Manila: Go With The Flow

Manila City Hall | Photo credit: Ree Dexter

‘Manila’ really refers to two places: the City of Manila, founded by Spanish conquerors in 1571 and which is adjacent to Manila Bay, and the larger Metropolitan Manila (abbreviated to Metro Manila), which encompasses the City of Manila and 17 other cities. Filipinos use ‘Manila’ to mean Metro Manila, while the term Manileño is reserved exclusively for the City of Manila’s residents.

Manila’s history is intertwined with its geographic location. Manila Bay was an ideal port for Spanish ships bearing gold, spices, silk and ceramics (treasure hunters still seek sunken Manila galleons today). Unfortunately for Manileños, this also attracted a string of invaders. Spain first conquered Manila in 1571. For 300 years,Spain successfully repelled a series of invasion attempts by the Chinese, Dutch and the British. A Filipino revolutionary force triumphed over the Spanish in 1896. But this was short lived as the USA took over Manila in 1898. The city finally got its independence after WWII.

Although composed of 7107 islands (7108 at low tide), with a total coastline longer than that of the USA, most of the population of the Philippines lives on just 11 islands. The coastline of the country entices visitors with warm tropical waters, coral gardens with beautiful marine life and dramatic drop-offs on the sea bed. Inland, the rich history and culture of the Filipino people, the dramatic landscapes and thriving cities fascinate visitors.Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is also its heart and soul. It sets the rhythm of life in this archipelago and is a pulsating hub that blends the Oriental with the Occidental, the traditional with the modern, the mundane with extraordinary.

At first sight, the city may seem clamorous but what it lacks in architectural sophistication it makes up for with an accessible and exciting charm. The way to enjoy it is to step into the fray and go with the flow, which is exactly what Manileños have learned to do.

Did You Know?

  • Manila started life as a tiny settlement around the banks of the Pasig River. The name comes from the words may (“there is”) and nilad (a type of plant that grew near the Pasig).
  • The Philippines, during different periods of history, has been ruled or occupied by Spaniards, the British, the Americans and Japanese.
  • Even though the Philippines lies just north of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim state, it is about 94 percent Christian– mostly Roman Catholic.
  • Filipino Doctor Abelardo Aguilar co-discovered the drug Erythromycin.
  • The fluorescent lamp we use today was invented by Agapito Flores (a Cebu man named Benigno Flores of Bantayan Island. (According to the Philippine Daily inquirer).
  • There are 12,000 or so species of seashells in the Philippines. The Conus Gloriamaris or “Glory of the Sea” is the rarest and most expensive in the world.
  • Pure- or part-Filipino celebrities in American showbiz include Tia Carrere, Paolo Montalban, Ernie Reyes Jr., Julio Iglesias Jr., Enrique Iglesias and Rob Schneider.
  • The yoyo was invented by 16th century hunters in the Philippines.
  • The English daily newspaper in Manila is The Manila Times

How to Get Here  

How's my driving? | Photo credit: Kenny Louie

The official full airport name is (Manila) Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) and is known by a number of names; Nino Aquino International Airport, Manila Ninoy Aquino Airport, Manila Airport, Manila International Airport and Manila Philippines Airport. They are all the same, so don’t get confused. Ninoy Aquino International Airport is located along the border between Pasay City and Parañaque City in Metro Manila. It is about 7 kilometers south of Manila.

There are numerous taxis awaiting passengers outside the airport terminals, but it is best to book a taxi at one of the Taxi kiosks before leaving the airport. On presentation of a receipt at the desk outside the airport, an attendant will organize an official metered taxi.

There is an airport bus service to the city centre, and regular buses that leave from outside the airport every 15 minutes to destinations along Manila’s ring road.

Colourful ‘Jeepneys’ offer services between the airport and a metrorail terminal, which connects to the city centre.

The currency of the Philippines is the Peso. US dollars are widely accepted in Manila and other tourist areas and are the easiest currency to exchange; otherwise Euros and Pounds Sterling can also be exchanged in banks and hotels. It is best to carry Pesos when travelling outside of major centers.

ATMs are available in the major cities. For locations of ATMs you can visit these VISA and MasterCard Web sites. Major credit cards are generally accepted most everywhere.


Manila is mostly warm and humid, with an average temperature of 27 C. It gets cooler in the months of December to February (down to around 21 C), and warmer to hot during March to May (up to around 34 C).

