10 Unique & Fun Things to Do in Manila

For travelers, backpackers and province-based tourists, Manila is often just thought of as a stopover between flights on the way to another destination. The big city can be overwhelming with the heavy traffic and crowded streets. At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much to do except eat out, go shopping in the malls, visit museums or churches. There’s also the gritty and chaotic areas of Quiapo and Divisoria, which have become synonymous with Manila.

I often take the tourist sights in Manila for granted because this is where I live and work. But if I were a first-time tourist in the Philippines, or if I had to take around foreign tourists, balikbayans, expats or province-based friends, what would I do and where would I go? Here are some suggestions of unique and fun activities you can do while in Manila.
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How to Travel on a Budget Like a Pro

One common misconception about travel is that it’s too expensive.

It can be if you’re the type of traveler who brings around a huge suitcase for an overnight stay, requires 5-star hotel accommodations wherever you go, and whose preferred mode of transport is an air-conditioned shuttle. Travel is something that is really worth investing in, but it need not break the bank. It’s not something that should leave you impoverished. As the popular saying goes, travel is only thing you buy that makes you richer.

location independence tent motorcycle travelup beach cebu

It’s always a matter of priorities. You can choose to drink overpriced coffee or tea everyday or choose to save the money instead towards your travel fund. Here are a few tips and tricks used by backpackers and budget travelers to save costs while on the road.

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PROMO: Get P2500 Off on Airbnb with SUN

Aside from airfare, one of the most expensive costs of travel is the accommodations. Hotel stays can easily eat up a big chunk of your travel budget, leaving you with less money to enjoy the adventures and food in the destination. I’m a big advocate of staying in hostels, homestays and hammocks as opposed to hotels. Thankfully, travelers these days have more options with sites like Airbnb, a worldwide community where people can choose to rent out their own homes or stay in unique accommodations around the world.

airbnb app passport map sun

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5 Things to do in Real, Quezon

For those in the regular workforce, vacations can be tricky. Not everyone has the luxury of time to do long-term backpacking or visit exotic locales every month. But everyone needs a beach and adventure fix once in a while. Located just 3-4 hours away from Manila, Real in Quezon offers such a quick weekend getaway.

01. real quezon boat

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Gear Review: 2-in-1 Travel Pillow + Hammock

UPDATED November 2016

I love anything multi-purpose: swissknives, cargo pants that transform into shorts, multi-functional headwear, malongs & basically anything that serves double duty on the road.

So when I saw the new line of hammocks called Duo-yan from Hammock Republic by Journeying James, I had to have one. Just like Transformers, this nifty travel accessory is more than meets the eye. The Duo-yan is a travel pillow that transforms into a hammock! This is just perfect for long road and boat trips and beach camping.

hammock and pouch beach

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Siquijor: Motorcycling the Mystic Island

Siquijor is shrouded in stories of sorcery and witchcraft. Dubbed the “Mystic Island,” this province in the Central Visayas is known as the home of witches, shamanistic folk healers and mambabarang (people who can cause affliction or death by supernatural means). I heard that hexes, curses and love potions were hawked on the streets along with the usual souvenir keychains and magnets. You have to admit, there’s just something so fascinating about any place steeped in such superstitions. While some people are afraid to set foot here, this reputation for dark magic is actually what drew me to the island.

siquijor motorcycling travelup

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Islands Leisure Boutique Hotel, Dumaguete

With its quirky details, classy decor and homey vibe, Islands Leisure Boutique Hotel is a great place to stay in Dumaguete City. This boutique hotel in the capital city of Negros Oriental offers a peaceful oasis right in the heart of the city. After motorcycling all over Siquijor the previous day, checking in here felt like a treat.

islands leisure boutique hotel dumaguete fountain

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MNL Beach Hostel Boracay

A couple of weeks ago, I had a work-sponsored assignment to write about schools affected by typhoon Yolanda around Kalibo and Capiz. It just so happened that one of the days in the scheduled trip fell on a local holiday with no schools open and the people I needed to interview not available. Aside from the direct flights to Caticlan, Kalibo is a known gateway to Boracay, the most popular island destination in the Philippines. Boracay is not a place I am really drawn to, but the free time was too good to pass up. So, without any concrete plans, I made my way there to see how much the place has changed since I had last been there.

mnl beach hostel boracay

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The Circle Hostel, Zambales

The Circle Hostel is a chain of eco-hostels in the Philippines catering to surfers and backpackers looking for a community atmosphere and budget-friendly lodging. They aim to be a “sanctuary for the artsy and the adventurous” where people can express themselves freely.

the circle hostel zambales 01

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Touring with Travel Experts

A lot of people dream of exotic vacations in off-the beaten-path destinations. But more often than not, people who work in 8 to 5 jobs rarely have the time to do the research and legwork needed to realize these dream escapes.

The easiest solution is to sign up for package tours–pre-arranged trips with travel companies that promise to take the guesswork out of traveling. Food, accommodations, tickets, and even guides are all taken care of, so all you need to do is fork up some money and show up.

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