May 2014

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Her crowded shopping malls, noisy streets, the high-rise buildings and upscale condominiums fronting the Manila Baywalk occupied by homeless urban beggars and those plethora of 7-11 Convenience Store branches occupying every corner of the busy streets overshadow the past glory of a city we both hate and love. But heyah! Let's check out these 24 attractions and historical landmarks in Manila that could bring back the old Manila feel as well as some random destinations that would let you understand the heart beat of the Philippine capital.

I would like to thank my friend and fellow travel blogger Paula Antonette O ( for hosting me a walking tour in 10 May 2014, the first Manila walking tour I ever did.
1. Manila City Hall
When the night comes, other high-rise structures are just a group of pitiful backstage elements of a stunning superstar of the night that is the City Hall Clock Tower.

With the clock tower rising over a busy district occupied by street vendors, SM Manila fanatics (who oftentimes enter the mall to access a free Wi-Fi) and a regular crowd crisscrossing the streets (some persistently chasing after jeepneys), the City Hall of the Capital City of the Philippines stands very noticeably even though modern skyscrapers are trying hard to steal the attention of the skyline.
2. Carriedo Fountain & Plaza Santa Cruz
The Carriedo Fountain was named after Francisco Carriedo, a Spanish national, who gave way for Manila's first ever water system. In the 1700s, he donated 10,000 pesos for the construction of the water system--an amount now commonly appearing on bill statement of consumers from Maynilad, are you one of them?


Located at the center of Plaza Santa Cruz and a few steps away from the Manila Chinatown and the stunning Santa Cruz Church is the Carriedo Fountain. The water of the fountain might not have been changed for a long time as evidenced by the color of the water turning greenish (unless they really added chemical solutions to make it green) and the presence of algae (unless they use the fountain to culture extremely important marketable algae) but this fountain is yet another historical landmark that every Filipino, especially ManileΓ±os should memorize.
3. San Agustin Church
A favorite site for wedding (although a little few end up with annulment), San Agustin Parish is the first stone church in the Philippines. Founded in 1571, it was declared a World Heritage Site in 1993. It is one of the 4 Baroque churches in the Philippines listed by the UNESCO. The church is located along General Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila. Don't also miss to check out the church museum nearby.

4. Ongpin Street
Ongpin Street is centrally running through the heart of Manila's Chinatown of Binondo. Experience the Chinese vibe as you see red lanterns hovering over the street, shops selling Chinese herbs & medicines and Chinese restaurants serving long-life-meals. This street was named after a Chinese businessman Roman Ongpin who financially supported the katipuneros during a successful uprising against the Spaniards. Binondo is also distinct for its bright vibe. Expect to see red bicycles, red shirts, red umbrellas, red store signs, red street lanterns and even red street posts.

5. Santa Cruz Church
Marked with a façade and a belfry carved with imposing details, Santa Cruz Church is something that should not be missed during a heritage walking tour around Manila.


This church is fronting the Carriedo Fountain and the Manila Chinatown. Street vendors are not allowed inside the church premises (hope this condition is consistent) so you can enjoy the space all the time! The latest façade color (as of this post) is orange. Today, the church's architecture is a mixture of American, Hispanic and Asian Baroque ornamentation.
6. Santa Isabel College
This school located along Taft Avenue in Ermita used to be a school exclusive for girls founded in 1594 as a Charitable Brotherhood then became a colegio in 1632 with the primary purpose of educating Spanish orphans, daughters of the Spanish soldiers in the service of the king.


If you love visiting historical structures older than your favorite fastfood chain and cartoon character, then this school is a great place. Hey, this is 400+ years old, mind you.
7. Philippine Normal University
Although not as old as the Santa Isabel College, the architecture of the school building is something worth seeing during a walk along Taft Avenue in Manila. This school is a great addition to your collection of schools older than 100 years.


The Philippine Normal University was founded by the Americans, hence the American architecture. This school specializes in teacher education and has expanded to as far as Isabela, Agusan del Sur and Negros Occidental. Have you ever wondered why it was called "normal?"
8. Basilica Minore de San Sebastian
Made dramatic with its two towering spires, it requires a semi-major hyperextension of your cervical vertebrae for you to be able to decipher how tall it is. However, what makes this church more interesting than the latter will astound you - it is the only steel church in Asia.


It is located along the Pasaje del Carmen Street in Manila. Its architectural style is a Gothic revival and never became a Gangnam style. You can attempt to photograph the interior. You'll be lucky if there's no event happening inside like wedding. Keep calm and hope.
9. National Shrine of Saint Jude Thaddeus
Church-haters might hate me for this next destination but I believe there are more church-chasers and architecture-freaks out there who really see churches not just a religious structure but also a cultural, architectural and historical landmark. In San Miguel District is the National Shrine of Saint Jude Thaddeus.


