only a third of the story is completed, watch this space!
Arriving in Manila is somewhat an assault on all the senses; there is so much colour and life. Many tourists don't give the city a chance: using it as an entry point to the Philippines, dismissing it as ugly/dirty etc before heading straight for island paradises such as Boracay et al. But look a little deeper and you'll discover so much to see and do.
Under Spanish rule Manila was known as the 'Pearl of the Orient', a beautiful city of artists and intellectuals, a kind of Asian Paris in its heyday (1800s) - only to be completely destroyed during WWII by the Japanese and the Americans. To cut a long story short, the city never ever recovered.
Manila's highlights include the oldest part of the city, Intramuros with beautiful Spanish architecture within its forboding walls. Fort Santiago and the San Agustin church are must-sees. Next door in Rizal Park check out the Rizal Monument (JosÚ Rizal being the Philippine national hero), his execution site and the neighbouring gardens. The nearby National Museum of the Filipino People is worth a look.
The districts of Ermita and Malate are the old red light areas but nowadays there are loads of bars and restaurants with the odd shopping mall thrown in. But this is an area with loads of character and a great place to see the locals go about their day. Be sure to stroll along the Manila Baywalk, the best place to observe the sunset over Manila Bay.
The Makati district is also the business district and where all the luxury hotels are situated, therefore where the moneyed tourists tend to base themselves. Void of any character, it is also very residential and home to the wealthy locals. Although there is a good selection of restaurants and the stylish shopping mall of Greenbelt, the neighbourhood is without charm and you may not even feel like you're in the Philippines. Here you are far from the 'real Manila.'
Most people will not appreciate Manila on their first visit but if you perservere you may see it in a different light.