Sign Up for Our Monthly Asia Newsletter
A lifelong native of Manila, Icey Villanueva spends her time traveling all over Asia through her role as a flight attendant. But after a long day of jetsetting, she is eager to return home to the Philippines, which she says will always have her heart. Read on for her expert tips on experiencing Manila like a true Filipino.
The best way to cruise the town:Jeepneys — retired World War II army jeeps — are a popular form of public transportation for locals, but tourists like them, too. Riding in a jeepney, which is often adorned with kitsch decorations, is a fun way to get around the city. Be warned, though — seating can be a bit crowded, and jeepneys generally don’t have air conditioning.
Top spot for a meal:Check out the weekend markets, such as Mercato Market and Salcedo Market. You can find traditional Filipino street food but also really delicious Korean-Filipino or American-Filipino fusions. I really like Chef Bambi’s Comfort Foods in Salcedo. The vendor serves classic Filipino dishes such as salpicao, a garlic and beef stir-fry dish.
Tourist activities worth a look:People are always impressed with the SM Mall of Asia. It’s huge! I always take my visitors shopping there. Rizal Park is also beautiful; a lot of families hang out there. They also have concerts and dancers who perform on the weekends, so it’s great for a bit of Filipino culture.
The hottest neighborhood at the moment:The new hip neighborhood in Manila is Maginhawa Street. There are a ton of restaurants and bakeries, as well as a cool bookstore called Bookay-Ukay. I recommend The Sweet Spot Cafe and Nuezca Cafe. There’s also Miao Cat Cafe for cat-lovers.
The best place to catch some zzz's:The Makati district is central to everything, so I would recommend trying to find a hotel in that area.
Tourists probably don't realize:How friendly Filipinos are. If you need help with directions or want to know some good places to eat, you can ask anyone. Filipinos love to give advice — sometimes a little too much!