Author’s Note: Images in this particular blog entry are extracted on the internet and are courtesy of their respective owners as cited herein. Such images are only incorporated for the reader to easily imagine the place mentioned.
The Philippines boasts numerous pristine white beaches, grandiose natural resources and melting pot of cultures. However, most of our tourist spots are scattered all over the archipelago. Though all of these are worth visiting, it‘s very challenging for a backpacker (or any tourist whose budget is limited) to embark a tedious errand given a possible financial constraint.
Another point of observation, Manila – the Philippines’ capital – is perhaps the only Southeast Asian (SEA) country that has no “backpacking district.” I really hope that our government would address this issue considering that our neighboring countries are stepping up their tourism strategies.
The tourist spots within Manila are very much underrated. As a Filipino and budding travel buff, I listed ten destinations that may be visited without shedding large sums of money, without further ado here it goes:
10.) Ayala Triangle – it’s located at the heart of the Philippines’ business district – Makati. This area is an oasis of the busy streets of Metro Manila. Although relatively small compared to famous parks all over the world, Ayala Triangle’s strategic location will enable a tourist to see green scenery in swarm of humongous buildings and malls of Makati.
#BackpackerTip: Manila City is the capital of the Philippines. Metro Manila, on the other hand, is composed of various cities which also forms part of the capital. Even though Manila City and its neighboring cities are separate and distinct from each other, the latter For instance, Makati is the business district of our country; the international airport is located in Pasay City while some of the major government agencies are located in Quezon City.
The Ayala Triangle (Image courtesy of:http://directionsonweb.blogspot.com/2011/01/how-to-get-to-ayala-triangle-gardens.html )
9.) Chinatown (also known as Binondo) – located at the heart of the old part of Manila City, this place is the conglomeration of Spanish-influenced buildings, Chinese cultural representation and Filipino heritage.
The Binondo Church and Sta. Cruz are two of the major sceneries in the area. The place is also a haven for jewelry enthusiasts since there are affordable gold, silver and gem accessories around Ongpin Street. Authentic Chinese cuisine can be experienced here as well.
Chinatown is also the gateway towards the infamous Divisoria Market which homes cheap goods. However, I cannot guarantee the safety of a traveler who wants to drop by Divisoria since crooks of all forms are present there. If you ought to visit it, take extra careful of your belongings.
.Binondo Church and the Philippine kalesa (Image courtesy of: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Binondo_Church,_also_known_as_Minor_Basilica_of_St._Lorenzo_Ruiz_was_erected_in_1596.jpg)
#BackpackerTip: If you are traveling in Manila city, you can try the kalesa – a traditional wooden carriage used during the Spanish colonial era. As of the moment, I’m not aware of the current rate of the kalesa. The biggest advice that I can offer is to make tawad (a Filipino term asking for a discount).
8.) Quiapo Church/Plaza Miranda – being a predominantly Catholic country, the Philippines houses numerous churches. This church is one of the frequently visited parishes is the whole Philippines. It is said to be that the Black Nazarene image of this church is miraculous. The annual feast day (January 9) of the famous religious statue draws millions of devotees.
Adjacent to the church is Plaza Miranda, a historical place for the development of Philippine democracy since political debates used to be held here. At this point in time, Plaza Miranda serves as a busy shopping area for both locals and tourists.
The Quiapo Church’s facade.(Image courtesy of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiapo_Church)
#BackpackerTip: The Philippine Central Post Office is also situated in the area. It is separated by Pasig River – Metro Manila’s major waterway. I highly discourage you to walk from Quiapo Church to the Post Office. It’s not safe. I suggest you’ll ride a jeepney which costs 8 Pesos (US$1 = PHP42.00) this is also one of the common modes of transportation of Filipinos.
7.) Quezon Memorial Circle or QC Circle – named after the first Philippine President during the Commonwealth period (1940s), the QC Circle is a vast place which can be utilized for jogging, strolling and (during Christmas) shopping.
This place is one of the major leisure spots for locals. The remains of former President Manuel L. Quezon are also situated in the powering white tower of the park. Food stalls may aid your food craving when you drop by in this area.
The QC Memorial Circle. (Image courtesy of: https://trainfromtheparalleluniverse.wordpress.com/tag/qc-circle/)
#BackpackerTip: Quezon City is the biggest city in Metro Manila in terms of land mass. If you happen to visit here and you are in the mood for a shindig, you may try to visit Tomas Morato Street which has party places and comedy bars.
