24 Hours in Metro Manila

Beat the clock—and a tight budget—and enjoy one full day of fun as you rediscover historical sites, tastes, and sounds in the Philippines’ capital region.

By Krissie G. Pacia
December 10, 2012

Metro Manila—or what most travelers refer to as Manila, though this is but one city in the country’s cosmopolitan capital—is such a riotous mix of malls and museums, roads and restos, that 24 hours seem like too short a time to explore a place of such diverse culture. However, Manila virgins and mavens alike will be pleased to know that with a well-laid plan, an open mind, and an adventurous heart, it is possible to take on the busiest metropolis in the country without breaking the bank.

First Things First

The Philippines is a tropical country, so the weather is basically rainy or sunny. It’s best to travel during the summer season from March to April, and avoid the monsoon months of June to August. Remember to pack a compact umbrella (if you’re flying, remember to check this in!) on your person as a precaution against the heat or sporadic rain showers.

Photo courtesy of Go Hotels Mandaluyong

Where to Stay  

In order to be able to splurge more on pasalubong (gifts) and memory-making activities, don’t spend too much of your budget on a pricey hotel. Go for practical accommodations and choose affordable and centrally located ones, so you save on transportation costs too. Try Go Hotels Mandaluyong; it is adjacent to the Robinsons Forum shopping mall (where you can make convenient emergency purchases), and is right along EDSA and within walking distance of bus stops and the MRT.

Getting There

If you’re flying in from abroad or the province, secure an early flight that lands in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Check budget carriers like Cebu Pacific for the best options. Remember to take care of your currency change at the airport and have smaller bills (twenties are best) on hand for tips and change.

Greenbelt Chapel
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

7 AM: First Stop

Take a taxi to the Link Mall (between Makati Shangri-La Hotel and Landmark Mall) in Ayala Center, Makati City. Choose from the affordable local eateries such as Goldilocks Bakeshop (for popular Filipino fare, cakes, and pastries) and fast food restaurant Tapa King (known for their tapsilog breakfast meals), where you can chow down for P100 to P200. (If you’re really scrimping, wait until Landmark opens and hit their food court.)

Enjoy the cool day while the malls are still closed by strolling around Greenbelt’s parks and visiting the round open air chapel within the shopping complex.

9 AM: Museum Break

Stop by the child-friendly Ayala Museum just across the Link Mall on Makati Avenue. Nestled in Greenbelt Park, it features various galleries, dioramas, and archaeological and ethnographic objects that showcase the country’s rich history. Guided tours may be arranged in advance for P100 per person.

The Ayala Museum has a baggage counter that can hold your luggage as you explore the multi-level museum. Open daily except Mondays (Tuesday to Friday from 9AM to 6PM and weekends from 10AM to 7PM), admission fees vary for residents, non-residents, children, and senior citizens. Check their website for visitor policies, updated fees, and special exhibitions.

11 AM: Pinoy Shopping Paradise

After familiarizing yourself with the history and culture of the country, head over to Tiendesitas for lunch and a unique shopping experience. The Tiendesitas complex is located along C5 in Pasig City and is an ideal spot for people looking for native food, fashion, antiques, and other novelty items. Bring home local delicacies and haggle as you shop for the best deals.

From the Ayala Museum, it’s a 10-minute walk to the MRT Ayala Station which can be accessed via the connecting walkways of the Ayala Center shopping complex: walk through Greenbelt, Landmark, Glorietta, and SM. Take northbound train and get off at Shaw Boulevard. From the EDSA Central terminal at Shaw Boulevard, ride a jeepney bound for Ugong, Pasig. This jeepney will bring you directly to Tiendesitas. Taxi cabs are also an option if you want to save your energy for the rest of the day.

2 PM: River Ride

After your meal, head on over to your hotel to check in and deposit your belongings. You can take this opportunity to exchange more money as well.

Get your camera ready to document your trip on the Pasig River Ferry Service. It is the only water-based transportation that cruises the Pasig River from Barangay Pinagbuhatan in Pasig City to Intramuros in Manila. Float along the famous river in air-conditioned boats equipped with music, high definition TV, and comfort rooms. Tickets range from P25 to P60.

Fort Santiago
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

4 PM: Intramuros by Bike

A definite Manila must-see for first-timers is the walled city of Intramuros. Instead of the usual kalesa (horse-drawn carriage) ride, try visiting the sites on a guided bike tour courtesy of the Electric Chariots Tour of Intramuros (+632 526-6539, intramuroschariots@gmail.com). For P500 per person, this hour-long tour takes you to various sites such as Plazuela de Santa Isabel, Manila Cathedral, Fort Santiago, Baluarte de San Diego, Puerta de Santa Lucia, Baluartillo de San Jose, Reducto de san Pedro, Bagumbayan Light and Sound Museum, Revellin del Parian, Revellin de real de Bagumbayan, Puerta de Isabel, Aduana, San Agustin Church, Bahay Tsinoy (Chinese Museum), and Plaza San Luis Complex. Departure time is every hour from 8AM to 6PM. A thirty-minute option (P250) is also available for those with limited time (and stamina).

Sunset at Manila Bay
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

6 PM: Sunset and Street Food

You can’t leave Manila without taking a moment to enjoy the breathtaking sunset at the Manila Bay. A leisurely walk along the baywalk strip can score you more great photo ops and street eats. Try taho (soy pudding), sorbetes (ice cream), and fishballs; for the brave, there’s isaw (intestines), betamax (blood), adidas (chicken feet), and balut (fertilized egg).

7 PM: Dinner Cooked Your Way

Indulge in cheap, scrumptious seafood at the Seaside Dampa along Macapagal Boulevard. The Dampa is composed of several restaurants and food stalls that provide air-conditioned or al fresco seating. The concept behind this style of dining is you get to choose from the catch of the day in the wet market and have these cooked any way you want. If you’d rather not buy it yourself, you can order direct and just pay extra for the “wet marketing.”

This area also has a colorful nightlife with a selection of nearby bars where you can unwind and toast your great Manila adventure.

9 PM: Home Sweet Hotel

Head back to your hotel via EDSA by taking a bus, or avoid the traffic by hopping on the nearest MRT station and getting off at the Boni Avenue stop, a 10-minute walk to Go Hotels Mandaluyong. End your action-packed day with an in-room massage for a great night’s sleep.

Need somewhere to stay for your trip? Try value-for-money accommodations like Go Hotels. Learn more about Go Hotels here.