A bustling city with a laid-back, casual nature
A bustling metropolis of over 1.6 million inhabitants, Manila proper makes up only part of the massive urban area that is Metro Manila, or the National Capital Region (total population around 11.5 million), which includes the chic and ultramodern City of Makati, former capital Quezon City, and the skyscrapers and jaw-dropping “megamalls” of Ortigas Center. Visitors in search of culinary delights will be truly spoiled for choice. Manila boasts a stunning variety of authentic cuisine from all parts of Asia as well as homegrown Philippine and surprisingly good continental European fare. American and international restaurant chains also abound, so if your tastes range from Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Indian, Italian, French, Mexican, or simply pizza and burgers, you won’t be disappointed in what Manila has to offer.
If you’ve never been to an Asian megamall, get ready to be blown away by both bargain and luxury shopping on levels unknown in Europe and most of the world. SM Megamall in Ortigas, Mall of Asia in Pasay (near Ninoy Aquino International Airport) and bargain-themed Greenhills in San Juan are just a few of the many shoppers’ paradises Metro Manila has to offer. As with dining and shopping, accommodation ranges from inexpensive hostels to splendid five-star accommodation.
Thankfully, most Filipinos can communicate in English and it is very common to hear Tagalog and English effortlessly interwoven in normal conversation. Major newspapers and television news are also run in English and don’t be surprised if you hear Spanish words peppering conversation. It’s just one of the many remnants of over 350 years of Spanish colonialism. Manila is also an excellent transportation hub, with local MRT (metro), bus and Jeepney (inexpensive colorful converted American WW2 jeeps) services, plus connections to beaches, camping, golf and mountain resorts via air, bus or very affordable private car services.