About Helen A
Lives in Metro Manila, Philippines
Since Mar 2005
35-49 year old female
I am originally from the UK and spent seven years after university traveling around the world. I finally settled on a small island in the Philippines called Boracay because for me this is the perfect beach. I moved here in 2003 and its the longest I have lived anywhere since i was 18! This year though we moved permanently to our second home, Manila, for the sake of the children's education. I have a travel website which promotes the Philippines and an accommodation marketing business that provides both technology and expertise for many of the hotels in the Philippines I consider myself very lucky, I work for myself doing what I love and also making an impact on promoting this amazing country...perfect!
Ancient ruins, Historic sites, Historic walking areas
Historic sites, Parks
Architectural buildings, Religious sites, Art museums, History museums
Colleges & universities
Nature & wildlife tours
National Parks, Parks
Historic sites, Museums, Art museums, History museums
Landmarks & points of interest
To truly understand Manila today, one has to visit its past. Once known as 'The Pearl of the Orient,' Intramuros, the walled city, has a long and often heartbreaking history. You can see its former glory in the ruined and empty buildings, as well as those that have been preserved and are still in use. The streets here are quiet, making it a pleasant area to stroll around.
Fort Santiago is one of the must-see places in Intramuros. Exploring the fort will provide you with a good sense of the old Manila, and the Rizal Shrine Museum in its grounds will tell you all about the nation's favorite hero.
Another must-do stop whilst walking around Intramuros' little streets, San Agustin Church is the 'Great Survivor'—being the only building to survive the almost total obliteration that World War II wreaked on this historic area. The Baroque-style church was completed in 1606, although the adjacent former monastery, now museum, was reconstructed in the 1970s. The Museum holds a fine collection of Ecclesiastical art, relics, and props, such as the carriages that were used during processions.
After a morning exploring Intramuros, head over the river to the Malacañang Palace. The official residence of the President of The Philippines, the palace also houses the Presidential Museum, which allows you to see the interiors and brings history to life with memorabilia from each of the country's leaders. The guides are informative and interesting, and the museum provides a thorough look at the Philippines and its development—from colony, to democracy, to dictatorship, and back to democracy.
If you are a true history lover, then a visit to Manila would not be complete without paying homage to the oldest university in Asia. Founded in 1611, the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas is also today the world's largest Catholic university on a single campus. It has been visited by two popes, and is the alma mater of many illustrious individuals, including national hero José Rizal and a number of presidents of the Philippines.
To top off a day of history (or perhaps, time depending, as an alternative to The University Of Santo Tomas), visit the Quiapo Church and its surrounding, bustling market streets. The Church is one of the most important Catholic churches for Filipinos, and many travel a long way to worship here. The surrounding area is also very well known for its markets. Many of the country's imported goods arrive here first, as does local produce from the rest of the Philippines. Thus, the church and its neighborhood will give you good insight into the lives of most Manila residents.
Time to see a new side of Manila! The Manila Ocean Park Development is a world-class entertainment area centered around the Oceanarium. There are a number of different attractions here—including sea lion and penguin shows, shark encounters, dolphin swimming, and more—so it's easy to spend a whole day here if you like.
Opposite the Manila Ocean Park, Rizal Park is certainly worth a stroll on your way to the National Museum. Named after José Rizal, the park contains as its focal point a monument where the hero's remains are enshrined. But there are many other attractions here as well, including a huge musical fountain, a flower clock, various sculptures, and formal garden designs.
An the top corner of Rizal Park, you'll find a grand old building that houses the National Museum. Bombed during WWII, it was restored, faithful to the original, in 1946. Inside, the often-overlooked museum is a treasure trove of Filipino cultural archaeology and fine art. It contains three branches: National Art Gallery, Museum of the Filipino People, and a Planetarium.
If you still have time left, or if you are traveling with young children, you may want to consider Museo Pambata, which translates to 'Children's Museum.' It's not a shiny new place, nor does it have the grandeur of the National Museum, but it is a place with great heart and soul. Children and adults will enjoy the interactivity of the experience, and will learn all about Old Manila in the process!
At least one day of your Manila visit should be devoted to exploring the best of the 'new' Philippines, and Bonifacio Global City demonstrates the growth and modernization that is happening here. A prime example of the new style of city springing up around, and becoming part of, Manila, Bonifacio is well planned in every aspect. There are places to work, shop, eat, relax, and learn.
Whilst in Bonifacio—and especially if you have children or an interest in science and how things work—be sure to check out the Mind Museum. This world-class interactive museum provides hours of fun and interest for visitors of all ages.
After Bonifacio, head over to Makati City, the central business district of Manila. Here you can do some serious shopping, starting with the five Greenbelt malls that cater to every budget and need. Greenbelt is a great example of a mall that has retained some lovely outdoor spaces and plenty of places to sit for a bite and a drink, and some interesting people-watching.