The rainy season used to be in June to September, but this has shifted towards September to October, with typhoons often arriving during these months.

Getting Around

Metro Manila’s public transport is a mix of light rail, buses, ‘Jeepneys’ and taxis. There are three light rails: LRT1, LRT2 and MRT3, all providing access to major destinations around the metropolis. Trains generally run from 5:00 AM until 10:00 PM.

LRT1 and MRT3 reserve the first car of the train exclusively for women, senior citizens and children. Security requires passengers to open their bags for a check at the entrance. During red alerts, guards require passengers to open gift-wrapped boxes.

Manila is served by a plethora of large and small private bus companies. There are no uniform bus passes. Local buses are useful for major roads, such as the EDSA, but are not allowed into most streets in the centre of town. Fares vary depending on the destination and whether the bus is air conditioned. There are no bus schedules but most buses run from around 5:00 AM until 11:30 PM every day, but EDSA has buses available round the clock, although tourists are advised against taking these.

The colourful but controversial ‘Jeepneys’ are famous in Manilla. They are a testament to Filipino ingenuity: the first Jeepneys were assembled out of broken vehicles left over by the US after WWII and repainted with a typical penchant for bright colours. Today, they are decked with various bright and shiny stainless steel accoutrements with handmade artwork created from carefully sliced reflective stickers. Drivers often play blaring music and blow horns frequently. Major routes in the city have Jeepneys 24 hours a day, but late-night rides are not recommended for tourists.

Taxis, including the larger FX taxis (all-purpose utility vehicles) that can carry between seven and 10 people, can be flagged down almost anywhere in the city. Coupon taxis are available at the airport. Passengers should beware of being overcharged and should only travel if the driver uses the meter.

Bicycles and scooters are available for hire in some parks, but are not allowed to go beyond park grounds. There is also a high risk of accidents related to motorbikes, so their use is not recommended.

Driving behaviour in Manila has slowly improved in recent years, but visitors are still discouraged from driving on their own, as it is not for the faint-hearted. Buses may suddenly swing to the left, even from a stationary position. Some drivers will pass through the road shoulder, especially during peek traffic.

National and local car rental firms are represented at the airport and in the city. Free city maps are available from most car rental firms or Manila Tourism, but, investing in a handheld GPS system featuring turn-by-turn voice directions could be invaluable. GPS systems also feature points of interest that are nearby your location, and many other features that will provide a level of confidence while navigating in an unfamiliar destination.

What Not to Miss

San Miguel, Manila | Photo credit: Shubert Ciencia

World Heritage Sites

Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritages are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world. Currently, there are five World Heritage Sites in the Philippines

You can visit a UNESCO World Heritage site in Manila. The Baroque Churches of the Philippines is the official designation to a collection of four Spanish-era churches in the Philippines, which were inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1993. The Baroque Churches include San Agustin Church in Manila, Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur, San Agustin Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte and Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church in Miag-ao, Iloilo.

These churches have been at the forefront of Philippine history, not just in furthering Christianity in the archipelago, but in serving as the political backbone of Spanish colonial rule, when Church and State were regarded as one. The unique architecture of the churches didn’t just reflect the adaptation of Spanish/Latin American architecture to the local environment (including the fusion with Chinese motifs), but also of the Church’s political influence. These churches had been subject to attacks by local revolts and rebellions, hence, most had the appearance of a fortress, rather than just serving as mere religious structures. This is especially noteworthy in the case of Santa Maria Church, located on top of a hill, serving as a citadel during times of crisis. San Agustin Church is the only structure in Intramuros to survive World War II. Hence, the unique architectural style became known as Earthquake Baroque.

Manila has many attractions and a melting pot of cultures to satisfy different tastes. History buffs will enjoy the rich heritage of the old Manila city. The Spanish influence is still evident in the old quarters of the city and in local traditions. Most Filipinos are Catholic and Manila has numerous old churches, some dating back 300 years.

For the politically inclined, Metro Manila is the site of the EDSA Revolution, where citizens marched on the streets, notably in EDSA, to end the reign of dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his well-shod wife, Imelda.

Other recommended sites in the City of Manila are Intramuros and Fort Santiago (the old Spanish settlement), Santa Cruz (notably Chinatown) and the National Museum and the Cultural Centre of the Philippines. For a quick, visual brush-up on Philippine history, the dioramas at the Ayala Museum are highly recommended.

