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 Islands Information

Manila, Philippines - Overview and Essential Travel Information

Manila has officially 6 million inhabitants (unofficially more than 9 millions)and it is one of the most exhausting cities in Southeast Asia. Don't expect to get any rest. For that kind of thing you need to take a plane to one of the smaller islands.

Manila is the capital of the Philippines and was founded in 1571 around Manila Bay on the east coast of Luzon, the largest and most northerly island. It is by far the biggest city in the country. Manila started out as a humble village and has grown to become the governmental, commercial and educational centre of the nation.

The heart of old Manila can be found inside the Intramuros, the original Spanish settlement. The fort and St. Augustine Church still are good examples of colonial architecture.

The University of Santo Tomas is one of the oldest universities in Asia. It has a very interesting Arts and Science Museum.


Coconut Palace

The Coconut Palace in the Cultural Centre in Malate is actually a guesthouse that was built for the Pope's visit in 1981 (in which he refused to stay) by order of Imelda Marcos, and cost USD10 million to complete. Coconut Palace was built entirely of palm wood and coconut shells and therefore got its name from the materials used in the construction - more than 70% of the materials come from the coconut tree. Take a guided tour and see the 24-carat gold fixtures in the bathrooms.

Malacanang Palace

The former residence of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos can now be visited. It is located on Josť P. Laurel Street is a graceful mansion, about 200 years old. Many Spanish and American governor-generals and later presidents used it as a residence. Because of its previous use, the palace is sometimes referred to as the Philippines White House. The mansion is still exactly as was when the Marcos family fled to Hawaii in 1986.

Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago is the ruined old Spanish fort, now used as a park. A collection of rusting cars which belonged to previous Presidents dot the park. The climb to the top of Fort Santiago is worth the view of the Pasig River. During World War II, the Japanese used the fort as a prison. The dungeons are below the high-tide level and sometimes prisoners drowned here. Right at the end of the war the Japanese started on a wholesale massacre of prisoners, and in one small cell the bodies of 600 people were later found. The Rizal Shrine Museum is probably the most interesting part of the fort. It is filled with items that were used or made by the Filipino martyr, Josť Rizal, including a farewell poem he wrote on the eve of his execution. The rooms where he was held before his execution can be visited.


Intramuros is the oldest part of Manila. The original Malay settlement was destroyed in 1574, and the Spaniards rebuilt it as a wooden fort, which was replaced by a stone complex in 1590. It slowly grew into the fortified city that is now known as Intramuros. The walls around the city were 3km (1.9 miles) long, 13m (43ft) thick and 6m (20ft) high. Seven main drawbridges across the surrounding moat provided access into the city. The moat was later filled in and today it is a golf course. Among the buildings in the walled city were 15 churches, six monasteries, a university, schools, offices, a hospital, a printing press and many impressive houses but the walls were about all left standing after World War II. The best time to wander around Intramuros is early in the morning before the heat of the day.

Rizal Park

Get away from it all and take a stroll in Rizal park. The park is a meeting place for the whole city, with Sundays being particularly popular days for a stroll and an ice cream. The Rizal Memorial is situated at the end of the park, and the place where Rizal was executed late in the 19th century is not too far away. This site is marked by a series of statues, depicting Rizal before the execution squad. The hero's remains lie within the cornerstone of the memorial, where a lightshow centering on the story is shown every evening. The park end at Taft Avenue has a huge pond with a three-dimensional map of the country. The map can be seen in its entirety from the 3-metre (10-foot)-high viewing platform. The park also contains a Japanese and Chinese garden, planetarium, fountains, roller-skating circuit and amusement park for children.
Information provided by cctraveler2 at