Perceptions and Realities in Manila: [Part 1 of 2]

This is a guest post by Anil from foXnoMad

For the past 2 weeks, Priyank and I have exchanged imaginary posts about St. Petersburg and Manila. I have never been to St. Petersburg and he to Manila. We wanted to write about what a trip there might be like. I’m helping to break down his trip from perception into reality while he does the same for me about St. Petersburg.

Manila bay at night

Manila is an eclectic city seemingly in the midst of it all and yet at the edge of the world at the same time. Contrasts between old and new are abound and almost everyone wears a smile when you meet them. Many of Priyank’s assumptions were right on target, including his first taxi ride.



Priyank began his imaginary trip by getting into a cab with a driver who only spoke Tagalog. You’ll find that English is common among the educated but most people you’re likely to encounter driving taxis and jeepneys won’t speak more than a few words. While many won’t speak English you might come across several tour guides that can sing almost every single Elvis song word for word – which I did outside Intramuros, The Walled City (He’s the guy on the left).

Tour guide

Take A Jeepney Instead

One thing that I highly recommend is taking a jeepney to get around. The most popular mode of public transportation in Manlia, many are made from old World War II jeeps left by American soldiers. They can fill up to 8-10 people who hop on and off, passing their money to the driver who never looks back to see the passengers. The entire process works on the honor system. Be prepared to board and exit quickly as jeepneys stop and go with the flow of traffic.


Religion and the West

Catholicism is everywhere in Manila. Most wear crosses, there are elaborate churches throughout the city, and numerous religious icons for sale at shops. Mostly an influence the result of Spanish colonization, aside from religion there is a strong Western current that runs through Manila. Many of the bars, cafes, and restaurants could be taken out of Asia and placed in Europe. And everyone seems finely in tune with US pop culture (especially the NBA).

Manila Church

From People To Places

Many of Priyank’s observations were insightful and mostly accurate. Here are a few more well made points.

  • The streets aren’t terrible inside the city but traffic is a nightmare at most hours except the very dead of night.
  • Malls aren’t too different than ones you’d find in North America but they are exceptional in how close they mimic them.
  • Fashion is comfort meets casual. In the Philippine summer it almost has to be.

Next week I’ll run down some of the places I visited in Manila and compare with Priyank’s imaginary tour of the city. Any questions or observations? Feel free to ask – I’ll be listening to the comments all day and look forward to hearing from you.

[photos by: Alec Dy-Liacco (Manila bay at night), Manila Daily Photo (jeepney)]
Anil Polat, a traveler and travel enthusiast who has spent his entire life traveling, studying cultures, and picking up tricks along the way. He writes foXnoMad to help you travel smarter.