Relatively a modern church, it traces its roots in 1954, the year when the first parish priest was appointed to take charge of this church when it was still called as the Espiritu Santo Chinese Church. When you want to get rid of crowded, noisy and relatively unsafe place to meditate, then this place should be for you. (Disclaimer: I am not a Roman Catholic. I feature the cultural and historical side of churches like this and not their religious implications).
11. Intramuros
Intramuros is Manila's tangible history. Narrow cobblestone streets lined with well-preserved houses, mansions and buildings built during the Spanish era is a history overload you may not contain.


Intramuros is a walled city suitable for a walking tour. Don't worry, there's no traffic jam. Just be prepared to pay an expensive padyak (tri-cycle) ride if you're tired walking which I don't think will happen unless you came here touring during an asthma attack with exacerbation, extreme arthritis, extreme hunger and thirst with prostration or with a serious health condition. Intramuros is pedestrian-friendly. It is a place where you can escape the typical Manila street set-up that might stress you.
12. Manila Cathedral
The Manila Cathedral being located in Intramuros does not mean it does not deserve a separate mention. The church is Manila's oldest and Mother of all Churches. Mother Nature's wealth were used in constructing this church. Ask your mother.


The Manila Cathedral traces its roots in 1581 when it was still made up of nipa and bamboo (materials from Mother Nature) that lasted only for two years because it was consumed by fire. The present structure is already the 6th make over.
13. Santo NiΓ±o de Tondo Parish Church
Earning a notorious image as told by old Filipino action films, Tondo has been known to be a land of gangsters, drug lords and hired killers (that's according to movies). But Tondo is a totally different picture of what the movies are portraying.


Seeing an old church in Tondo for a probinsiyano who grew up watching old FPJ and Eddie Garcia (and other action stars) films is a totally different expectation. Who would think that gangsters and drug lords also go to church? (Blame the movies, this is the Tondo image they wanted me to believe.
14. Binondo Church
This church became a social media sensation among travelers, advocates-of-sort and some travel bloggers when its façade has undergone a makeover. Now some parts of the façade is already painted with orange.


Binondo Church was founded by the Dominicans to serve the Chinese Christian converts in Binondo District. The architecture is great and beautiful but it's not as imposing as the other old and great churches in the Philippines. At night, the lack of enough lighting makes Binondo Church a pitiful display in front of a plaza teaming with wonderful and eye-catchy fountains lighted with different colors. The interior is however appealing. The paintings at the ceiling is I think what make this church an exceptional jaw-dropper - don't dare skip checking the interior to check the ceiling and you'll know what I mean (just be sure you do not have cervical fracture or severe muscular spasms).
15. Higino Francisco Residence
An old house (but looks like it is substantially renovated) that doesn't really look stunning standing in Binondo is actually where the original manuscripts of the Noli Me Tangere written by Rizal were kept.


A marker of the National Historical Commission is posted thereon. I did not attempt to enter the house because it appeared so unwelcoming that time.
17. Isla de Convalescencia
This is something unusual on the face of Manila. An island in Manila? Yes, you read it right. There is an island in Manila! If you think this island can rival Boracay, Yes! Isla de Convalescencia can actually rival Boracay not in terms of the quality of the sand but in history. By the way, this island has no beach line.


This island located in the middle of the Pasig river is where the Hospicio de San Jose was founded during the Spanish era. It is a home for orphans and the [neglected] elderly. Hats off to the nurses here who work for them. One of them is a good friend of mine. This is the oldest charitable institution in the Philippines.
18. Quiapo Church
Quiapo Church is probably the most popular church in the Philippines due to the media hype covering the Feast of the Black Nazarene which is visited by millions of people from all over the Philippines.


For a Manila first-timer, Quiapo is a culture shock. See fortune tellers (who predict your fate by reading the lines on your palms), old folks with long hair dressed in white (like the get-up of Jesus Christ this modern world has known), old women sprinkling Holy Water in the middle of the public square and a constant day crowd of church visitors handling rosaries and rosary booklets while chain smokers and rugby boys are standing beside.
19. San Miguel Church
This frenzy-free church will let you focus on your meditation without worrying of pickpockets or hold-uppers. I would say it is relatively safer here since it is located near the MalacaΓ±ang Palace (a heavily guarded building of 'some' allegedly corrupt officials). If you happen to visit this church, please don't forget to pray for our leaders and government officials working in MalacaΓ±ang so that they will be enlightened. Amen!


The church is also the National Shrine of Saint Michael and the Archangels. The original San Miguel Church was constructed in 1630s as an act of gratitude by a Spanish governor-general who had miraculously escaped death.
20. Santo Cristo de Longos
The practice of veneration to Santo Cristo de Longos in Binondo especially to the Filipino-Chinese community can be seen through the replica of the image located in the alley side off the Ongpin Street. The original image is now housed in the Binondo Church. What's interesting here is the fusion of Roman Catholicism and traditional Chinese religious beliefs.


