A Visitors Guide To Manila

Last week we sent our final guest off. We had seven weeks of visitors. Yes, seven back to back visitors from different sides of our families. After two years with no visitors it was great and super exhausting. Since all of our visitors traveled great distances and many had never been to Manila it was time to show her off. Now I give to you our tried and true Visitors Guide To Manila.

For an added touch I have the rooms prepped with local Inabel linens and a fruit basket with native snacks. We all know the jet lag hunger is for real. I also include a map with our house starred, conversion chart and contact numbers all laminated. I also have a calendar that I print out and hang where everyone can see. Of course we always make adjustments but we leave it visible so all can see. I try to email it ahead of time and have everyone download Uber on their phone in case they need to get around on their own. IMG_3539IMG_3537

Discount Sites– The major sites are Deal Grocer and Metro Deal. When I knew family was coming into town I started buying discount passes for our favorite play places and museums we wanted to visit. If we didn’t use them it wasn’t a big deal because my family would still use them at a future date. I bought all my passes from Metro Deal for Future Park, Island Cove (my sister in law broke her leg there so be careful! The water is too shallow on the bounce house slide.), Ace Water Spa, Jump Yard and Trampoline Park (Trampoline Park is quite a bit more flexible. They have become quite rigid at Jump Yard). Art In Island is another one visitors could find fun and often has discounted passes. Many visitors don’t have access to these cool experiences we have in the big city. For two weeks we had three extra young children so having activities for us all to do was important.

Art In Island is in Quezon City so you could also visit Quezon Memorial.

Island Cove is located in Cavite.

Future Park is closed at Century City but will be opening again soon in another mall in the metro.

Ace Water Spa is in Pasig so you could also visit Lia’s and get an avocado shake.

Jump Yard is located in Ortigas right next to Tiendesitas. In theory you could do Kilus, Tiendesitas and Jump yard.

Around Manila– The big ones we try and show off are:

  • Intramuros – The heart of the city and the best history is preserved in Manila. Intramuros is an absolute must. Your guests can even ride a kalesa. You see how Manila used to be and how she got to where she is today. I recently shared about our tour with Walk This Way.

    My rad brother and sister in law took this picture at St. Augustin. I don’t even have a picture like this! So rad.
  • American Military Cemetery -It is clean, green and peaceful. Since we are American and my grandfather served here it also has personal ties.
  • Greenhills – I loathe Greenhills but guests really enjoy it. This is what we call the ‘knock off mall.’ People love to buy pearls, purses and shoes here.
  • Tiendesitas – Tiendistas isn’t necessarily on the top of our lists but visitors seem to enjoy it. This is where we take them to get knock off Lego mini figurines and show them local barbecue varieties as there are so many food stalls. You can also buy Abaca baskets and bags here. There are many antique stalls as well. On Sunday nights they do a cultural show which could be really cool. *Tiendesitas used to be outdoors and have more of an antique market vibe. It has since been renovated and air conditioned which is a plus but it lost it’s charm. There are many animal stores so the smell is strong and so many dogs are in cages which can be sad to see.

    The plant basket is from Tiendesitas and was around 700php.
  • Two other places I have not spent much time at but would like to visit and possibly take visitors are Rizal Park and the Quezon Memorial Circle.

Lokal Life– It’s always good for us and visitors to see how the lokals live. For me personally, if I go to a new city or country and only see tourists or tourist traps I feel a bit robbed. Some simple ways of showing guests lokal life is to take them to the grocery store, your place of worship, your office or your kids school. Our way of life is unique here. I like to show off these places:

  • Kilus Foundation– a livelihood project set aside the Pasig River where women weave reclaimed juice boxes into bags and many other items. The show room and warehouse are open to view and buy. Lunch time it is strictly closed. If you go to Tiendesita’s Kilus is very near.
  • Local Food Stalls- walk around and show them the local food stalls in your neighborhood. They are everywhere! If you can’t find one ask your helper or your neighbor. *If you want to play it safe just buy some monay (sweet bread roll), sorbettes (ice cream) or good ole’ soda in a bag. 🙂 IMG_3724
  • Wet Market/Palengke– Even if you don’t go shopping at the wet market regularly it is still such an experience to go and show a new way of life to visitors. Also try Dapitan!
  • Taytay– many of my relatives love to sew,  so taking them to Taytay was on our list. How often do you get to visit a factory full of fabric? Plus, it is on the way to Pinto Art Gallery. IMG_1580
  • L’Indochine– I took my mom and aunts to my favorite store L’Indochine. It’s fun for visitors to see your regular haunts. IMG_2661
  • Kultura– For souvenirs and local items Kultura is so convenient, has a well designed collection and the prices are on point. Plus, it smells so good in there! I shall not embarrass my family members by telling you how many total hours I have spend in Kultura the last two months.
  • Museums- Manila has its share of great museums. I am partial to Pinto Art Gallery but the National Museums are all really cool especially the Filipino People’s.IMG_6431


