Filipino food may not be as famous as that of the Japanese, Thai or Malaysian food, but there’s so much more in the Philippines that you should try. If you are transiting through Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport with 24 hours or less between flights, then be sure to make the most of your layover. You may not consider yourself lucky if your layover happens to be in Manila, but trust us, there are highlights that you don’t want to miss. This 24-hour suggested itinerary will lead you to the city’s famous foodie attractions and will help you make the most of your layover. Depending on your traveling priorities, you can certainly fine tune this itinerary to suit your needs. Enjoy Manila!
Things to know before traveling to the Philippines:
Language – The national language was labeled Filipino to acknowledge and embrace the existence of many English and Spanish-derived words. Foreign tourists might be confused with Filipino language as Tagalog is also widely spoken in most parts of Luzon. Filipino language is basically Tagalog with inclusions of languages other than Tagalog. Communicating is relatively easy as most Filipinos, especially in urban areas, can speak a decent level of English.
Social norms and etiquette – Being a Spanish Colony for over three hundred years and being under the United States for 50 years, foreign values have been adapted by Filipinos in their own peculiar fashion. For a foreign traveler, it is important to know that Filipinos, like most Asians, stress public harmony and overt conviviality. Any indication of conflict is readily buried and confrontation is frowned upon. Filipinos are extremely tolerant people, and are generally happy, generous and gregarious.
Money and costs – The official currency of the Philippines is the Peso (₱). Exchanging money in the Philippines is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in Asia. The Philippines is well serviced by a mixture of local and international banks offering widespread ATMs and online services. International credit cards, such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express, are widely accepted at big establishments. Make sure to bring Philippine peso if you are traveling to rural or remote areas.
Safety and security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for the Philippines. Check your country’s travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. Avoid all travel to all areas in Mindanao due to serious threat of terrorism and kidnapping. Every traveler should take safety precautions because there has been an increase in reported armed robberies and other opportunistic crimes targeting tourists. If you decide to take jeepneys, do not carry large sums of money and always keep your bags close to you.
Getting around – Getting around Manila and taking public transportation might be a shocking experience to foreign visitors. Transportation options include Light Rail Transit (LRT), Manila Metro Rail Transit (MRT), cab, bus, jeepneys and tricycle. If you are commuting during rush hours (7:00 AM to 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM), taking the LRT or MRT is not a good idea. If you are travelling for short distances, jeepneys are your best bet! Just say the word “para” if you want the driver to stop so you could alight to your destination. If you prefer to take a cab, take note of some reputable taxi companies such as MGE Transport, Basic Taxi, EMP, Dollar Taxi and Sturdy Taxi. Uber is a great alternative to taxis that is extremely popular in Manila.
Where to stay – Manila has a wide range of accommodation options, with something for every level of comfort and budget. Budget hotels, bed and breakfasts, apartment and condo rentals, youth hostels and guesthouses are aplenty in the capital. Ermita or Malate District is a great choice where the best and exciting nightlife can be found. It is also a great base for exploring the best attractions of Manila. Bonifacio Global City and Makati are among the trendiest of places.
Hotels to consider in Manila:
A 12-hour foodie adventure in Manila, Philippines
Assuming you had to cross an ocean to get to Manila, your first day will be rife with jet lag. Take a flight that arrives in Manila as early as possible and check in to your preferred hotel/hostel. To walk off your jet lag, hit the nearest restaurant in Malate or Ermita. Our first matter of business is breakfast. Obviously, the first meal of every trip should be solid. So, we recommend some Tapsilog, a popular breakfast in the Philippines made from beef tapa with garlic fried rice and sunny-side up egg.
If you want breakfast on the go, then look no further than the Wholesome Table located at Bonifacio Global City. They serve some of the best organic breakfasts in the metro like avocado toast, egg and cheese toast, and wild mushroom toast.
Looking for a place to experience some of the famous Filipino food items for lunch? Then we hope our suggestion will prove useful when you visit Manila. Filipinos are huge rice eaters, and lunch is no exception. Our suggestion is Crispy Dinuguan of the Kanin Club. Dinuguan (pork blood stew) is a popular Filipino dish that is mainly comprised of pork meat simmered in pig’s blood, with the addition of garlic, chili, vinegar and green pepper. It may not look appetizing, but trust us, it tastes so good! Aside from rice, eating Dinuguan with Puto (Filipino steamed cake) is another great combination.
Summer in Manila can be really hot and one of the best ways to cool down is to enjoy some summer desserts. We can’t think of any other summer treats in Manila than Halo Halo (literally means “Mix-Mix”). It is a a popular Filipino dessert made from shaved ice topped with various ingredients like macapuno (silky coconut), sago (pearls), ube (purple yam), nada de coco (coconut gelatin), lank (jackfruit), kamote (sweet potato), Leche Flan (Crème caramel) and ice cream. Evaporated milk will then be poured before serving.
Have some sisig for dinner! “I think sisig is perfectly positioned to win the hearts and minds of the world as a whole,” said by the celebrity chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain. What is this you ask? It is basically a dish made up of pork, rice and egg. Some people might think this pork dish might not be that special, but in the Philippines, it is so much more than that. With hundreds of restaurants to choose from, it can be hard to know where to eat pork. So, our suggestion is Trellis Restaurant at Diliman, Quezon City.
If you are traveling in a group, we recommend a hot pot dinner at Macao Mini Hotpot Seafood Restaurant located at Binondo, Manila. Hot pot did not originate in Manila, but the Filipino-Chinese made their own variation. Macao Mini Hotpot Seafood Restaurant is one of the most popular hotpot places in Binondo, and we totally understand why. They serve a perfect balance of fresh ingredients, delectable sauces and two types of savory sauce cooked with a simmering pot of stock.
The huge metropolis Manila knows how to party. The nightlife in the city runs the gamut, from the rowdy bars to red light district and upscale night clubs. If you love craft beers, then the Bottle Shop in Taguig, Manila is for you. If you love whisky, then go to Lit Japanese Whisky Bar or Manadalay Bar. If you just want to dance the night away, then there is the Palace Pool Club located at Bonifacio Glabol City
Have you been to Manila or anywhere else in the Philippines? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: Selling vegetables at street market in Manila, Philippines (Phuong D. Nguyen / Shutterstock.com)