Manila is the Philippines’ capital and most vibrant city. Consequently, there are many things Manila is known for that make it worth a visit. Amidst all that hectic city bustle, you will still find lots of unique local heritage, fun entertainment, and intriguing wonders.
What Is Manila Known For?
Manila is known for its strong connection to the nation’s Spanish colonial era, its beautiful historic architecture, and its dynamic culture. Despite being arguably the most modern Filipino city, one of the interesting facts about Manila is that it has the oldest district in the country.
That said, Manila is famous for the historic Intramuros district, Binondo, San Agustin Church, and diverse local cuisines. It is the hometown of many entertainment stars, who are well-known in the Philippines and the world.
Culture, History, And Traditions Manila Is Famous For
Spanish Colonial Influence
Manila has been impacted by various influences over the years, one of the visible ones is the imprint of Spanish rule. The Spanish colonization began in 1565, and from then until the Philippines’ independence, the Spanish established cultures, traditions, and architecture that have endured till now.
Today, Manila boasts several well-preserved buildings featuring a unique blend of Spanish and Filipino design elements. Some of these buildings include churches like San Agustin Church, which is a UNESCO Heritage Site.
The Spaniards are also credited for bringing Catholicism to Manila, which is the dominant religion in the city and the Philippines today. Spanish influence is also notable in the food culture, as they introduced some of the most beloved dishes Manila is known for having today.
Home Of The World’s Oldest Chinatown
Manila is famous for having the oldest Chinatown in the world. Better known as Binondo, the district was established in 1594 by the Spaniards for Catholic Chinese who converted to the religion after migrating.
Binondo has since transformed into one of the most iconic districts in the country, with a history that runs deep and a lively culture that has endured through centuries and continues to draw people from far and wide.
Over the years, Binondo’s influence has extended to other districts of Manila, including Quiapo, famous for the Quiapo Market, Santa Cruz, San Miguel, and Tondo.
Filipino Food Culture
Filipinos are known for their great love for food. But they are not just food enthusiasts; they are also adventurous with their cuisines. This is reflected in the range of exotic dishes available in the nation.
It is one of the most amazing facts about the Philippines if you are a curious foodie like us.
Manila happens to have one of the most vibrant food cultures in the Philippines. The city’s food scene offers an enticing array of dishes, from street food vendors dishing out skewers of isaw(grilled chicken or pork intestines) to trendy restaurants serving a rich fusion of Filipino and intercontinental dishes.
The best way to fully immerse yourself in Manila’s culinary scene is through an exciting food tour.
From the fresh food sold in Quiapo Market to the kitchen of Chinatown restaurants, the preparation, and the plating, you are taken on a sensory journey that reveals the city’s culinary heritage that started centuries ago.
One of the first things you will observe in Manila is the show of humility and respect from the locals. It is something that has been instilled in them from infancy, and it’s not just within the city alone.
Strolling the streets, you will find residents addressing elders with catchphrases like “po” and “opo”, which are added to the last sentences of their speech. Visitors are also encouraged to greet elders in this manner, as this will help foster smooth communication and friendship with them.
Younger Filipinos are known for raising the back of the hands of their elders to their foreheads as a sign of respect. This culture is known as Pagmamano.
Areas And Districts Manila Is Known For
Intramuros, known as the ‘Walled City,’ is Manila’s oldest district and one of the most prominent historical sites in the Philippines. Enclosed by high, thick walls, the district dates back to the Spanish colonial era.
Inside, you are introduced to a treasure trove of historical architecture that has endured through centuries. From churches to forts, and museums, Intramuros features landmarks that narrate an aspect of the nation’s pre-colonial history.
Among the famous architecture in Intramuros are the ornate Manila Cathedral, Fort Santiago, and the artistic San Agustin Church. Visiting Intramuros is taking a step back to the Philippines’ bittersweet colonial past.
Makati, nestled within the heart of Metro Manila, is the financial and business epicenter of the city. The city is a testament to the country’s progress and modernity.
Approaching Makati, what drew our admiration immediately is its stunning skyline, adorned with skyscrapers that touch the heavens. These buildings house multinational corporations and financial institutions.
Beyond Makati’s business significance, it boasts a vibrant cultural scene. It is packed with luxurious shopping centers and art galleries. Its nightlife is a delightful mix of trendy bars, restaurants, and clubs.
This is a top destination for bar hopping, boasting a range of bars with expert mixologists that take you on a flavorful journey with uniquely mixed cocktails and drinks.
Chinatown, known as Binondo, is one of the world’s oldest Chinese communities and a popular destination in the Philippines. With its existence dating back to centuries ago, Chinatown has grown to become a sensory delight for visitors.
Binondo boasts one of the best culinary scenes Manila is famous for, offering a blend of delectable Chinese and Filipino street food. Its rich culinary heritage makes it a perfect destination for a fun walking food tour, which takes you on a sensory journey of sampling foods and knowing how they came to be.
In addition, Binondo is home to iconic landmarks, including the Minor Basilica and the National Shrine of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz.
The Chinese New Year is also a huge celebration in Binondo, featuring fireworks, festive dragon and lion dances, and delicious food. Together, they offer one of the most memorable nights you will ever experience.
Landmarks And Architecture Manila Is Famous For
San Agustin Church
Manila is known for having a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the San Agustin Church. This is one of the oldest stone churches in the Philippines.