Intramuros, located on the southern bank of the Pasig River, was founded in 1571 by the Spanish and was the original city. Substantial sections of the encircling wall, which was begun in 1590, remain, including a number of decorated gates. In fact, a poorly defensible site, Intramuros was the location of most major conflicts and invasions to befall the pre-independence Philippines, culminating in the devastating Battle for Manila between the Japanese and Americans in 1945. The surviving walls have been restored and many attractive historic buildings still remain within their precincts, while a walk beneath their ramparts provides a colonial experience hard to match in modern Asia. The reconstruction of Intramuros has allowed for the inclusion of several parks and performing venues, art galleries, shops and restaurants, so that the area has become an attractive, entertaining and interesting tourism mecca.

One of the oldest and most dramatic colonial buildings in the Philippines, Fort Santiago was built to guard the entrance to the Pasig River and dates back, in its oldest sections, to 1571. Its’ most famous prisoner was the national hero, José Rizal, who spent his last days here before his death at the hands of the Spanish in 1896. More recent memories of tyranny include the legacy of wartime Japanese occupation, when Philippine freedom fighters suffered and died here. In another cell block, American POWs were left to be drowned by the rising tide. As well, this was one of the rumoured resting places for the legendary wartime trove of Yamashita’s Gold and the victims’ last resting place has been much disturbed by treasure seekers. Fort Santiago has been rebuilt as a lush park full of flowering trees and homing pigeons where visitors can take a ride along the promenade on a horse-drawn carriage and there is a resident theatre company.

A substantial 58-hectare open green area that showcases Manila at play, Rizal Park is one of the largest parks in South-East Asia. It is also known as Luneta, after the area it replaced. Its local significance can be gauged by the fact that it is named after Dr José Rizal, the great Philippine anti-colonial fighter and thinker. He is memorialised in the Diorama of the Martyrdom of Dr José Rizal, which becomes a son et lumière exhibit after sunset, and his remains were interred in the Rizal Monument in 1912. The many ornamental gardens include a re-creation of the entire Philippines archipelago in the eastern ponds. There is also a Japanese Garden, a Chinese Garden, an Orchidarium, a chess plaza and a skating rink. The museums and public buildings within its precincts include the Museum of the Pilipino People. In the morning, residents assemble to practice tai chi, Philippine stick-fighting or sundry forms of martial arts, while on most Sundays, there is a free concert at the Park in an open-air auditorium.

Locally renowned as an historic building, the Malacañang Palace and Museum was formerly the summer residence of the Spanish governor general and is now the seat of government and the official residence of the head of state. The name of this palace, now the seat of government and official residence of the Philippines head of state, comes from the vernacular ‘May Lakan Diyan’, which means ‘there lives a noble man’.  Its museum houses mementos of each successive president of the Philippines. Imelda Marcos’ famous shoe collection was once part of the holdings, although they have now been removed to leave more worthy exhibits.

National Museum of the Philippines Founded in 1901 as the Insular Museum of Ethnology, Natural History and Commerce, the National Museum of the Philippines houses the official national baseline collections in the sciences and humanities, with particular reference to the environment and history of the Philippines. The large and comprehensive museum preserves and showcases the cultural, historical and natural heritage of the islands with collections housed in two different buildings (within Rizal Park). Its holdings are divided into the National Museum itself, housed in the Old Congress Building of the Philippines, and the National Museum of the Filipino People. The National Museum has many archaeological exhibits of the Philippines’ prehistory, including the skull of ‘Tabon Man’, the oldest human remains in the archipelago. The Museum of the Filipino People collection includes the preserved timbers and treasures of the San Diego, a Spanish galleon that sank in Philippine waters after a collision in 1600. Also, be sure to visit the Juan Luna collection of paintings. Luna was a Filipino master painter known for Spoliarium, an awe-inspiring painting depicting dead Roman gladiators being dragged away after the famed games. Luna won several major awards in his time.

Best known for its dioramas (3D miniatures) depicting vital points in Philippine history, Ayala Museum is the easiest Manila museum to access. It is a walk away from MRT3 and located right inside the Makati business centre. The museum showcases artifacts like trinkets, antique religious statues and clothing from the various cultures of the Philippines. There is also a light and sound exhibit that recreates the EDSA Revolution that led to the fall of the Marcoses.

