Manila General Tourist Information
Manila has been attracting and receiving foreign visitors even before the Spaniards started occupying the country in 1565. Then and now, touring Manila has never failed to amaze visitors with the city’s native charm and its many uncommon sights.
What are Tourists Up Against?
Manila was mostly formed by alluvial deposits that collected along the Pasig River for centuries. From swamps abundant with mangrove plants called “Nilad” this coastal area that embraces Manila Bay has grown to the 16-district cosmopolitan city that it is today, the second largest city in the Philippines with some 1.6 million people. Touring Manila, the Philippine capital city of 38.3 square-kilometer land area, takes at least 2 to 3 days to relish.
Climate and Weather
The weather and climate in Manila is pretty much the same as the rest of the Philippines. You will get a noticeable dry and wet season in an entire year, which is typical for any tropical country. The temperature ranges from 20 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees Celsius. Rarely does the temperature go any lower or higher than that temperature range.
However, do take note that the Philippines may be hit by the El Niño and/or the La Niña phenomenon. This means that the temperatures may go higher than the normal range and, in the case of the latter, more rains and possible flooding in the metro. Another thing you have to consider is the high humidity levels in the city which makes it feel even hotter than usual.
Due to the city’s proximity to the equator, you will experience a rather short dry season and a longer wet season. The dry months starts in January and ends in April. The wet season is from May to the last week of December.
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The whole geographical area of Manila is located on an isthmus, which is a narrow piece of land with bodies of water on either side. The city is actually on one of the largest flood plains in the Philippines, which basically explains why some parts of the metro flood a lot easier than others. To the north of the city is Bulacan with Laguna bounding the south and Cavite on the southwestern border. The main waterway of the metro, Pasig River, bisects the entire area.
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History of Manila
The capital of the Philippines has been around for several centuries even dating back prior to the arrival of the Spanish colonizers. The city is known to have an established and well organized flourishing civilization. It was established and occupied by Islamic chieftains and has established trade relations with foreign kingdoms in China, Brunei, and Malaysia.
Manila became a fortified settlement during the 13th century and became known by many different names. It was once labeled as Gintu, which can be translated as ‘land of gold’. It also came to be known as Saludong or Serulong. Spanish colonizers came in 1565. It was also occupied by the British in a brief two-year period from 1762 to 1764.
Industrial and cultural growth was witnessed while the city remained a part of the established colony of Spain. Various types of infrastructure were also built and the city soon became a center of trade. It became quite famous during the Manila-Acapulco trade years.
There were many uprisings during the 300 year Spanish reign with leading figures being hailed as heroes of the revolution. The United States of America bought the Philippines from Spain in 1899 and the city came under US control. A brief Japanese occupation lasted throughout World War II but the Philippine capital was liberated soon after.
The Philippines became independent of US control in 1946 and its leaders pursued to continue the plans of urban development initiated by the Americans. The city is underwent various ups and downs as different mayors and Philippine presidents made their way and exited office. The Philippine capital also became renowned for People Power Revolution.
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Interesting Tourist Destinations
A lot of the tourist destinations in Manila, are historic in nature. Some of these historic sites include Intramuros, Fort Santiago, Corregidor Island, and San Agustin Church. The other tourist destinations include recreational areas like Rizal Park and major shopping districts like the Ayala Center.
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Tourists often start with the walled city of Intramuros. Built in the 16th century as a Spanish premier community and a bulwark of several forts (like Fort Santiago) south of the Pasig River, the place has been preserved and developed as a major tourist destination today to appreciate Spanish colonial Architecture in the country. Touring Manila by first visiting Intramuros, tourists see what the original Manila was like. At least 10 religious edifices like the Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Church, Sto. Domingo Church, and Convento de Sta. Clara, among others, can be visited, as well as schools and other old buildings.
Historic Places Outside Intramuros
Then, after seeing Intramuros, stepping out of the Walled City is like going past centuries of history in fast-forward and then suddenly walking right amid the bustling modern city. However, as tourists start touring Manila, while seeing the cityscape dotted with modern buildings, transport facilities, and thriving commercial areas, they will still get doses of the past now and then. Passing by Luneta Park and seeing the old “Bagumbayan" where Rizal, the national hero, was shot by musketry, would recount to them the past again. The same with the old Luneta Theater on T.M. Kalaw Street, Malate Church, City Hall, the Senate and Tourism buildings, and many others.
