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Manila: the eastern pearl of the Spanish empire

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Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is located at the bottom of a large bay along the west coast of the island of Luzon, where the Pasig River flows into the sea. The city was founded by the Spaniards in 1571. The then governor of the Philippines Miguel Lopez de Legazpi decided to found it as the capital of the Spanish possessions in Asia. Manila was fortified by the Spaniards with ramparts, walls and moats that still characterize the historic center of the city, the so-called Manila Intramuros.


The Spanish city of Intramuros is an example of Spanish colonial art in the Asian Far East. The city is surrounded by ancient fortifications with bastions on which are open 7 gates, the fulcrum of the defensive system is Fort Santiago.

Inside the walled city there are also valuable examples of colonial art such as the church of San Agustín. The church of San Agustín was founded in 1571 but the current structure was built between 1599 and 1606. Next to the church stands the monastery of San Agustín which was also built between the late 16th and early 17th centuries. In the two buildings there are interesting works of art.

Near the church of San Agustín, the buildings that make up the Barrio San Luis Complex also date back to the Spanish period. Here is also Casa Manila a museum house with colonial period furniture.

Manila Cathedral or Basilica de la Immaculata Concepcion was first built in 1571. But the church was destroyed and rebuilt several times. The current neo-Romanesque building was rebuilt again after the Second World War.


To the south of Spanish Manila is the vast Rizal Park, popularly known as Luneta, this is the largest park in the city and covers approximately 60 hectares. In the western area of the park is the monument and tomb of José Rizal, executed here by the Spaniards in 1896. In the northern part of the park it is possible to visit the Japanese garden and the Chinese garden. A short distance from Rizal Park, along the coast, there are also the Doll Museum (International Dolls House) and the Manila Aquarium (Manila Ocean Park).

To the south of Rizal Park is the Ermita district, the lively district of the city’s nightclubs which are concentrated especially along the two streets M. H. del Pilar Street and A. Mabini Street. Further south in the Malate district is the interesting church of Malate or Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, a building built in the mid-18th century by the Augustinians.


The city of Manila also has some interesting museums. In the National Museum, located near Rizal Park, you can admire paintings by Filipino artists from the colonial period to the present day. There are also interesting sections dedicated to natural sciences, archeology and ethnography. In the Makati district there is the interesting Ayala Museum, a museum dedicated to the history of the Philippines with scale model of the old Spanish Manila.


Towards the sea, along the bay, there is the modern part of the city with banks, hotels, museums and cultural buildings. Here are the Cultural Center of the Philippines, which houses among others the Museum of Philippine Culture (Museo ng Kalinangang Pilipino), the Philippine International Convention Center, the Philippine Center for International Trade Exhibitions, and the Metropolitan Museum of Manila with the annex Money Museum dedicated to numismatics. In this area there is also the interesting Fort San Antonio Abad which dates back to the 16th century.

Manila was heavily damaged during the Second World War and numerous colonial buildings were irreparably destroyed, some, however, were rebuilt after the war as they were, among these we find some churches such as the church of Santa Cruz, whose original construction dates back to 1608, and the church of Binondo or church of the Santissimo Rosario, which was originally built in 1596.


The Chinese district (Chinatown) of Manila also extends over the area north of Intramuros, which extends over a large part of the Binondo district. Nearby is the church of Quiapo, a building from the early part of the twentieth century which has the particularity of hosting a life-size statue of Jesus believed to be miraculous. The statue originates from Mexico and was carved by indigenous people on dark wood hence the popular name of Nazareno Negro (Black Nazarene).

Along the northern bank of the Pasig River in the San Miguel district is the Malacanang Palace, which was the residence of the last Spanish governors and today is the palace where the President of the Philippine Republic resides.

An interesting colonial church, that of Santa Ana, is located in the homonymous neighborhood. The current building formed by church and convent was built in 1720 above a church from 1578 destroyed by an earthquake. The place where the church stands is an important archaeological park, in fact numerous tombs dating back to the period between the 11th and 14th centuries have been found here. The finds found are visible in the adjacent museum.

In the southern part of the city in the Las Pinas district there is another interesting colonial church, the Las Pinas church or San José church, built in the late eighteenth century and is famous for hosting a bamboo organ built in the early nineteenth century by Diego Cera.

Manila also boasts Asia’s oldest university, the University of Santo Tomas, founded by Spanish Dominican monks in 1611. Only the main entrance portal dates back to the 17th century, the rest of the building is from the early 20th century.


Manila International Airport (Manila International Airport (MNL)) is located in Pasay City about 8 km south of central Manila. Manila Airport – the country’s most important – is the Philippines’ main tourist gateway. Flights from the main cities of Asia, Europe, America and Oceania land at this airport. The connections between Manila airport and other Philippine airports are also highly developed.

Manila climate: when to go to Manila.



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