Lopez Memorial Museum This little-known museum contains a vast collection of ancient books and artefacts, including the first book ever printed in the country.

One of the few buildings in Intramuros to survive the carnage of the Japanese invasion substantially intact, and Manila’s oldest stone church, San Agustin Church was completed in 1606. Its present interior murals post date earthquakes in 1863 and 1889, which brought down one of its towers. The church has a magnificent intricately carved door, Baroque pulpit, and an 18th century pipe organ. The adjoining Augustinian monastery houses the San Agustin Museum, which contains colonial religious art, including altarpieces and screens salvaged intact from other houses of worship in 1945. The Sacristy houses a collection of richly embroidered vestments and Philippine notables are buried in the crypt.

Founded in the 1850s, this Chinese Cemetery was designated as the resting place for the Chinese citizens who were denied burial in Catholic cemeteries. A memorial garden considerably more opulent and bizarre than most of its ilk elsewhere in Asia, Manila’s Chinese Cemetery houses very complete sets of grave goods – tombs outfitted with air conditioning, plumbing, flushing toilets, chandeliers and all other modern conveniences for the well-off corpse. Entire streets are laid out to honour the dead and the status of their surviving relatives.

 Sunset over Manila Bay | Photo credit: Bing Ramos

Sunset over Manila Bay The Philippines’ high humidity creates superb cloud effects over the city’s natural harbour, resulting in the famous Manila Bay sunsets. Some sceptics also say that the light show at least allows spectators to turn their backs on the chaos of the city itself. Rizal Park, Roxas Boulevard or the cultural complex around San Isidro all offer fine venues for watching the sun go down, as does the SV Carina, which sets sail from Rizal Park for a 45- to 60-minute cruise around Manila Bay.


Manila offers a variety of shopping experiences, from colourful open-air markets to air-conditioned shopping malls. Shoppers seeking Philippine handicrafts, such as carvings, lamps made of shells, and canework, would do well to try the shops at the Nayong Pilipino or to visit the famous outdoor market called Ilalim ng Tulay in Quiapo. (The name means “under the bridge,” as the market is located under the Quezon Bridge.) Other outdoor markets are situated throughout the Metro Manila area, such as the Quinta Market in Quiapo, not far from Ilalim ng Tulay; Cartimar Market in Pasay, known as a place to buy pets; and the Baclaran Flea Market, located near the Baclaran Church in Baclaran, Manila. The Baclaran Market sells food, flowers and household items, and is especially lively after mass on Wednesdays. Bargaining is acceptable and even expected at most outdoor markets.

Bargain hunting in Manila would not be complete without a visit to the Divisoria Market, where items are sold in bulk for jaw-dropping prices. You can find almost anything here, from cookware to lingerie to toys. A few blocks from Divisoria Market is 168  Mall, which is almost like Divisoria Market, but with the advantage of being more orderly and air conditioned.

Makati, the commercial hub of Metro Manila and the nation, boasts department stores, designer boutiques and art galleries. Major shopping areas include the Makati Commercial Center, the Atrium of Makati, Makati Cinema Square and Greenbelt Square. The Cubao area ofQuezon Cityalso contains major shopping districts, including Araneta Center, which has nearly two thousand stores.

The very large Mall of Asia on Roxas Boulevard defies explaining. One day is probably insufficient to visit all its stores. It boasts an IMAX theatre, a science museum and one building devoted to entertainment (with exclusive lounges where guests can rent large TV screens and play Xbox games).

Along the MRT3 route, visitors can access at least eight malls, the best of which are Glorietta (Makati), Megamall (Mandaluyong City) and Trinoma (Quezon City). The MRT3 terminates conveniently at Trinoma Mall.

Tiendesitas, at the edge of Ortigas, features local handicrafts and furniture. It also has a market full of local agricultural produce. Visiting Tiendesitas is like a short, compressed tour of the provinces in the country. From Tiendesitas, you can take a free shuttle or ride a cab to Greenhills Shopping Mall, where you can find all sorts of bargains. Greenhills combines upscale and mass market shops. One entire floor is devoted to mobile phones, while another is devoted to computer hardware.