Construction of the church building was completed in 1607. It is modeled with a baroque architectural style, featuring ornate façades, beautifully painted ceilings, and intricately carved details.
The church’s enduring thick walls have withstood earthquakes and typhoons to preserve its historical and architectural heritage through centuries.
You can explore the fascinating interior of the church, admiring the religious art and ancient woodwork. Take time to stroll in the elegant courtyard, where the spiritual atmosphere blends with nature to provoke contemplation and reflection in you.
The centuries-old San Agustin Church is a must-visit destination for history lovers, religious faithful, and architectural enthusiasts.
Rizal Park, located near Manila Bay, is one of the iconic landmarks in the city. The park is named after Dr. Jose Rizal, a national hero who was martyred at this site in 1896. Since its dedication to Dr. Rizal, it has been a symbol of Filipino patriotism and pride.
Also known as Luneta Park, the green space features lots of attractions that draw visitors from far and wide. Its centerpiece is the Rizal Monument, a granite-built architectural gem that marks the spot where Rizal was executed. The monument is surrounded by stunning lush gardens, ornamental ponds, and other statues of Filipino heroes.
A visit to Rizal Park is a poignant journey back to the Philippines’ struggle for independence; learning about the selfless sacrifices of each statued hero in the fight for freedom.
Located in the Intramuros district, Fort Santiago is a historical landmark that holds a significant place in the annals of the Philippines’ history. The fortress dates back to the Spanish colonial era and played a pivotal role in shaping the course of the nation’s destiny.
The fortress served as a military stronghold, protecting Manila from foreign invasions. It is also renowned for housing the Rizal Shrine, where Dr. Jose Rizal was imprisoned before his execution.
Today, the site is a popular destination for walking tours, beckoning visitors to stroll its cobblestone paths and explore its well-preserved structures. You will find dungeons, bastions, and gateways, as well as tranquil lush gardens and courtyards.
Sports Manila Is Known For
Basketball is the most prominent sport Manila is known for and a testament to the nation’s deep history and passion for the game.
From the amateur courts in the alleyways to the world-class arenas that host teams from professional leagues like the premier Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), the basketball culture is felt everywhere in the city. It also serves as a glue that brings communities together.
The city is home to one of the most iconic basketball venues, the Araneta Coliseum, referred to as the “Big Dome.”
Famous People From Manila
Lea Salonga is one of the most prominent Filipino stars in musical theater. Known for her exceptional talent and powerful voice, Lea Salonga has made indelible marks in the music and film industry.
The singer and actress from Ermita, Manila, gained international acclaim for her role as Kim in the musical “Miss Saigon”, for which she won a Tony Award in 1991.
She also became the first Asian actress to play the role of Les Miserables’ Eponine on Broadway. Le provided the voice for the title character of “Mulan” in the animation’s first and second installments, and that of Jasmine in 1992’s “Aladdin.”
Salonga’s achievements in the entertainment world are highly acknowledged and celebrated in the Philippines, hence her title “Pride of the Philippines.”
Manny, born Manuel Luis Jacinto, is one of the biggest entertainment stars to hail from Manila in recent years. The actor, who left Manila for Canada when he was around the age of three, has become one of the most sought-after Philippine-born stars in Hollywood.
Jacinto has had an interesting run of careers that saw him switch from dancing to acting, which motivated him to move from Vancouver to Los Angeles in search of better opportunities.
After playing small roles in notable shows like Supernatural, The 100, and iZombie, Jacinto’s breakthrough television role came in 2016 when he was cast to play Jianyu Li/Jason Mendoza in NBC’s “The Good Place.”
He has gone on to appear in other notable shows and films, including 2022’s “Top Gun: Maverick.”
Bongbong Marcos is the current president of the Philippines. Born in Santa Mesa, Manila, he is the son of former Philippines president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
Bongbong’s political career dates back to 1980 when he became the Vice Governor of Ilocos Norte, a province he later governed between 1998 and 2007. He went on to serve in the Philippines’ National Assembly.
Although Marcos’ political career has faced criticisms due to his family’s dark history of dictatorship, he has continued to make efforts to gain the faith of the people, and one of the milestones he has achieved in this regard is his election as president in 2022.
Famous Food From Manila
Adobo is a famous Filipino food that features regularly on most tables in Manila. It is a simmered blend of meat(chicken, pork, beef) or vegetables with marinade vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, and black peppercorns.
The result of the slowly cooked meat is a savory and tangy dish that triggers every appetite in you, especially when it is served with white rice. Adobo is a reflection of Manila’s rich, bold flavors.
Sinigang, a vibrant combination of sourness and savory flavors, is one of the most unique cuisines Manila is famous for, embodying the Philippines’ rich and inventive culinary heritage.
The preparation of this comfort food involves souring meat or seafood in tamarind(a souring agent), and then mixing it with tomatoes, garlic, and onions. The dish comes in various forms but what is not lost is its distinct tartness and savory taste.
Discovering More Things Manila Is Famous For
This is just a whirlwind intro to Manila, filled with historical landmarks, legendary sports arenas, ancient heritage, and mouth-watering cuisines.
Manila is known for so many other amazing things, including the Manila Ocean Park, the Manila Bay, and the Manila Central Business District.
This is a city where past meets present, culture meets creativity, and flavors meet festivity. Manila will surprise you, engage you, and leave you wanting more.