The stretch of Roxas Boulevard from the Luneta Grand Stand to the coastal road to Cavite is lined up with tourist spots and hotels. Touring Manila along this path allows visitors to get glimpses of the Children’s Museum, the stately U.S. Embassy, the navy Club and the Philippine Navy Headquarters, sunny Board Walk, adventurous Ocean Park, the Cultural Center Complex, fun-filled Star City, Central Bank, and rows of posh and elegant tourist hotels and restaurants.
Luneta and Other Areas
Imposing government buildings styled with colonial architecture are seen in the Luneta and Lawton areas, like the Senate and Tourism buildings, the post office, city hall, Metropolitan Theater, and national museum. As they stroll Luneta Park, tourists are treated with giant bust statues of different datus or pre-Hispanic local chieftains who ruled the land. Adjacent to this location is the Rizal Amphitheater, the exact spot where Jose Rizal was said to have been shot.
For a real feel of the daily Manila life, tourists should check out the Plaza Miranda area where the old Quiapo Church stands. The church is surrounded by adjoining booths where local fortune tellers and cultic herbalists do their trade, while a stone’s throw away, on Carriedo Street, are flea market stalls or “tiangge” where shirts and accessories are cheap. Touring Manila is never complete without experiencing rubbing elbows with the masses of people crowding these places for a really cheap buy, and for sellers, a bounty of profits.
Divisoria is the Mother of all Flea Markets, not only in Manila, but also in the whole island of Luzon. Located in Binondo where China Town in Manila is also situated, Divisoria is popular for getting the cheapest deal possible. Touring Manila is more fun when shopping can derive more items for fewer pesos. Thus, the final and ultimate tour destination in Manila is often in Divisoria.
The power in Manila is 220 volts and has a frequency of 60 Hz. However, you will find that some apartments, hotels, and homes have both 220 volt and 110 volt electricity. In case you get a room that has both, make sure you label the power outlets according to their corresponding voltage. It is also recommended that you use an automatic voltage regulator as a safeguard against power surges that commonly occur.
The main power distribution company in the city is Meralco but the electricity for the metro area and the nearby provinces is produced the government owned National Power Corporation. Power bills are paid to Meralco but you don’t have to travel all the way to their main office in Pasig. You may pay your power bills in any of the payment centers in the city.
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Visa Application for Foreign Tourists in Manila
Many tourists from other countries are allowed to stay in the Philippines without a visa. Tourists can usually stay for 21 days in the country but if you intend to stay longer then you will need one. To apply for a visa you will need your passport and other identification. You apply for one at the consulate section in the embassy. You’ll need to fill out an application form, bring passport size photos, bank statements, cash for the fees, self addressed envelope, and return tickets among others.
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You can get a visa extension and have an extended stay for up to 16 months. To get an extension, all you have to do is to visit immigration office nearest you. You’ll have to pay the required fees initially totaling to Php 3,010 for a 38-day extension. Staying even longer will require additional fees. Some hotels and resorts may be able to get your extension for you so you don’t have to go to the immigration office yourself.
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Most, if not all, of the major Internet service providers in the Philippines have their headquarters in Manila since it is the nation’s capital. The major players you’ll find here are PLDT myDSL, SMART Bro, Globe Broadband, Bayantel DSL, and Sky Broadband to name a few. There are also a lot of smaller ISPs that provide DSL, cable Internet, WiFi, 3G, and other forms of wireless connections.
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of signing up for an Internet connection of your own, there are a couple of options open to you. The first one is to rent a computer in one of the many internet cafes that dot the Philippine capital. You can usually find a lot of them in malls and other places where people usually congregate.
The second option is to bring your laptop or portable computer and go to free WiFi areas. Malls, restaurants, coffee shops, fast food stores, and bars usually have free WiFi. All you have to do is order a drink or grab a snack and sit down with your portable computer and surf until you just want to grab another serving.
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Money, ATMs, Money Changers
All of the major banking and financial institutions in the country will either have their headquarters or at least a major office in the Philippine capital. There are also universal banks, rural banks, commercial and thrift banks and quasi-banking institutions spread throughout the different financial districts in Manila. If you’d like to find most of these financial institutions you’ll find them in the country’s premiere financial district, Makati.
With the many banking and financial institutions around the metro, finding an ATM won’t be much of a problem. You’ll find them in banks, malls, and just about anywhere else where you need some cash. If you want to exchange your money into the local currency, you’ll have to make a transaction with one of the many money changers in the metro. Just like ATMs, you’ll find them almost anywhere where you need to take out some money. Just be sure to inquire about the exchange rate before making your transaction.
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