The most upscale malls are along Greenbelt 4 and 5 at Ayala Centre and Bonifacio High Street in Bonifacio Global City, where there are famous brand shops like Mango, Armani and Bulgari. For book lovers, there is a building full of books at Fully Booked in Bonifacio High Street and at Powerbooks in Greenbelt 4.

Manila After Dark

Asian Food Village at Manila Ocean Park | Photo credit: Kris Carillo

After the sun sets over Manila, you should not count on staying in your hotel room and ordering room service. There’s simply too much to see, do and hear … and eat.

In Manila and in Makati, there is a wide variety of different cuisines of the world. There is a selection of food from neighbouring countries such as China, Japan and Korea; there is Middle Eastern food; and there is regional European cuisine including Italian, German and French. The cosmopolitan variety of dining choices in Metro Manila is a result of the Philippine capital to attract people from all different corners of the earth; many of the cuisines have been brought to Manila by foreigners who have settled here. And the flair of Metro Manila as a world city has been aided by these foreign restaurateurs. The classiest restaurants of Metro Manila are found in five star hotels and in Makatiat the edge of Greenbelt Park.

Native food includes a salty tasting fish or shrimp paste (bagoong in Tagalog) which is also found in Thailand and Indonesia, and dried fish (tuyo) which is fried and malodorous. Philippine noodle dishes resemble Chinese noodle dishes. There are also unique dishes like boiled duck embryos, named balut. Three meats are commonly available: beef (baka), pork (baboy) and chicken (manok).

There are a number of words which describe the manner of Philippine cooking: pasingaw (steaming), adobo (stewed in vinegar and garlic), sinigang (sour soup using sour vegetables or fruits), nilaga (boiled), paksiw (stewed in sour fruit or ginger), estofado (with burnt sugar sauce), ginataan or gata (cooked in coconut milk), pesa (sauted and boiled), pangat (simmered with tomatoes), bulanglang (vegetables boiled together) and dinuguan (cooked in blood), kilawin (raw). Note Staff at your hotel can provide you guidance as to where to dine out.

The Cultural Center of the Philippines is, as the name implies, the central repository of Philippine culture. It was a pet project of Imelda Marcos, which at the time featured mostly high-brow art until the EDSA Revolution, when the new administration began to widen the center’s mandate to embrace folk and local cultural traditions. The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, resident company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, is the primary classical ensemble. However, the Philippine Chamber Choir has grown to a choral force of considerable stature. Open-air classical recitals are particularly popular, taking place within Intramuros in Paco Parkor at the Rizal Park Amphitheater. The theatre companies to watch for are PETA, Tanghalang Pilipino and Repertory Philippines.

PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association) is home to the finest local theater artists in the country. These artists have collaborated with various other theater groups all over the world. They produce critically acclaimed original scripts and occasionally feature local versions of foreign plays. Performances take place at the PETA Theater.

Tanghalang Pilipino is the official theatre company of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and also produces original scripts. Repertory Philippines is the Broadway copycat, drawing most of its material from Broadway and West End musicals and plays. These are all performed in English, complete with American and British accents. Many of the lead performers in Miss Saigon and Les Miserables in the USA and Europe came from Repertory Philippines, PETA and Tanghalang Pilipino. The company performs at OnStage at Ayala Center in Makati City.

With dance featured highly in many of the Philippines’ cultural traditions, it’s no surprise that ballet and performance arts are one of the major cultural exports. Ballet Philippines is the leading national troupe for classical and modern repertoire and interpretations of local traditions. Ballet Philippines, the Philippine Ballet Theatre and the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company are all resident companies at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Sports / Outdoor Adventure

Taal volcano is Manila's smallest island volcano | Photo credit: Flickr user therealburte

‘The thrilla in Manila’ may take on a whole new meaning. If sports or adventure is what you live for, or if you want to try or see something new and different, then you have come to the right place.

Taal Volcano is in the middle of the Lake Taal. The Taal is still active and one can at times see the hot steams emanating from the volcano. Mount Taal rises up to 984 feet and the last eruptions occurred in 1970. The Taal Volcano is among a chain of volcanoes that are found along the western side Luzon Island. To reach the Taal Volcano is nothing short of an exciting adventure. One has to start with a boat in order to reach the island. Thereafter one can on horseback reach to the top of the mountain. Once on the top of the Tall Volcano one can enjoy the panoramic view of the valley and the lake.

