An up and coming holiday destination, Manila is worth a visit for those intrigued by the Filipino culture. Historical churches and cathedrals dot the city while the streets are filled with vendors hawking tempting goodies from all corners of the island nation. For first-timers, here are a few things to expect in Manila.
Tourists from English speaking countries will be glad to know that most Filipinos speak good English. The main language alongside Tagalog, English is widely spoken in Manila, a remnant of the American rule in the early 20th century. For the most part, tourists will be glad to know that almost everything is written in English – menus, road signs and the like.
Despite the availability of public transport such as buses and LRT, Jeepney remains a popular means of transport for the masses in the Philippines. An icon of the city, one will find Jeepneys everywhere, easily noted for its garish decoration, cramped seatings and long stretch body. Originally converted from US military jeeps left behind after the World War II, modern Jeepneys now are mostly made via parts from Japan.
Possibly the most popular meat eaten in Philippines, visitors should be well-prepared for the fact that pork is served everywhere. From specialised chain restaurant selling lechon (pit-roasted pork), contemporary Filipino diners offering their rendition of sisig (stir fried minced pig head and liver) to street hawkers selling packets of Chicharon (pork cracklings), pork is eaten in all its forms in the Philippines.
Everything is eaten with vinegar in the Philippines, the go-to condiment for the Filipinos. From curing, marinating, stir-frying to sauce dips, vinegar is an essential component in Filipino cuisine which tends to be on the sour side. A common dip for roadside pork skewers is a simple combination of vinegar, chopped chilli and calamansi juice.
When in Manila, plan ahead and plan for traffic jams. The city’s streets are notorious for unexpected jams, with cars being stuck for the better part of an hour in non-moving traffic. Of course, the prevalence of Jeepneys which make haphazard stops all over the city is a contributing factor, however factors such as heavy rains during the monsoon season, bad city roads planning and traffic accidents play a part.