A highly urbanized city, Pasay is surrounded by the cities of Makati, Manila, Taguig, and Parañaque. It is the location of the main international airports in the Philippines, making it the gateway of the country to the rest of the world. The Japanese Embassy, a satellite office of the American Embassy, and the World Trade Center Metro Manila are all in Pasay as well. Because of the large number of tourists that arrives in the city daily, it became the location of numerous world-class establishments. The city of Pasay is now one of the most popular destinations in the Philippines, boasting entertainment centers, shopping areas, and convention centers.
Situated in front of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 is Newport City, a luxurious 62-acre commercial and residential area that houses prime condominiums, premier hotels, a resort casino, and glitzy shopping centers. Pasay is also the location of the SM Mall of Asia, one of the largest malls in the country.
Throughout the year, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in Pasay hosts local and international events such as stage plays, concerts, music and film festivals, and art exhibits. Its theaters and exhibition halls are the perfect venues for both large and small productions. The center was designed by National Artist for Architecture, Leandro V. Locsin.
Just a stone's throw away from the CCP is the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), the first international convention center in Asia. Also designed by Locsin, the PICC is the venue for local and international conventions, conferences, and award ceremonies.
Pasay City is considered the gateway of the Philippines to the rest of the world because it the location of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. It is also home to the Manila Domestic Airport, so if you are coming in from another country or the provinces in Visayas or Mindanao, then taking the plane is the most convenient choice.
Travel time by plane varies depending on your point of origin. If you are coming from Cebu, the flight is about one hour and 20 minutes. From Cagayan de Oro, air travel takes about an hour and a half, while flights from Davao City take about an hour and 50 minutes.
On the other hand, flights from Hong Kong to Manila take more than two hours. From Singapore, it’s more than three hours. From the US, around 12 hours if you’re flying from California.
Traveling to Pasay by sea takes time but possible via the Port of Manila, which is located at the northern part of Metro Manila. Sea travel is made possible by companies such as 2GO Travel, which offers boat services to Manila from various key areas in the Philippines like Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, and Bacolod. Beyond the port, various land transportations will be available to take you to Pasay.
Hubs of major bus companies like Philtranco, Saulog, DLTB Bus, and Victory Liner can be found in Pasay, so traveling by land from key provinces and cities in the country isn’t a problem either.
How to Get Around
This iconic mode of transportation is easily available in the city and is perfect for short hops from one point to the other. Jeeps usually ply a fixed route, with their destinations colorfully displayed on the windshield. You can always confirm with the jeepney driver if his route will get you to your desired destination.
Going around by train is also possible since LRT Line 1 and MRT Line 3 also pass through the city. LRT Line 1 has stations in Gil Puyat, Libertad, EDSA–Taft Avenue, and Baclaran, which is located on the border of Pasay and Parañaque City. On the other hand, with MRT Line 3, you can head to EDSA–Taft Avenue Station or Magallanes Station.
Aside from provincial buses, commuter buses are also available to take you to various points in Metro Manila such as Quezon City, Makati, Ortigas, and Manila.
Taxi is the most comfortable way to get around the city and to the surrounding areas. The flag down rate is PHP 30.00 with an additional PHP 3.50 for every succeeding 500 meters or 90 seconds of waiting time.
Ride sharing services like Grab and Uber are other options you can try. These app-based services allow you to book taxis or private cars to bring you from one point to the other with just a couple of taps on your smartphones.
What to See
Established in 1966, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) was built during the regime of the late President Ferdinand Marcos to preserve, develop, and promote Philippine arts and culture. CCP stands on an 88-hectare property along Roxas Boulevard and is home to a number of theatres and events venues where performances and exhibitions, both local and international, are held.
The Tanghalang Pambansa is CCP’s flagship venue whose brutalist structure was designed by National Artist for Architecture, Leandro Locsin. It features a theatre, galleries, and a museum where notable performances, films, and exhibitions have been held since it was established.
The Tanghalang Francisco Balagatas, on the other hand, has been a favorite venue for concerts and live performances. Also known as the Folk Arts Theater, the venue has a seating capacity of 8,458 and has hosted some of the world’s most popular acts including Menudo, one of the most popular Latin performers, and Janet Jackson. Big local performers like Gary Valenciano have also held concerts there.
