Manila Bay.
It is almost impossible to run out of things to see and do in Metro Manila. Magnificent churches of impressive architectural proportions with their interiors chock-full of relics testify to the centuries-old religious tradition of the Filipinos. Parks and shaded plazas deliver rest to weary feet; markers and monuments provide insights into significant events and people in local history. Museums and art galleries acquaint visitors with the country's rich cultural, historical and artistic heritage.
The visitor may also want to spend time watching a movie, as a great number of Filipinos do. There are more than 246 movie houses in Metro Manila alone, making the Philippines the film capital of Asia. Majority of these movie houses show American films.
In Manila, visit Malacanang Palace , official residence of the Philippine heads of state; stroll through Rizal Park , Paco Park or Intramuros the old walled city or head for Quiapo and Chinatown for a dash of local color. For more outdoor fun and entertainment, there are sunset cruises around Manila Bay and open-air cultural events held Friday evenings at Paco Park, Saturday evenings at Puerta Real in Intramuros and Sunday afternoons at Rizal Park. Explore the museums of the Cultural Center of the Philippines located along Roxas Boulevard.
In Makati, spend time at the Ayala Museum for a look at the historical dioramas depicting significant events in Philippine history. The museum also has excellent models of Southeast Asian watercraft as well as archaeological artifacts.
Farther north in Quezon City are the Quezon Memorial Circle and the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center. On these tree-shaded open spaces, get a whiff of fresh air, go biking or roller-skating, or just soak in the peace and quiet.
"Country clubs" popular with the local business and yuppie set re located within the city and provide facilities for recreation and relaxation such as swimming pools, health spas, gyms, bowling lanes, billiard halls, tennis and basketball courts, restaurants and cocktail lounges. Some of these clubs accept members and nonmembers alike, while others accept nonmembers who come as guests of club members.
For spectator sports with a dash of local color, nothing beats the horse-races at the Sta. Ana Tracks and at the San Lazaro Hippodrome.
Head for Ongpin Street in Chinatown! where Chinese Filipinos go for a taste of true mainland delicacies. Eat your way through the restaurant rows of Malate and Roxas Boulevard as you savor the sea breezes and watch a spectacular sunset. Farther down Roxas Boulevard towards the Cavite coastline, take your pick of fresh seafood cooked to your specifications in the many restaurants lining the road.
A peek into the basements of Metro Manila's shopping malls will reveal steaming fastfood counters serving everything from pasta, salads and sizzling steaks to kimchi, sushi and lechon (roast pig).
And then there are the sidewalk eateries which serve hearty portions of favorite native fare, as well as itinerant vendors who sell local delicacies such as banana-cue and camote-cue (fried, sugared plantain bananas or sweet potatoes skewered on a barbecue stick), fried fishballs, boiled corn and the ever-popular local delicacy, balut (boiled duck's egg with the unhatched embryo intact).
For endless evenings of dancing, music and people-watching, head for the bright lights along Makati Avenue and Pasay Road in Makati, along Quezon Boulevard, Timog and West Avenues in Quezon City, Greenhills in San Juan, and Roxas Boulevard and Malate in Manila. Trendy discos with their flashing lights and pulsating music are the delight of the dance crowd. Cozy jazz bars and music lounges offer wine and mood music along with quiet ambiance and good conversation. Karaoke bars and nightclubs entice with drinks, dancing and opportunities to let one's hair down and sing-along with the music.
There are two casinos for those who wish to try their luck at cards, roulette or the slot machines. Along the sunset strip of Ermita, chug a mug of chilled local beer with platters of pulutan (finger foods) and a liberal dash of pulchritude.
The mega shopping trend has invaded the country's commercial centers. Huge structures beckon from busy intersections along EDSA such as Ayala in Makati, Cubao in Quezon City, Ortigas in San Juan, and Crossing in Mandaluyong. These shopping complexes ome covering more than 10 hectares area ave gathered, all under one roof, trendy signature antiques, shoe stores, houseware and appliance centers, shops and furniture , optical and jewelry shops, and drugstores, gourmet restaurants and fastfood galleries. Flock to these malls malls any day of the week for dining and movie-watching.
Flea market stalls crowd the congested streets of Quiapo Divisoria and Baclaran where bargain-hunters jostle and haggle for the best buy in fabric, ready-to-wear clothing, shoes and slippers, houseware and home decor items and fresh produce. Loves of and handicrafts rummage around antique shops on streets of Malate Manila and San Juan for relics, old santos (images of saints), altarpieces, vases, ceramics, baskets, earthenware and brassware.