6.) National Museum – the National Museum building was actually the former home of the Philippine congress. Today, it’s the best place for the clear substantiation of the evolution of Philippines as a country.
The National Museum of the Philippines. (Image Courtesy of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Legislative_Building)
To give you an overview, exquisite paintings and preserved artifacts will greet you upon entering this venue. There are a lot of interesting facts about the Philippines which can only be accessed through this museum.
Sorry but this image does not justify Eco Park’s beauty. It’s way better in person.
(Image courtesy of: http://childsplaymanila.com/field-trips/)
5.) La Mesa Eco Park – this reservoir which supplies the water all throughout the metropolis is a perfect sanctuary especially during summer. This ecological park is located in the northeast part of metro manila which can be accessed via bus.
Throughout the years, I’ve been wondering why this place is not promoted as much to tourists. A minimal fee in this park is very much worth it. The viridescent grass and wide array of blooming flowers will help you relax amidst the city. A small swimming pool is also situated inside the park for a minimal fee.
4.) CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) Complex – erected during the dictatorship of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, CCP is primarily intended as a venue of artistic and cultural shows. The CCP building per se hosts theater shows and art exhibits. You may check their website http://culturalcenter.gov.ph/ for the schedule of events.
CCP Building at night. (Image courtesy of: http://www.panitikan.com.ph/content/ccp-announces-its-2013-season)
Within the CCP complex, a tourist may visit a small theme park called Star City.
The Coconut Palace is also situated within CCP Complex. The Vice President of the Philippines resides in this historical place. From the name itself, this one of a kind structure is made of coconut materials. This also served as an accommodation for the late Pope (now Saint) John Paul II.
#BackpackerTip: the CCP Complex is nearby Roxas Boulevard where various hotel accommodations are available.
3.) EDSA Shrine – when the Filipino people dethroned the dictator President Marcos in the 1980s, the Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (locally known as EDSA) became the place where protests took place. As of the moment, EDSA is one of the major streets in the whole Philippines. This place also served as a venue to topple former President Joseph Estrada for the alleged corruption of his government.
To commemorate the resilience of the Filipino people during the dark days of Martial Law, a golden image of the Virgin Mary was built. It has a small chapel inside of it for Christian visitors, too.
EDSA shrine is located in the borderline of Mandaluyong and Quezon Cities.
#BackpackerTip: Two major malls (i.e. Robinson’s Mall and SM Mall) is accessible in this area. There are also a couple of hotels in this area.
2.) Rizal Park – Dr. Jose Rizal is one of the most celebrated Filipinos of all time due to his groundbreaking novels who dared to critique the oppression of the Spaniards in our own land. Today, Rizal is considered as the national hero of the Philippines.
The prominent statue of Dr. Jose Rizal at the park named after him. (Image Courtesy of: http://travelcie.com/view/philippines/rizal-park)
The Rizal Park is one of the largest parks in the entire Philippines. Its current local was the actual place where Jose Rizal was assassinated. There also shows located in this park which summarizes the life of Rizal. Strolling around this park will also introduce you to various Philippine heroes who fought for our freedom back in the day.
Rizal Park is located at Roxas Boulevard.
1.) Intramuros – derived from a latin term which means within the walls, Intramuros once served as a military camp and small city during the Spanish colonial era. Today, universities, government agencies and age-old churches can be visited inside the “walled city”.
Not only is this place historical, its impeccable structure makes it also an (almost) one-stop-shop. There are restaurants, kalesa and structures which will make you feel that you’re living during the good old days of Philippine Society.
The Manila Cathedral. (Image Courtesy of: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/3736/walled-city-of-intramuros-to-rise-again/)
Within Intramuros, the Manila Cathedral is located – place where you can indulge your spiritual necessities.
For Santiago is also a must-see. It is the place where Jose Rizal was detained prior his assassination. There are tour guides and maps in this area for reasonable rates.
Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila (Image Courtesy of: http://pamana.ph/the-walls-of-intramuros/)
FINAL NOTE: With all these places, I hope tourists and Filipinos alike will try to visit Manila anytime soon. Save for some flaws of our country, I can really say that Manila in itself would be a great place to stay before heading to our world-class tourist spots which are scattered all over the Philippines.
The Philippines is more than Boracay, Palawan and Rice Terraces among others. Our diverse culture and great rapport makes one really say that – it’s more fun in the Philippines!