Metropolitan Manila, usually referred to as Metro Manila, is officially known as the National Capital Region (NCR) and the center of the Philippine government. Metro Manila is one of the three defined metropolitan areas of the Philippines. It includes the following 16 cities: the City of Manila, Quezon City, Caloocan, Las Piñas, Makati, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Navotas, Parañaque, Pasay, Pasig, San Juan, Taguig, Valenzuela, and the municipality of Pateros.
Metro Manila is comprised of 16 cities and is one of the few megatropolises in the world.
City of Manila
The City of Manila, or simply called Manila, is the capital of the Philippines. This most densely populated city proper in the world is the country’s hub for business, education, and transportation. It’s accessible from all provinces in the country by plane, boat, and/or bus.
While it’s not the most preferred destination by travelers, it usually is the jumpoff point to other provinces or islands. Manila is an interesting city to visit if you’re a history buff or looking for shopping haven and an active nightlife.
This largest city in the Philippines in terms of population and land area. Quezon City is nicknamed “City of the Star” as it is where the country’s entertainment industry resides. It is also the country’s center of information technology and houses several government offices, including the seat of the House of Representatives, and the seat of the Vice President of the Philippines. University Philippines Diliman and Ateneo de Manila University, among the top universities in the country, are also located in Quezon City.
READ MORE: Quezon City Visitors Guide
The term caloocan came from the Tagalog word lo-ok or lo-ob, meaning inside. As the name implies, the city is the innermost area and is bordered by Manila City, Quezon City, Malabon, Navotas, and Valenzuela in the south while the northern part is bordered by Quezon City and Valenzuela, as well as the province of Bulacan particularly the town of Marilao and the cities of Meycauayan and San Jose del Monte.
Points of interest in Caloocan include the Bonifacio Monument (popularly called Monumento).
READ MORE: Caloocan City Visitors Guide
Just south of Manila City lies Las Piñas, a 1st class highly urbanized city in the Philippines. While it may not have the biggest shopping malls or top universities, the city is known for its Bamboo Organ, the only organ of its kind in the whole world. This centuries-old musical instrument was built in 1824 and has withstood destruction due to several natural calamities. One point of interest in the city is San Jose Parish, also known as Las Piñas Church, which is where the Bamboo Organ is housed.
City of Makati
In the center of Metro Manila lies Makati City. It is the home of many well-to-do Filipinos and is where luxury shopping, restaurants, and hotels can be found. It is the country’s financial, commercial, and economic district and where the Philippine Stock Exchange is located.
North of Manila is where Malabon is located. As it has low-lying, flat terrain. Malabon is prone to flooding during heavy rains, when the river or dike overflows, and even during high tides. On a good day, Malabon is a good choice for heritage tours as it has several heritage houses and a centuries-old church.
Mandaluyong is a commercial district east of Manila City. It is the home to several establishments including Asian Development Bank and headquarters of two of the country’s biggest names – Banco de Oro and San Miguel Corporation.
When you’re exploring Marikina, don’t be surprised to see giant shoes in various parts of the city. Marikina is the biggest shoe manufacturer in the country therefore nicknamed “Shoe Capital of the Philippines”. It even has a Shoe Museum which houses a shoe collection of former First Lady Imelda Marcos as well as a pair from Philippine Presidents, Marikina Mayors, celebrities, and other popular people.
St. James the Great Parish
Muntinlupa has the best of both worlds – Ayala Alabang Village, the country’s most expensive residential community, and the New Bilibid Prison where the country’s most dangerous criminals are serving their sentence. It is the southernmost city of Metro Manila and is bordered to the east by Laguna de Bay, the country’s largest lake.
Bordered on the west by Manila Bay, Navotas is known as the “Commercial Fishing Hub of the Philippines”. The city houses Navotas Fish Port Complex, the 3rd largest port in Asia, and the largest in Southeast Asia. Around 70% of its people earn a living in the fishing industry with jobs including fishermen, boatmen, fish trader, and fishnet mender.
Head over to Agora Market where you can buy the freshest seafood, as well as fish sauce (locally called patis), and shrimp paste (bagoong).
For anyone who wants to take a peek at the country’s gaming industry, Parañaque is definitely the place to be. Found within its city limit is PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation) Entertainment City, home to four of the countries entertainment hub: City of Dreams Manila, Okada Manila, Solaire Resort and Casino, and Westside City Resorts World which is currently under construction.
Roligon Mega Cockpit, the largest and most modern cockpit in Asia is also found in Parañaque.
Due to its proximity to Manila City, Pasay became an urban town in no time. A large portion of Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the country’s busiest airport, is located in Pasay. The city is also home to World Trade Center Manila, SM Mall of Asia (the largest shopping mall in the world), as well as several government offices including the Office of the Vice President of the Philippines, Senate of the Philippines, and Department of Foreign Affairs. If there is only one city in Metro Manila a tourist can step foot on, no doubt it’s Pasay.
Other points of interest include Manila Ocean Park, Newport Resorts World, and Philippine Air Force Aerospace Museum.
READ MORE: Pasay City Visitors Guide
Pasig used to be a residential and industrial area but is now fast becoming a commercial hub with all the establishments found in the city particularly the Ortigas Center. If Bangkok has Chatuchak market, the Philippines has Tiendesitas in Ortigas Center. PhilSports Complex is also found in Pasig.
While it’s the country’s smallest city in terms of land area, San Juan is big in history as it is where the first battle of Katipunan (Philippine Revolutionary society) took place in 1892. Aside from Pinaglabanan Shrine, other points of interest in San Juan are the centuries-old places of worship including Saint John the Baptist Parish, Sanctuario del Santo Cristo, and the newer Mary the Queen Parish.
What used to be a small fishing town is now a booming city with all its infrastructure and commercial institutions. The city’s current center is Bonifacio Global City (also called BGC, Global City and The Fort), a financial and lifestyle hub that houses residential buildings, retail outlets, modern offices, and a lot more. The Grand Hyatt Manila, one of the tallest in the metro area, is located in Taguig.
Several prestigious international schools in the country are also located in Taguig.
READ MORE: Taguig City Visitors Guide
Valenzuela used to be a grassland but due to rapid modernization, it has started to become a concrete jungle with all the infrastructure in the city. The structures may not be as huge as those in neighboring cities but Valenzuela has several shopping malls, healthcare institutions, schools, and of course heritage sites.
The city government is worthy to be praised for its efforts to preserve vegetation by constructing community gardens which are now functioning farms.