What Should I Know About Manila?

Wanda Albano

The City of Manila is the official capital city of the Philippines. It is also the largest city in the country and has a population of around 1.5 million crammed in a land area of 23.95 square miles (38.55 square km), making it the most densely populated city in the world. It is one of the major cities of Southeast Asia. The official languages are Filipino and English.

Manila is on the Phillippines' largest island.
Manila is on the Phillippines' largest island.

The Philippines is a tropical country, and due to its location with reference to the equator, Manila's temperature range is very small. It rarely gets much colder than 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) and not much hotter than 92 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius). Manila is located in Luzon, the Philippines' largest island, and is bounded by Manila Bay to the west, and Laguna de Bay in the southeast.

Manila is the most densely populated city on Earth.
Manila is the most densely populated city on Earth.

The City of Manila is part of the greater Manila area, also called Metropolitan Manila or Metro Manila, otherwise known as the National Capital Region. However, while the City of Manila may be the capital of the Philippines on paper, Metro Manila has long taken over the role in practice. Some of the nation's seats of government are located outside the City itself but within the greater Manila area: the upper house of legislature (the Senate) is in Pasay City, and the lower house (House of Representatives) is located in Quezon City.

Interestingly enough, when Filipinos say they're from Manila, it usually means that they are from Metro Manila, and can be a resident of any of its sixteen cities. Metro Manila is the cultural, educational, and financial center of the country. All the best schools and universities, the top companies, the multinationals, as well as the publishing, television, and movie industries, are headquartered within this region. Thousands of hopefuls make the trek from various rural provinces to the capital all the time, in an attempt to make something of themselves, and, usually to lift their families out of poverty.

Manila, therefore, is the proverbial melting pot of the Philippines. Various Filipino cultures are distilled, and mixed in with centuries of Spanish colonization, decades of American occupation, and a few years of Japanese invasion. It is home to the descendants of the first Malay settlers, ethnic Chinese merchants, Spanish mestizo families leftover from colonial times, and an influx of Korean and western expatriates, all living together in relative harmony.

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