Published: 21 Jul 2016
Updated: 13 Aug 2021
Category: Compass Cities

Compass City Guides: Manila


With a population of over 93 million (2010), the Philippines is one of Southeast Asia’s most welcoming and beach heavy countries. There are three major island groups in the Philippines: Luzon (northernmost), Visayas (central island) and Mindanao (southernmost island group) and over 7,000 islands, making it an ideal oasis for sand and sun lovers. It is also a haven for surfers, divers and kayakers – though sports aren’t limited to just on the water – rock climbing and ziplining are also popular. It is easy to island hop in the world’s second-largest archipelago.
English is widely spoken by the population, though the official language is Tagalog. About 3 million people speak Spanish. Philippine culture is a mixture of the west and Spanish. The culture is diverse, with native cultures influenced by neighboring China, Japan, India and Borneo, alongside colonial influences from Mexico and Spain.
The Philippines is majority Catholic, and religion affects daily life. You can see this in the Spanish-Filipino colonial architecture, churches and amount of crosses everywhere. Despite this, the Philippines observes Christian, Muslim and Chinese holidays.
The plethora of malls and shopping complexes in all major cities offer respite during monsoon season (or when you’re in need of air conditioning), and food is always an activity. People in the Philippines are passionate about their cuisine, the main point of attraction for any gathering. The mixed cuisine shows the country’s different cultures, with most dishes served alongside rice. Adobo is one of the most recognizable dishes from the Philippines. 

Compass has two business centres in Manila, located in Makati and Global City.

Makati is the financial heart of the Philippines and home to the base of local and international companies in the country. With its cosmopolitan culture, many expats live and work in Makati. Makati is one of the 16 cities that make up Metro Manila. The main language spoken in Makati is English, making it easy for expats to both travel and do business here. There’s also a variety of international cuisine available here as well as a number of cafes, bars and nightlife joints.
A large number of international companies, banks and upscale restaurants are located within the Ayala Triangle, which is in the Makati Central Business District. The trading floor of the Philippines Stock exchanged is located in Ayala Tower One and the old Makati Stock Exchange Building.
It’s not just all business though: Makati is home to many high-end malls and shopping complexes. The Ayala Center is an ecosystem in and of itself, with plenty of shopping and entertainment options. Museums include the Yuchengco Museum, which houses a variety of paintings collected by Secretary Alfonso T. Yuchengco and the Filipinas Heritage Library, which has an impressive collection of books dating back to the Spanish Period. Stroll through the city and check out the baroque Roman Catholic Church, the Nuestra Senora de Gracia Church, where many weddings are held.  The Greenbelt Park offers well, green relief from surrounding skyscrapers, housing its own pond, stream and the Greenbelt Chapel.
The Metro Rail Transit has four stations located in Makati, an easy and cheap way to get around. The Philippine National Railways has three stations here, and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is 20-minutes away, making it strategically placed for getting in and out. Taxis are plentiful to get, and walking is not as scary, as traffic laws are respected in this area.

Global City, or BGC, is a financial district in Metro Manila that might feel familiar to many Westerners, with its modern shopping complexes and office buildings. It is home to several upscale residential condos, such as One McKinley Place and Pacific Plaza Towers. McKinley Hill is a huge development, with 34 residential condos. The newly built Shangri-La at the Fort is a 60-storey mixed-use building.
There are also a number of high-end restaurants and bars on Bonifacio’s High Street. The core of BGC, the Bonifacio High Street features a retail promenade, city square blocks, three churches and a dozen malls.
Bonifacio Global City was once part operated as a military base in 1902 by the U.S. government.  It served as the headquarters of the Philippine Scouts, the Philippine Division of the U.S. Army. In the 1990s, the area was turned over for civilian use. Thus, BGC, once associated with war, is now a residential area.  
For culture outside the commercialized bits, check out the Heroes Cemetery, a memorial ground housing thousands of Filipino soldiers killed in World War II, or the Philippine Veterans Museum. The BGC Art Center is a project of the non-profit Bonifacio Art Foundation, Inc, showcasing the creative arts. The Mind Museum is the country’s first science museum for kids and youth. There are a number of parks in the city, including Track 30th, Terra 28th and Turf BGC, the latter an artificial football terf that can be reserved for football games. Heritage Park is located on Bayani Road in Fort Bonifacio, and is a multi-use memorial park.



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