TRAVEL

Rediscover Manila with these five urban tours

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The Manila Central Post Office located in Intramuros, overlooking the Pasig River. Photo from WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Manila can be a rather overwhelming experience for first-timers: a 10-minute trip becomes an hour-long excursion due to traffic, the humidity hangs hot and heavy, there is a constant buzz of urban noise. It can be a lot to take in.

Those seeking to know what Manila is about usually head to the historic walled city of Intramuros. But Manila has many other stories to tell, multiplied further when considering the different points of view of its residents. Below are some of the tours that will show you the many sides of Manila.

Royal Postal Heritage Guided Tour

While the art of writing and sending letters is fading away due to the internet and other technological advances, there is still something magical in putting one’s feelings on paper and sending it somewhere far away.

One of the places that makes this possible is the Manila Central Post Office located in Intramuros, overlooking the Pasig River. There is a museum housed inside dedicated to philatelic history, or the history of stamps and postal products. On the first and third Sunday of every month, a tour is scheduled, coinciding with the Filipinas Stamp Collectors’ Club and Apo Philatelic Club meeting.

The tour is free of charge, and will take participants through the postal history of the Philippines. The tour guides are club members who are passionate and knowledgeable about philately, which is sure to ignite your interest in a potential new hobby.

The Royal Postal Heritage Guided Tour has a Facebook page where they post updates about their tours and they can be contacted for any inquiries.

The Bukas Quiapo tour takes participants from well-known spots such as the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church) to lesser-known ones such as June-Nairah Restaurant in Muslim Town. Photo from BUKAS QUIAPO/FACEBOOK

Bukas Quiapo

For most people, Quiapo has become synonymous with pirated goods, pickpockets, and the crazy crowds during the traslacion, but the people who actually live in it know just how special it is. Conducting Bukas Quiapo tours are the residents themselves, people who have very personal ties to Quiapo and thus have more to tell than the typical history book. As its name implies, the tour aims to open Quiapo to more people and show them that there is more to the historic district than just shopping.

The tour takes participants from well-known spots such as the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church) to lesser-known ones such as June-Nairah Restaurant in Muslim Town, where guests have an opportunity to sample dishes from Mindanao. Part of the tour’s proceeds also goes to the restoration of the San Sebastian Basilica, the only all-steel church in Asia.

The tour costs ₱1,700 per person or ₱1,500 per head if you’re booking for groups of two or more.

Bukas Quiapo tours may be booked via its Facebook page.

The Meaningful Travels Poblacion tour will bring participants back in time, along the Pasig river, as well as to the heritage structures of that witnessed the neighborhood’s growth into its present state. Photo from MEANINGFUL TRAVELS PH/FACEBOOK

Meaningful Travels PH

True to its name, Meaningful Travels aims to make each tour meaningful, believing in “the power of travel to do good.” The tours that they organize are not limited to Manila, but all offer an immersive, cultural experience. One of their newer tours is one that takes participants on an evening walk around one of today’s hippest neighborhoods: Poblacion, Makati.

Bars, restaurants, and hostels abound, making it the go-to place of backpackers and young professionals looking to chill after a long day. The tour will bring participants back in time, along the Pasig river, as well as to the heritage structures that witnessed the neighborhood’s growth into its present state.

The Poblacion tour costs ₱1,500 per head.

Meaningful Travels’ Poblacion tour, as well as their other tours, may be booked via their Facebook page or their email, meaningfultravelsph@gmail.com.

The Don't Skip Manila tour will show participants a district’s history, and how it contributed to the nation’s story. Photo from DON'T SKIP MANILA/FACEBOOK

Don’t Skip Manila

Visitors to the Philippines are often told to simply skip Manila as there is nothing to see, relegating it as a mere jump-off point to places like Cebu, Bohol, and Palawan. But this group makes its intentions clear with its name: Don’t Skip Manila.

There are the usual Intramuros history tour and the Binondo food crawl offered by this group, which are perfect introductions to the City of Manila. However, for those looking for something a little different, there’s the Pandacan walking tour. Pandacan was known as the Little Venice and Little Italy of Manila, and was home to people such as the first Filipina doctor, Dr. Paz Guanzon, the musical composer and conductor Ladislao Bonus, and GOMBURZA’s Fr. Jacinto Zamora.

The tour will show participants the district’s history, and how it contributed to the nation’s story. Don’t Skip Manila hopes to one day have tours for every district of Manila to show the world that Manila is not a place to be missed.

Prices for Don’t Skip Manila’s tours vary from ₱350 (Pandacan walking tour) to ₱1,500 (Binondo food crawl).

Don’t Skip Manila tours may be booked via their Facebook page. 

The Manila Who tour involves a mystery to be solved that will take participants around Manila. Photo from MANILA WHO/INSTAGRAM

Manila Who

For amateur sleuths and aspiring detectives with a keen interest in history, Manila Who offers a fun and exciting tour. Instead of the usual guided tour, there is a mystery to be solved that will take participants around Manila, allowing them to experience the city and its history firsthand.

Participants can choose from two stories. As the minimum number of players per story is two, the tour is also perfect for adventurous couples who want a unique date. Of course, more people are welcome to join in the fun: groups of up to five can be accommodated, with bigger groups being split into smaller ones. There is no time limit, so participants can take their time to soak in the history and their surroundings.

Manila Who tours cost between ₱968 and ₱2,420 per head, depending on how many players will be joining.

Manila Who’s game tours can be booked via their website.