The Manila Film Center is yet another notable structure within the CCP Complex which was built in 1982 to host the main event of the First Manila International Film Festival. The Film Center, however, is also remembered for the tragic accident that killed at least 169 workers during the final stage of its construction. Since then, it has been the subject of ghost stories and other urban legends.
Not too far away is the Museo ng Kalinangang Pilipino. The museum was built in 1988 and has been an important destination for those who want to view and appreciate the works of Filipino traditional artists. The museum features permanent exhibitions that showcase the development of Philippine art as well as a collection of traditional musical instruments from the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, Thailand, China, and Korea.
Another museum in the area is the GSIS Museo ng Sining which showcases the works of contemporary Filipino artists and historical art pieces that date back to as early as the colonial period. One of the museum’s notable artworks is a 1931 painting entitled History of Philippine Music by renowned Filipino artist, Fernando Amorsolo.
In the middle of the complex is the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), also known for being the venue for many local and international conventions, meetings, and other important events. It also once served as the Office of the Vice President (OVP) of the Philippines until 2005. In addition, the convention center was the principal venue of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit 2015.
The Coconut Palace, also in the CCP Complex, was the OVP under the term of former Vice President Jejomar Binay. The palace, which is also known as Tahanang Pilipino, was built with hardwood and coconut shells in 1978 and noted for its impressive architecture. It is also a guesthouse for many important guests and a luxurious venue for wedding receptions.
The CCP Complex is also home to the country’s longest running amusement park, Star City. It is the only all-weather and air-conditioned theme park in the country and home to about 30 rides and attractions suitable for all ages. Star City features the tallest Ferris wheel in the Philippines that stands 60 meters high and has 32 gondolas that can accommodate six passengers each. In addition, Global Gutz Pasay, a paintball park ideal for team building activities or for groups of friends, is just a couple of steps away.
The Senate of the Philippines is housed in the GSIS Building, just right beside the CCP Complex. The World Trade Center is also just a couple of minutes away from the CCP Complex where prestigious events and trade exhibits usually take place.
Finally, The Mall of Asia Arena is located in the 42-hectare MOA Complex, and has been a favorite venue for some of the country’s biggest sporting events and concerts. Some of the artists who performed in the arena include Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, and Madonna. Meanwhile, The SMX Convention Center is the country’s largest private exhibition center. It is also located in the MOA Complex.
Events and Festivals
Pasay City celebrates quite a number of festivals every year: there’s the Sto. Niño Festival every January, the Feast Day of Santa Calra in February, the Aliwan Fiesta every April, and Pasay Day in December to name a few. Held every year to promote the local film industry, The Metro Manila Film Festival is one the events in the city that people look forward to. The festival is marked by a grand parade where floats of the featured movies and its cast pass through Roxas Boulevard. Another much-awaited event is the The Philippine International Pyromusical Competition, also known as the World Pyro Olympics where audiences and bystanders are treated to the grandest fireworks displays from 10 different countries.
Where to Shop
At the center of Pasay City’s offerings when it comes to shopping is SM Mall of Asia (MOA), the fourth largest shopping mall in the Philippines and the 13th in the world. Also located in the MOA Complex, it is home to over 600 retail stores and as much as 300 restaurants and food booths that will astound locals and tourists with vast options for shopping and dining.
Another mall is The Newport Mall, just right across NAIA Terminal 3, and has been frequented by shoppers for its top-tier luxury brands and boutiques. It is right beside Resorts World Manila, the country’s first integrated tourist destination complete with a world-class casino, luxury hotels, cinema, and a theater.
But when it comes to cheap finds, Cartimar Shopping Center easily takes center stage. In addition to fashion items, its halls are filled to the brim with hundreds of shoes and different kinds of footwear to choose from. Some stores sell them at cheaper prices compared to malls, but others are known for offering knockoffs as well so exercise caution when buying. Aside from shoes, you can also find several pet stores in the shopping center.
