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What To Do And Where To Go When Your Friend From Abroad Travels To Manila


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In a stunning turn of events, the Philippines is now the easiest Asian country to enter if you’re a foreigner. Manageable lines, minimal requirements, and no red tape. Ergo, here come the tourists who plan to travel to Manila!

Now, what if that “friend” you met in a bar in San Francisco a few years ago is coming and insisting on a meet-up. Or your cousin asked you to entertain their friends backpacking through the Philippines? Manila isn’t exactly a tourist hotspot by reputation. It’s seen by many as an inconvenient layover before they end up on a pristine beach down south.

But Metro Manila is still a megacity. A chaotic, almost dystopian urban jungle that’s not without its appeal. Here’s what you can do when your friend from abroad shows up on your doorstep.


Go rooftop hopping when you travel to Manila

There has been an influx of hip rooftop bars throughout Makati of late. The elevation is a breezy respite from the inner-city bedlam below. From these vantage points, the Makati/BGC skyline is quite an impressive vista. 

In Poblacion, there are many rooftop establishments that promise debauchery and well-stocked bars. Dr. Wine’s Cartel, Yes Please, Antidote (of IM Hotel) and, of course, Z Hostel are some standouts.

Setlsam has been making waves in neighboring Legaspi Village. It has a cozy vibe reminiscent of a speakeasy, and a fun, youthful crowd. Sunset or early evenings are an ideal time to go, as the liveliness begins at those times.


An exotic, subversive shopping experience

Sure, you can take your friend to one of our many conventional but sterile super malls, but where’s the fun in that? You can have the same experience in many places around the globe.

For an exotic, somewhat subversive, shopping experience, head to Greenhills Shopping Center. It’s Manila’s unofficial mecca for bargains. Here, you’ll find everything from designer knockoffs, to furniture, to jewelry. There are also stalls selling second-hand gadgets. Your foreign friend will find it entrancing.


Look to the past in Intramuros

Yes, this one is pretty obvious, but it’s on every list for a very good reason. Intramuros is quite well-maintained. Strolling through certain parts of it feels like strolling through Madrid or Seville.

READ A Day In Old Manila

A visit here will show you the effects of Spanish imperialism on the Philippines. Your friend will learn that our history makes us different from our neighbors.

The grounds of Fort Santiago are well-manicured and full of character. It has exhibits on Jose Rizal, the Japanese occupation, and our post-World War II state. For the short-term visitor, it’s definitely a worthwhile activity.


Treat others well when they travel to Manila

Pinoy food is starting to make its mark in the West, but it’s still unfamiliar to many a foreign palate. Filipino food is best when it’s home-cooked, so invite your friend to your family home. Let them see what our food and hospitality are all about.

If that’s out of the question, trek to your local dampa. Buy local produce and seafood then have it cooked at a nearby resto. Fresh seafood and a bustling environment make for an invigorating travel experience! If the mall is your only option, we recommend Abe. It focuses on Kapampangan cuisine, Pampanga being a celebrated gastronomic region.

No matter how close you are or aren’t, those who travel to Manila deserve to experience the best it has to offer. So treat them well!

Words Art Vandelay

Featured Image Macky Arquilla

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