Words by Anna Howard
First things first; Manila is one colossal city. Aside from Metro Manila, the City of Manila is split into eight sprawling districts. 24 hours isn't nearly enough time to scratch the surface of this megalopolis but with our help, you'll be able to make the most of your time in Metro Manila.
Where to Eat
Eating is practically the national pastime in the Philippines (after karaoke, that is) and Manila is a veritable foodie mecca where international, national and regional cuisines collide. Whether you hit the streets, food courts or high-end restaurants, there are countless of ways and places to whet your appetite at any time of the day.
Unlike the soupy staples in other Asian countries, a Filipino breakfast errs on the drier side. Generally consisting of eggs, rice and a meat dish, breakfast is an amalgamation of American, Hispanic and Malay influences. Try some of its best examples amid retro-chic furniture and hand-painted murals at the Early Bird Breakfast Club in the financial district of Bonificao Global City. The all-day breakfast cafe is renowned for its eye-popping dishes – it's one of the most Instagrammed restaurants in Manila. Try the Viva Longganisa (sweet sausage served with garlic rice) or Arrox Caldo Crunch, rice porridge with tender chicken and their famous adobo flakes.
Dampa is a Tagalog term which means 'hovel on a roadside by the sea'. Doesn't exactly sound glamorous, but dampa is your new favourite way of dining. Head to the wet markets by the seaside on Macapagal Boulevard to take your pick of the day's freshest catch – think glossy fish, plump scallops and gigantic prawns. Adjacent the market is a strip of seafood restaurants where you take your selection and the chefs cook up your chosen seafood to your liking. It's a fun and interactive way of eating.
Filipino home cooking at its finest, look no further than Cafe Juanita in Bonificao Global City and the original in Pasig City. The restaurant is a homey space that dishes out excellent Filipino classics within a shabby-chic wonderland of traditional fabrics, sequins and prints. By the way, if any of the decor or embellishments take your fancy, it's all for sale. Start with the catfish mango salad and Juanita crispy lumpia (similar to the Vietnamese spring roll), move onto the aromatic Sinigang broth and the kare-kare house special (a peanut stew with oxtail), bookending your meal with a selection of traditional Filipino desserts.
Where To Stay
There is a swathe of places to stay no matter your budget, but if you're looking to splurge or expensing it on the company card, The Peninsula Manila in Makati offers the kind of luxury you won't forget in a hurry. Perfect for the business traveller, a Club Room grants you access to the Club Floor and all its top-notch extras, including boardroom facilities. The hotel also offers its fair share of culinary spoils, as well as an exclusive nightclub, day spa and pool. The grand lobby is a gorgeous place to while away a few hours to a soundtrack of a live string quartet.
Where To Play
The question isn't what to do, it's where to start!
Gain a bit of cultural perspective in Intramuros, the city's old Spanish district. The 64-hectare citadel stands as a testament and icon of Manila's resilience, having withstood wars, invasions and natural distances. Fort Santiago is its crowning jewel, joined by San Agustin Church, Rizal Shrine and Manila Cathedral.
Once you've worked up a bit of an appetite, take a wander through Binondo, Manila's sprawling Chinatown district. Here, you'll find a rabbit warren of blink-and-you'll-miss-it gems, from Chinese herbal stores and Spanish colonial churches to unassuming food joints and bustling laneway markets.
At night, the most obvious option would be to hit the karaoke bars for which the city is renowned. Manila's entertainment epicentre is Greenbelt in Makati, an area brimming with luxe restaurants, cafes, bars and karaoke joints. A stretch of boozy late-night haunts can also be found along Makati Avenue, as well as infamous P Burgos Street, northeast of Ayala Triangle.