Where to Eat
Fast Food Chains
Almost every corner of Pasay City has a fast food chain, from Jollibee to McDonald’s. You can find even more of them as well as the other popular chains like KFC, Chowking, and various eateries that offer pizzas, sandwiches, and numerous quick meals when you go to the malls and commercial areas.
When dining in Pasay City, buffet is the way to go, and leading the way is Spiral at Sofitel Philippine Plaza, a favorite among foodies in the metro. At PHP 3,000.00 per head, you can look forward to a luxurious dining experience that features a huge buffet selection of European, Asian, and Indian dishes. For a more affordable buffet dining experience, there is Buffet 101 and Vikings at SM by the Bay in MOA Complex. And for those who want to enjoy a great selection of Japanese dishes, then Banzai: The Great Teppanyaki Theater at the Seaside Boulevard is the place for you.
For those who also love music, The Singing Cooks & Waiters features a unique dining experience: the restaurant serves an array of sumptuous Filipino dishes, prepared and served by the restaurant’s musically-inclined chefs and wait staff.
And if you love seafood, experiencing dampa is highly recommended. When dining in a dampa restaurant, you will first shop for the freshest catch of the day in an in-house seafood market and have it cooked however you like. Dampa restaurants are available all over Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard, not too far away from Manila Bay.
Bars and Clubs
Pasay City also has quite a number of fun and exciting spots where you can enjoy the night away. There’s Center Stage Family KTV & Resto Bar at SM by the Bay where you can sing your heart out to your favorite songs.
On the other hand, Bar 180 and Bar 360 in Resorts World Manila are the perfect venues where you can enjoy live entertainment. Also located in Resorts World Manila, House Manila and the Jardin Garden Club are two of the metro’s most promising night clubs where drinks are overflowing and the country’s top DJs spin.
Fare: PHP 7.00 to PHP 300.00
Riding a cab is the more convenient option when going around Pasay City. The flag down rate is PHP 30.00, while every succeeding 500 meters or 90 seconds of waiting time is charged PHP 3.50. On average, a taxi ride from Pasay to Makati is about PHP 100.00 to PHP 150.00; to Manila is about PHP 130.00 to PHP 180.00; while to Quezon City is PHP 200.00 to PHP 300.00.
The base fare for a jeep ride is PHP 7.00 for the first four kilometers and PHP 1.50 for every succeeding kilometer. Commuter buses are also inexpensive, ranging from PHP 10.00 to PHP 15.00 per bus ride. Aircon buses charge from PHP 12.00 to PHP 25.00 per ride. If you’re taking the LRT or MRT, a single journey ticket starts at PHP 15.00.
Food: PHP 200.00 to PHP 3,000.00
With a budget of PHP 200.00 per meal, you can already enjoy a full meal especially in the food joints found inside the malls. Don’t miss out on the buffet offerings in the city which range from PHP 800.00 to PHP 3,000.00 per head.
Shopping: PHP 300.00 to PHP 5,000.00
In Cartimar, shopping comes cheap so you can already score a simple shirt for only PHP 200.00 to PHP 250.00. In the malls, however, expect the price to be anywhere between PHP 300.00 to PHP 500.00 per piece. The city also has shops, both big and small, that sell souvenir items. Key chains and ref magnets cost about PHP 20.00 to PHP 30.00 per piece. Of course, expect to shell out huge amounts when shopping in the luxurious boutiques in the malls.
Accommodations: PHP 500.00 to PHP 4,000.00
Basic rooms can go for as low as PHP 500.00 a night, while the more upscale and high-end hotels with full amenities and services can go for as much as PHP 4,000.00 a night.
Activities: PHP 100.00 to PHP 600.00
Some museums are free of charge—just register at the lobby or send a letter of request prior to your arrival. But for most museums, expect to shell out PHP 100.00 per head. A single game at Global Gutz costs about PHP 250.00 per person. A Ride-All-You-Can ticket at Star City is priced at PHP 450.00 per head.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00
When dining at restaurants, expect a 10% service charge added to your bill so tipping is actually no longer necessary. If you would like to leave a tip, a PHP 20.00 to PHP 50.00 note should be enough.