Manila is a fantastic city brimming with culture, history, and great food, but not everyone has the luxury of staying there for more than a weekend to explore. If you’re a balikbayan with just under 24 hours to spare in Metro Manila, here are a handful of activities you should try, as well as tips you should keep in mind, to make the most out of your stay:
Stay at Balikbayan-Friendly Hotels
For balikbayans with overnight layovers and connecting flights, it’s important to book a stay at hotels such as Kabayan Hotel Pasay, which cater to guests who are on the go. Kabayan Hotel Pasay is an affordable hotel in Pasay City that offers convenient packages which include complimentary breakfast for two, discounted meals, complimentary luggage storage, early check-in and check-out options, as well as free shuttle services to and from the airport. Staying in hotels near the airport ensures that traffic will be the least of your worries when your flight looms near. If possible, pick a location that’s close enough to many establishments so you won’t feel so bored cooped up in a hotel room. Kabayan Hotel, for example, is just 10 minutes away from SM Mall of Asia, one of the largest shopping and entertainment centers in the country and a perfect destination for a short stay in the metro.
Explore Old Manila
The beauty of Old Manila is that you can pretty much walk from one historic site to another and have your fill of Philippine culture in just a few hours. Intramuros is a short walk away from the Museum Complex, which is right beside Rizal Park. Right across Rizal Park is also Roxas Boulevard, a perfect spot for watching gorgeous sunsets. You can even walk to Escolta, now a hip neighborhood of repurposed American-era buildings and trendy markets. Binondo, home to many delicious treats, is also a short walk away from Escolta, and besides having a selection of delectable Filipino and Chinese food, is also known as the oldest Chinatown in Asia. Just remember to put on your most comfortable walking shoes and pack a water bottle before going off on this adventure.
Experience the Nightlife
Manila doesn’t go to sleep once the sun sets; if anything, it becomes even more alive. Manila nightlife is a wonderful experience, as there are establishments that cater to every lifestyle and budget. Stroll through Malate at night and revisit its classic establishments such as Barbara’s, Café Adriatico, and Oarhouse, or visit some of the newer bars that have recently opened up. Restaurants with cuisines from Japan, Korea, and the Middle East are also very common here, so you can always grab a quick and hearty meal before, after, or during a night of drinking.
Poblacion in Makati is another popular night scene in Manila. It’s home to bars and clubs that range from the standard beerhouses and sports pubs, to new and experimental bars that offer personalized cocktails such as Agimat bar, or Commune, which hosts Improv Nights every Thursday.
Download a Dependable Map
For your adventures in Manila, it’s helpful to refer to a map to know exactly where you are. For example, Google Maps provides even transportation routes around the metro, lets you know which roads are blocked by traffic, and can even run offline, given that you save your routes and locations. This is perfect for getting around, as Manila isn’t known for being friendly to road and street signs.
Join Guided Tours
If you’re in Manila for only a day—or even less—joining guided tours would be ideal for you. By joining one, you’re ensuring that you won’t waste time getting lost; you just have to relax, take as many photos as you want, and listen to and follow your guide. Carlos Celdran is known for touring visitors and tourists around Intramuros (wacky commentary included). Meanwhile, Ivan Man Dy is the go-to guy for a Binondo Food crawl, as he leads visitors through unnamed alleys just to get to Binondo’s best restaurants.
Metro Manila has a lot to offer, even to visitors who only have a few hours to spare. Plan ahead of time and choose one or a combination of these city adventures to make sure every minute of your short stay will be filled with memorable treats and enriching discoveries.