Welcome to the Philippines, the ultimate tropical paradise of 7,107 islands and warm, gentle breezes, with a coastline twice the length of that of the United States sure to give
you your fair share of sun, sand, sea & more. For those looking for a total experience of relaxation, restoration and rejuvenation, Sunshine Philippines combines a complete array of choices for your total care.
Manila is the capital of the Philippines. It is by far the biggest city in the country, with a population of about 10 million. Manila is the center of arts and culture, the seat of government and the financial, industrial, commercial and business hub of the nation.
It offers the visitor a uniqueness that can be found in practically every facet of life. A large number of Manileños go around in “jeepneys”, those colorful public vehicles that are part art and part transport, and are partly responsible for the heavy traffic during rush hours.
Manila is a sprawling metropolis which showcases the country’s healthy blend of east and west. While practically all Filipinos speak and understand English, migrants from all over the country retain and use the dialect of their region. There are over 100 different dialects in the country.
There are several interesting landmarks to see within Metro Manila. Among these are: Rizal Park, or more popularly known as Luneta, which may be considered as an oasis in the centre of the busy city; Intramuros, built in 1571, literally the city “in walls”, is the Manila of the past. Fort Santiago, the walled city’s defense location; then there’s Manila Cathedral, the Philippines’ main Catholic church; San Agustin Church, one of the oldest stone churches in the country; Malacanang Palace, the official residence of the Philippine President.
The country’s premier business district, Makati, throbs with a different life. Busy sidewalks and avenues lead to hushed office sanctums, sparkling malls, elegant shops, swank galleries and boutiques, and some of the most valuable residential real estates in the country. Evenings, this classy entertainment city pulsates with the thousand and one lights of discos, pubs, bistros, restaurants, music lounges, jazz bars, videoke bars and 24-hour diners. Where to stay is never a problem in Metro Manila. The visitor can choose from any of the wide range of accommodations to suit every taste and budget.
Luzon, where Metro Manila is situated. is the largest island in the Philippine archipelago and is home to almost half of the country’s population. Because of its solid mass and the availability of roads and infrastructure, Metro Manila’s environs and the many provinces a few hours’ drive away are perfect weekend getaways. An overland tour is the most insightful way of getting to know Luzon.
North of Manila lies Baguio at 1500 meters above sea level, a cool mountain retreat known as the ‘Summer Capital of the Philippines’. On the northeast of Baguio, one will find the majestic grandeur of the Banaue Rice Terraces, created more than 2000 years ago by the Ifugao people using a few primitive tools and their bare hands. La Union, washed by the placid waters of the South China Sea is a haven for water sports enthusiasts. Across the Manila Bay looms the island fortress of Corregidor, a tribute to the last bastion of freedom in the Pacific during World War II. Further south, the breathtaking length of Tagaytay Ridge affords a view of the world’s smallest active volcano, Taal – a volcano within a lake within another volcano.
The rugged south coast of Luzon, around Batangas and around Puerto Galera on Oriental Mindoro, contain some of the best dive sites. The island of Palawan, described as the last frontier, is dedicated to ecotourism with stunning subterranean caves, unexplored dive sites, unspoiled beaches and verdant tropical jungles for trekkers.
Visayas, like emerald jewels scattered in the warm sea of middle Philippines, beckon with the allure of sun, sand and sea – ideal setting for island-hopping vacations; its dive sites offer ample opportunities for underwater explorations.
The charms of the Visayas lie not only in these modern-day pursuits, but also in the way the past blends with the present. The oldest cities and churches in the Philippines are located in the Visayas. In Cebu, go on a cultural tour of the many scenic attractions of this historic province, hunt for bargains in handicrafts, preserved foods and guitars, or delve into the roots of this oldest Spanish settlement in the country.
Kalibo in Aklan is the jump-off point to the island paradise of Boracay. Marvel at the Chocolate Hills of Bohol, then walk through its man-made forests, home of the rare endangered tarsier, the world’s oldest insect-eating mammal.
Mindanao is the second largest island in the Philippines comprising 34% of the national territory. It is situated in the typhoon-free southern part of the country. It is a land of towering mosques and malong-clad women, where boldly-striped vintas ply the waters between houses perched precariously on stilts. Here, ethnic tribes weave glorious tales of brave warriors and haughty princesses into colorful tapestries and fabrics.
