Feature / Asia / Philippines / Manila
Postcard from Manila
Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, is one of the most colourful and historical cities in Asia. It is home to the walled city of Intramuros, one of the best-preserved medieval cities in the world and proclaimed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the Old Manila area:
The Hotel Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila (photo 1 - CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City; +632 5515555) has a resort setting near the city’s museums and theatres with over 600 rooms, tropical gardens and the Sunset Bar which puts on nightly cultural shows. The Manila Hotel (One Rizal Park, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City; +632 5270011) is the grand dame of hotels where MacArthur set up office after liberating Manila in 1944. It has recently been refurbished and boasts a spa, gym and stunning views of the bay.
In the financial district of Makati:
Makati is a new development (over the last 50 years) that is now part of metro Manila. It is a short distance from Old Manila and is now considered central. Makati has a modern American flavour while Old Manila has a mixture of early 20th Century American (what is called “colonial” in Manila) and Spanish.
The Peninsula Manila (photo 1 - Ayala Avenue corner Makat AvenueMakati; +632 8872888) is a great option. Room designs are sleek, with a timeless Filipino look, while restaurants include Spices serving dishes from around the world and The Lobby, a 24-hour rendezvous. Conveniently located both for the airport and the city’s main districts, the best hotel is the Makati Shangri-La, Manila (Ayala avenue corner Makati Avenue Makati); +632 8138888) which has 699 rooms and suites, a health club and spa and restaurants that offer everything from sushi to Cantonese cooking. A few people still prefer the slightly older Peninsula but both are standard luxury modern hotels that any traveller will recognise.
Where to Eat
For fabulous Filipino food, try cafe and oyster bar Via Mare (Shop 138 Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Makati City; +632 8932306) or Cafe Juanita (2 United St. corner West Capitol Drive, Barrio Kapitolyo, Pasig City, Manila; + 632 632 0357) which is as close to Filipino home cooking as you’ll find anywhere. Don’t miss the pork adobo. If you prefer to stick to continental, head for SALA (6752 Ayala Avenue, Makati Avenue, Makati City; +632 7501555), one of the best European restaurants in the city. Or Masseto Restaurant, (see photo - 114 Valero St, Salcedo Village, Makati City, +632 8103565) which is as good for brunch (think corned beef bendict) as it is for dinner. As well as carrying over 250 different wines in their cellar, they also run monthly wine classes.
What to Do
Ride one of the Philippines’ cultural icons, the jeepney, to explore this historical, vibrant city. Jeepney Tours (+632 9946636) will take you on a fascinating tour aboard a custom-built air-conditioned jumbo jeepney which can easily seat 20 people. A tour guide will join you to point out interesting landmarks and give you brief backgrounds on the places that you visit. Another good option is Carlos Celdran’s walking tour. He masterfully brings the history of every destination to life with his dramatic flair, props and even visual aids, making the experience feel more like a mobile one-man show. The tour of Intramuros, the walled city, is the most popular but he also offers tours of Escolta and Quiapo, the Imelda tour and Corregidor Island.