A paradise blessed with gorgeous waterscapes, the Philippines never lacking in lively water encounters. The waters of the shore have been described as the most exciting surfing destination in the world, with great waves like Cloud 9, Tuason Point, Majestic and Cemento, all ranking among the world’s best.

And Action Asia Magazine says, “The Philippines is to scuba divers what Switzerland is to skiers,Hawaii to surfers, and Nepal to mountaineers.”  You may want to consider visiting Subic Bay, which is located just about three hours from manila. It is here that you will find some of history’s sunken glories. Originally developed as a naval base by Spanish colonizers in 1885, Subic Bay became the largest US naval facility in the Far East. In 1991, it was transformed into a Freeport economic and tourism zone. Today Subic Bay boasts a formidable combination of wrecks, like the 19th century Spanish gunboat San Quintin, the Japanese luxury liner Oryoku Maru and the USS New York.

The most popular spectator sport in Manila is basketball.Manila has its own professional team, the Manila Metrostars, in the Philippines Metropolitan Basketball League (MBA). Games for this league, as well as for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), take place at the Rizal Memorial Stadium and the Araneta Coliseum. Other popular spectator sports include horse racing and cock-fighting. Horse races are held Wednesday nights and Saturday and Sunday afternoons at race tracks in Santa Ana and Santa Cruz. Cock fights take place in various locations, mostly on Sundays and holidays. The most well-known cockpits are the Philippine Cockers Club in Santa Ana, La Lorna in Quezon City, and Libertad in Pasay City.

Local Customs and Etiquette

Filipino is based on Tagalog and is the official language of the Philippines.  In spite of being the national language, only about 55 percent of Filipinos speak the language. In addition to Filipino are about 111 distinct indigenous languages and dialects, of which only about 10 are important regionally.

English is generally used for educational, governmental and commercial purposes and is widely understood since it is the medium of instruction in schools.  The Philippines are the third largest group of English speaking people in the world, after the United States and the United Kingdom. Since English is widely spoken in the Philippines, it is common to hear Filipinos use a mixture English and Filipino words or phrases, known as “Taglish” (a mixture of English and Tagalog), in their everyday conversations.

Filipino Family Values

The family is the centre of the social structure and includes the nuclear family, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and honorary relations such as godparents, sponsors, and close family friends. People get strength and stability from their family. As such, many children have several godparents.

Concern for the extended family is seen in the patronage provided to family members when they seek employment. It is common for members of the same family to work for the same company. In fact, many collective bargaining agreements state that preferential hiring will be given to family members.

Filipino Concept of Shame

Hiya is shame and is a motivating factor behind behaviour. It is a sense of social propriety and conforming to societal norms of behaviour. Filipinos believe they must live up to the accepted standards of behaviour and if they fail to do so they bring shame not only upon themselves, but also upon their family. One indication of this might be a willingness to spend more than they can afford on a party rather than be shamed by their economic circumstances. If someone is publicly embarrassed, criticized, or does not live up to expectations, they feel shame and lose self-esteem.

Etiquette and Customs

Meeting Etiquette

Initial greetings are formal and follow a set protocol of greeting the eldest or most important person first. A handshake, with a welcoming smile, is the standard greeting. Close female friends may hug and kiss when they meet. Use academic, professional, or honorific titles and the person’s surname until you are invited to use their first name, or even more frequently, their nickname.

Gift Giving Etiquette

If you are invited to a Filipino home for dinner bring sweets or flowers to the hosts. If you give flowers, avoid chrysanthemums and white lilies. You may send a fruit basket after the event as a thank you but not before or at the event, as it could be interpreted as meaning you do not think that the host will provide sufficient hospitality. Wrap gifts elegantly as presentation is important. There are no colour restrictions as to wrapping paper. Gifts are not opened when received.

Dining Etiquette

If you are invited to a Filipino’s house, it is best to arrive 15 to 30 minutes later than invited for a large party. Never refer to your host’s wife as the hostess. This has a different meaning in the Philippines. Dress well. Appearances matter and you will be judged on how you dress. Compliment the hosts on the house. Wait to be asked several times before moving into the dining room or helping yourself to food. Wait to be told where to sit. There may be a seating plan. Do not start eating until the host invites you to do so. Meals are often served family- style or are buffets where you serve yourself.

Send a handwritten thank you note to the hosts in the week following the dinner or party. It shows you have class.

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