Mindanao is also a nature lover’s paradise, with its picturesque plains and breathtaking highland lakes: a destination for flora and fauna. The adventurous traveler would probably wish to conquer Mindanao’s vast mountain wilderness or explore the many forests and wildlife reserves. Mt. Apo in Davao del Sur is the country’s highest peak. A plethora of waterfalls awaits the visitor to Lanao del Norte where the legendary Maria Cristina Falls, 100 feet higher than Niagara, may be viewed
Where to Shop
A visit to Manila cannot be complete without a trip to at least one of its sprawling malls which manifest a distinctively Filipino atmosphere: busy and bustling, but jovial, familiar, friendly and never impersonal.
If you only have a day or two to visit a mall, your best bet would be the Ayala Center and/or the Ortigas Center, where some of the country’s biggest shopping establishments are concentrated.
Ayala Center, the collective name referring to a complex of establishments within the central business district of Makati City, has a series of malls and commercial buildings: Greenbelt, Greenbelt Mall, Park Square, Landmark, 6750, Glorietta, Rustan’s and Shoemart with over 500 shops.
Ayala Center has long been a fixture in Makati’s shopping scene. Spruced up for the competition, the Center boasts of upscale and mid-range establishments. The 6750, one of the swankiest establishments in the metropolis, has mostly brand name shops. Glorietta is the biggest of the buildings and houses the newest shops, restaurants and movie houses in the city. The crowd thickens at mid-day and after office hours.
SM Megamall -the biggest mall to date – is located at the fast growing business district of Ortigas in Mandaluyong City north of Makati. It has two buildings which stretches to one kilometer along EDSA, Manila’s major thoroughfare and rise five floors. A stroll from end to end on all levels is considered the best form of exercise by shopping enthusiasts.
If you have very limited shopping time during your visit, this is the place to go where almost anything and everything from the Philippines are seen here and for reasonable prices. Aside from the multi-leveled SM department store and supermarket, Megamall houses a huge hardware store, an equally mammoth toy store ala “Toys R Us”, a dozen cinemas, a bowling and billiard center, the country’s first every ice skating rink, a bingo hall, art galleries, a food court, amusement centers.
Shangrila-La Plaza is a posh shopping complex beside Megamall which houses Rustans and Crossings Department Stores as well as cinemas and several brand boutiques and high dining establishments. It also boasts of several side attractions like Ripley’s Believe or Not Museum. Furthermore, Shangri-la Plaza is the home of the country’s premier theater group, the Repertory Philippines.
Approximately 2 kilometers from Shangri-la opposite Ortigas is the Greenhills Shopping Center where there is always an ongoing bazaar or flea market. Greenhills, especially Virra Mall, is known among local shoppers for its computer products, and Shoppesville, which has a comprehensive selection of clothes and bags and consumer items not only from the Philippines but also imported from Hong Kong, Korea, China and Thailand. Watch out specifically for regional fairs from the different provinces. Shopping hours extend to past midnight as the Christmas season approaches.
The essence of shopping in the capital city of Manila, however, cannot be seen in malls. Long before they hit the city, the only place to do serious shopping is to go to Divisoria in Central Manila. Divisoria was, and still is, the wholesale shopping center, where most local and imported goods from nearby China and Southeast Asian countries, from dry goods to toys to perishable exotic fruits and flowers can be had at least a third of the price that those available in the more convenient malls in the other cities. The labyrinth open market area, however, is no place for the neophyte shopper and as with most crowded places, it is rife with pickpockets. This notwithstanding, the market ambience and if you feel adventurous, best to bring a local guide to show you around.
In the exclusive suburban area of Ayala-Alabang, the Alabang Town Center promotes itself as a departure from Metro Manila’s maddening crowded malls. With over 130 shops including food outlets and fun centers, it is designed as more laid back, less crowded, with more open space than might be expected in typical shopping center.
Tips: Good walking shoes are a must. Light, casual wear is recommended. Shorts and sandals are also okay, but not if you intend to dine in one of the posh hotels or restaurants in the area, a few of which still frown on customers in “beach attire”. Shops deal only in Philippine peso, but most malls have foreign exchange counters that accept major currencies. Most shopping centers are
open year-round from 10 AM to 9 PM (extending to 10PM on weekends) except on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Major credit cards are accepted; be ready to present passport to the cashier as proof of identity.