Manila is often just a short layover for many foreign travelers or for locals looking to get better jobs or go to school. However, this urban sprawl has a number of attractions that may make you change your mind about it, and stay for a few days just exploring.
If you rent a car in Manila for self-drive or guided tour, here are some must-see spots to include in your itinerary.
San Agustin Church
The Spaniards stayed and ruled the Philippines for centuries; they have left an indelible influence on the country, one of which is Catholicism. You’ll see several churches all over Manila one of the most famous is the UNESCO-listed San Agustin Church. This stone structure dates all the way back to the 16th century and follows the Baroque style. Its exterior will reel you in with its old world charm. Step inside to see the beautiful reliefs, moldings, and religious icons.
The Philippine National Hero has a monument in the city. Though his execution took place in 1896, his memory lives on not just in Metro Manila, but in different provinces as well. You’ll see a monument towering over the surroundings is a reminder of the sacrifices he made for the country. Take a leisurely stroll here or just sit down and relax before exploring the other attractions.
If you’re into museums, you can check out the Ayala Museum in Makati. There are permanent and temporary exhibits that display the history of the Philippines. You’ll find centuries’ old porcelain from China, silk, displays of traditional ships and paintings.
Manila is a modern city with skyscrapers and business districts, but within this concrete jungle is a vestige of the country’s colonial past. As the oldest part of the metro, Intramuros provides you with a glimpse of the time when the Spaniards ruled the country. Walk on its cobblestone streets and admire the colonial architecture and old administrative buildings. The crumbling walls are the remains of what used to be an imposing fortress.
Manila is a gritty city with its obvious poverty, urban sprawl, traffic and billboards. However, one of its redeeming factors is the baywalk. A walk here allows you to take all the craziness of the city in. The best time to drive and stop here is just before sunset. Wait for a blue hour until the sun sets; the sky turning into a fiery red and then dark is a great way to end the day.
For those who want to drive out of Manila, Tagaytay is a good choice. Feel the cool breeze as you alight from the car and if you eat at the right restaurant, you’ll get beautiful views of Taal Volcano. There are a number of places to eat for travelers who want to spend a few lazy hours seeing the countryside.
Beach Bumming in Laiya
If you have a day to spare, you can drive to one of the beaches lining the coast of Batangas. A popular day trip from the city is Laiya. Here you can pay a day rate to visit the beach and have a relaxing time wading in the waters sunbathing and other activities.
Give Manila a chance and let it surprise; dig through its gritty and grimy exterior, and commercialized atmosphere, and you’ll find a rich past and colorful present. It can also serve as a base to day trip to other provinces.