Manila is a beautiful capital city of the Philippines, with historic architecture, parks, restaurants, friendly people and many other attractions. However, while tourism is flourishing in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore, Manila is still virtually ignored by American and other world travelers.
During my Navy career, I spent much time in Manila, beginning back in 1945 during the last months of World War II. A look at the city’s features may help other travelers when they consider visiting Asia.
How to Get There
Philippine Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines offer direct flights to Manila’s Ninoy Aquino Airport from various U.S. airports. Other airlines servicing Manila include Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Delta, Air China, Qantas JAL, KLM and others.
Hyatt Hotel and Casino
My first accommodations in Manila were in Quonset huts at the USN Fleet Landing by the Pasig River. My current favorite is the five-star Hyatt, one the city’s most luxurious hotels, close to the downtown business district, restaurants, historic and cultural centers. The hotel’s casino, the largest in the Philippines, offers attractive diversions for travelers. Rates start at $160 per night.
Hyatt Hotel and Casino
1588 Pedro Gil, Manila, Philippines
Cafe Ilang Ilang, The Manila Hotel
The old Manila Hotel still stands today after 100 years. On a recent visit, I had to return to chow down there again. I had dinner at Ilang Ilang, the posh buffet restaurant on the main floor, which is about $50 per person. The name “Ilang Ilang” means flower of flowers in the traditional Tagalog language. The large restaurant offers six fresh-cooked stations with Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Italian and Spanish food.
Cafe Ilang Ilang, Manila Hotel
One Rizal Park, 0913, Manila, Philippines
University of Santo Tomas and Intramuros
Because my long-ago Navy base was next to the walled city called Intramuros, I often visit the historic area when in Manila. Santo Tomas was built by the Spanish in 1611. Its classical buildings and tree-lined lawns and walkways are quiet reminders of the past.
This now peaceful oceanfront has been part of Philippine history since the Spanish landed in 1646. In 1898, U.S. Admiral Dewey defeated the Spanish fleet and claimed the islands for America. In 1942, the island of Corregidor became famous as the last holdout of American forces before Japanese occupation.
In 1945, as World War II was ending, I was part of an underwater demolition team that brought up gold bullion that had been stored there to prevent the Japanese from taking it. On several visits since, I’ve enjoyed riding along Dewey Boulevard’s the shoreline and watching the spectacular sunsets.
While Manila hasn’t become as popular with tourists as other Asian cities, it’s a beautiful and exciting destination I always look forward to visiting.
Follow world traveler and travel writer Ted Sherman on twitter, @travel4seniors and check out his blog, travel4seniors.com
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