See Chinese devotees holding incense sticks while facing the replica of Sto Cristo de Longos. This is what we call a fusion of faiths - Roman Catholicism and Chinese religious practices! That said, religion can be man-made, a culture, or just a mind-set. Anyways, this Binondo encounter is beyond fascinating!
21. Plaza Calderon de la Barca
This plaza is an island at the middle of Juan Luna Street located in front of the Binondo Church. It is also known as Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz, named after the first Filipino saint. At night, colorfully lighted fountains add charm to the plaza as the darkness unfolds.


A hotel fronting this plaza between Oriente and Veronica Streets is said to be a hotel patronized by our National Hero, JosΓ© Rizal. If not for the fountains, this plaza will just appear to be a dark, lonesome space.
22. Manila Post Office Building
A grand heritage landmark stealing the attention of passersby, it rises over the banks of the Pasig River and will let you forget that the latter river is polluted. Its grandeur owns that stretch of the river as far as the eye can see.


Remember that this building once played a role on how we sent our love letters and greeting cards to our loved ones back then. I bet, there are also couples who got married by just exchanging letters through this once operational post office that has rapidly killed and replaced by technology.
23. Ayala Bridge
This is a historic bridge connecting the districts of Ermita and San Miguel in Manila via the historic eyot of Convalescencia. This bridge was first built by Don Jacobo Zobel de Ayala in 1872. There are also rumors that it is designed by Gustav Eiffel though still unproven.


Just be careful when crossing this bridge by night since it is said to be a favorite place of some people waiting to snatch your cellphone or your wallet.
24. Escolta
This historic street is lined with striking old buildings and structures with old-world feel. Some of the remaining buildings have been decaying through time.


Parallel with this street is the Pasig River while some parts of the street shoulders are occupied by some urban beggars. This street is not the typical busy Manila street you're thinking. It's definitely a pedestrian-friendly zone that allows you to marvel with the numerous historic buildings with grandiose architecture. This is Manila's pre-war business and luxury district. | end |

Map Showing the Location of #Manila


[1] This post was filed under the category "#TownExplorer Collections." There is a section below where you can see other related posts from this category.

[2] The maps I used on this post are from

[3] All photos are mine.

[4] The insights, condition and name of places or properties I mentioned here are based on the facts and situation on the day of my visit. Take note that you may have a different experience when you try or see the properties or places mentioned here. Names of places and properties may also change by time so it's not my responsibility to update all the information on this blog because once published, I already consider it an archive and I won't update my narratives because I want them to become my references of what have happened in the past. I'm very particular of the dates because I want my amazing readers to understand that I am writing stories based on my perspective and insights on the day of my visit. You can see dates almost everywhere on this blog. Exempted from this rule are my travel guide posts that need to be updated.

[5] Bibliography: Thanks to these websites for enlarging my limited knowledge in Manila's history.

Tolentino, Niki Jon. "The Carriedo Fountain and Manila’s First Water Pipeline System." Noble and Ever Loyal City. 21 May 2014 <>

No Author Identified. "History of San Agustin." San Agustin Church. San Agustin Parish Priest/s. 21 May 2014 <>

No Author Identified. "Ongpin Street cramped, noisy but an experience." Philippines Travel Guide. 21 May 2014 <>

BeRFi303030 and Cess19. "Santa Cruz Church." tripadvisor Philippines. tripadvisor. 21 May 2014 <>

Tolentino, Niki Jon. "Santa Cruz Church, Manila." Noble and Ever Loyal City. 21 May 2014 <>

Tolentino, Niki Jon. "Untitled." Noble and Ever Loyal City. 21 May 2014 <>

No Author Identified. "School History." Santa Isabel College. 21 May 2014 <>

No Author Identified. "History and Milestones." Philippine Normal University. PNU Administrators. 21 May 2014 <>

No Author Identified. "Philippine Normal University: a Brief History." Hemlock. 21 May 2014 <>

No Author Identified. "History of SAINT JUDE Parish." National Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus. Saint Jude Parish. 22 May 2014 <>

No Author Identified. "Manila Cathedral." Philippines Travel Wiki. 22 May 2014 <>

Resurreccion, Rene. "Manila Cathedral." Resurreccion Family Site: Aming Angkan. Ressurreccion Clan of Manila. 23 May 2014 <>

Gamboa, Coylee. "About Us." Hospicio de San Jose. Hospicio de San Jose. 23 May 2014 <>

No Author Identified. "Untitled." Hospicio de San Jose. Philippine Orphanage Fund. 23 May 2014 <>

No Author Identified. "San Miguel Church, Manila." Yahoo! Travel. Yahoo!. 23 May 2014 <>

Aguilar, Karl. "A Fusion of Faiths in Manila." The Urban Roamer. 23 May 2014 <>

Martinez, Glen. "Sto Cristo de Longos of Binondo." Traveler on Foot. 23 May 2014 <>

SeΓ±or Enrique. "Plaza Calderon de la Barca in Binondo." wish you were here. 24 May 2014. <>

Tolentino, Niki Jon. "Ayala Bridge." Noble and Ever Loyal City. 25 May 2014 <>