The thing that I love most about the Philippines is the people. They are friendly, polite, greet you with a smile and are always laughing!
I have been on two personal trips and three business trips to the Philippines as Miss Universe New Zealand 2016, each time Manila has me in cultural awe. In New Zealand, our biggest city is Auckland which has a population of 1.4 million people, where Metro Manila has 12.8 million people.
Coming from a country where you think Auckland is big (compared to the rest of New Zealand’s cities) it is nothing near the size of Manila! The hustle and the bustle is real!
There are many places still to be explored (if you are from Manila, make sure you leave a comment 👋) but I now have a handful of places for you to check out:
Places to Stay
The Conrad, Pasay
The Conrad is located in Seaside Boulevard in Pasay and is designed like a ship.
The room floors follow a circular structure just as a cruise ship would and you get a great view of Manila Bay. The location has perfect access to the Mall of Asia and you have a huge range of restaurants along the seaside boulevard. Plus, I could see a Ferris wheel out my window which was exciting! Location, location! This hotel has it all!
Novotel, Manila Araneta Centre
Located in Quezon city—it’s a great place to unwind! It is not as busy as Pasay, Makati or BGC so you do not have to stress about bumping into people in the streets or shopping centres. I have stayed here twice now and love how easy it is to walk out the door to eat. Plenty to choose from in terms of your appetite from Taco Bell to Buddy’s. Plus, the service is AMAZING. You always get greeted by staff and if you have stayed in any Accor hotels you sometimes get little extras such as room upgrades and late checkout.
LUXURY! This place has the luxurious furnishings, services and during Christmas, the reception is decked out with extraordinary decorations (they love Christmas in the Philippines). Room service is great too! They have traditional Filipino food as well as your pizzas and burgers. Great place to stay if you want to be close to the global city and nightlife.
Places to Shop
Mall of Asia
This place covers a huge area of Pasay. If you like your exercise, you definitely will get your walking in. It has everything, shopping, entertainment and food. We found a Magnum bar where you could pick three toppings and design your own Magnum. It also has a Forever 21 which I can spend hours in! I will definitely be back because there is no way I have seen it all.
SM Mega Mall
I first went here in 2012 and as my first overseas mall experience, this was extraordinary! Its multi-levelled (at least 5+ stories) and very modern. If you don’t know what SM is, they are pretty much the biggest shopping mall company in the Philippines and have a mall in almost every town/suburb.
If you’re looking for places to eat and searching for your H&M, Uptown is the place to go! They have a really cool fire, light and water show out front at 10 pm. We came here to eat before heading out on the town!
Get your savings! This place is scary HUGE. I was in the glass elevator and it was the first time I have felt scared of heights. I say that because it must be at least 5 stories and its full of bargains. It’s kind of like the outlet store of Manila. I manage to pick up two Harmon/Kardon Bluetooth speakers for a buy one, get one free deal!
Gateway Shopping/ Araneta centre
I love how convenient this place is to Novotel and that there is a MAC counter in there. YUSSSS! They also have Rustan’s department store which covers several stories, each with their own category e.g. Women’s, Children’s etc. . .
Greenhills Shopping Centre
This is the place to get your haggle on! Plenty of electronics, clothing, fake designer bags and shoes. I managed to pick up 4 quality blouses for 1000 peso ($28NZD) and the cutest two-piece for 350 pesos ($10NZD). They probably can sell it for cheaper but those prices are super cheap compared to New Zealand.
SM North EDSA
I need to come back here because we didn’t get a full look around of this place. It was enormous and BUSY! Obviously, a very popular place to shop. We found an arcade in the food court level where there was a special room for video game dancing. Wish we had that in NZ!
Places to Go
The place for the rich and famous! Plenty of things to do but known for its night life. We checked out Revel at the palace and The Brewery which is a short walk. These places go off around midnight and are known to have the “A” list crowd show up. Lucky my brother has some friends and hooked me up on the VIP list!
The Venice Grand Canal Mall
This place is AMAZING! I actually felt like I was in Venice! Obviously, a businessman must have fell in love with the real Venice and decided to create one right in Manila. There is not an inch of this place that is not Venice. Its a good place to eat with many restaurants.
Ferris Wheel. . . it has a Ferris wheel. I have been there twice now and haven’t had a chance to get on the Ferris wheel but one day I WILL! This place is buffet capital of Manila. If you love buffet dinners there are plenty of options along Seaside Boulevard. Plus, you get a view of Manila bay and its close to the Mall of Asia for all your shopping needs.
Learn a piece of Filipino history at Rizal Park which is dedicated to the national hero, José Rizal. Rizal was a Filipino nationalist/writer who advocated for the Filipino people against the Spanish. The Spanish executed him but his death was not in vain as it ultimately led to the Philippines independence. You can pay your respects at his statue which the park surrounds.
Rizal Light and Sound Museum
Want to learn more about Philippine history? Learn all about the civil wars between the Filipino’s and the Spanish through light and sound. This place takes about 30-40 mins to walk through the building. Inside are replica scenes of the wars which are narrated and highlighted with lights as you walk through. I found this so fascinating because there was so much I did not know. Very educational.
There you have it! I have more places to check out on my next trip but if there is any that I have missed, add them to the comments below 💬