Day Trips– I am a strong supporter of day trips. Day trips are a great way to get out of Manila and show your visitors how beautiful it can be just a few hours away. Our go-to day trips are:

  • Lake Pandin– Just two hours south and you can show your guests the cool experience of lunch on a bamboo raft cruising across an emerald lake. If you go on a weekday there is less people and that always adds to the enjoyment. *If they have never ridden a trike this is a safe place to try it out.
  • Tagaytay– Yes, I know Tagaytay is so cliche but there are new ways to reinvent Tagaytay and I have been enjoying our trips to the mountain. Plus, its pretty remarkable that you can ride bangka across a lake and ride a donkey to a volcano ridge looking down on another lake. You must stop at the fruit and wood stands on the drive as well.
  • Daranak Falls– Daranak Falls is an easy 1.5-2 hour drive to a waterfall. If your guests have never swam in a waterfall this is a great place to visit. Pack lunches!
  • Daraitan and Tinipak– If you and your guests enjoy hiking this place sure helps Manila look good. Only two hours away and the view and hike are stunning. Eat at Paseo Rizal too!IMG_8482
  • Three other places that I haven’t incorporated but you could are Casa San Pablo, Crescent Moon, Cornerstone Pottery (you could with Tagaytay) and Cintai Gardens (there is currently a MetroDeal). And while on day trips you must remember to be a good host and stop at a malunggay pandesal bakery and buy fresh pandesal. IMG_2672

Weekend and Overnight Trips– We never want to drive or travel too long with visitors since they most likely have traveled great lengths. Our overnighters tend to be only 2-4 hours away. There are so many places but here are few we have done recently.

  • Batangas-We stayed at Pico De Loro recently but I wish we had stayed somewhere else along Tali Beach as their beaches look like white sand beaches.
  • Tagaytay- We just recently stayed at Discovery Country Suites and it felt like a cabin get away. I could not believe how nice it was to just stay and enjoy. Seeing Taal in the morning was spectacular. Spend an afternoon at Sonya’s. You should also visit the Flower Farm, it was spectacular.
  • Zambales– We just had an awesome get away to Zambales. I cannot recommend Rosa’s Mango Farm enough. Plus, you must go to Pundaquit Beach and take a bangka out to the islands.IMG_3907

Eats and Restaurants– Oh goodness, where do I begin? I like to look at Manila as a unique city with so many restaurants, even if they are well known, your visitors may not have access to back home. Here are a few ideas:

For Fun– There are so many things to do for fun but we loved taking our guests to Red Box and doing kareoke. We ate at People’s Palace and then went to Red Box. You could even rent your own jeepney and kareoke around Manila and knock two birds out with one stone. We also have pedicuristas come to our home the night our family arrives and have their feet massaged and pedicures done.


Here is a sample of the calendar I had planned for some of our visitors. Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 8.47.52 PMIt is such a long distance and often a heavy price tag international travels so I try and make sure I give my visitors the best time they could have. I try and show them the best of Manila because Manila and our guests deserve that.


11 Comments Add yours

  1. It’s always so nice to read about my hometown from your perspective!


    1. amber says:

      Thanks Sheena!


  2. Tia says:

    I love this! Good job with having a calendar of activities planned…wonder where you got that idea! 😉


    1. amber says:

      Hehe, I knew you would notice. Took an old page from the Tia book. Miss you friend.


  3. shiko-chan says:

    You’re such a thoughtful host! Thanks for so generously sharing your pro tips here.


  4. msmonette says:

    You make me want to visit my motherland. I love seeing it though this and all your IG posts and stories. Thank you for sharing your beautiful experiences.


    1. amber says:

      Ah maraming salamat po for your kind words. You must return for a visit!


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