More Fun in the Philippines

10 historic places to visit in Metro Manila

The Malacañan Palace. Photo by Bernard Testa,

A Swiss friend who was in Manila for about a month was asking for places to go to on a weekend trip.

He had already been to Zambales and Bulacan, both of which are relatively near the metropolis. He had also gone on a walking tour of Intramuros the previous weekend. He had no plans of booking a plane ticket and jetting off to faraway Philippine isles. So where to suggest he go?

A couple of bars where one of the country’s most popular bands played regular gigs in were proposed, only for this writer to learn that aforementioned band would not be in Manila that week.

A blessing came in the guise of the website of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), which contained a link to historic sites all over the country. Even better, the sites were organized by regions, locations, dates historical markers were installed, and types (“House of Worship” has 88 entries, “Monument” has 31, and “School” has 23. There are single entries for “Thermal Bath House,” “Prison Cell,” and “Convent.”) The sites were also categorized into national historical landmarks, national historical sites, national monuments, national shrines, heritage houses, heritage zones or historic centers, and UNESCO world heritage sites.

Hooray! Foreign friend could find places to go to right within the metro!

Should you find yourself in a similar bind (NOTE: Long weekend coming up!) here are some of the more intriguing sites catalogued online.

1. Simbahan ng Las Piñas, Las Piñas City.

It is written on the church’s historical marker: “Ginamit na kampo ng mga bihag noong panahon ng pananakop ng mga Hapon at bilang pagamutan noong liberasyon. (Used as a prison during the Japanese occupation, as well as a hospital during the liberation.)” It’s something worth thinking about while hearing Mass.

A structure that took more than 20 years to build, the church was erected from 1797 to 1819. Housed within is an organ made of 902 bamboo tubes and 129 metal ones.

2. Church and Monastery of Guadalupe, Makati City

A testament of true “love in the time of cholera,” the church, which was constructed from 1601 to 1629, was the “site of an orphan asylum and trade school administered by the Augustinian Order for the benefit of the children of the victims of the cholera of 1882.”

This is according to the historical marker on the structure’s edifice. After taking the building’s Byzantine beauty – which makes it the ideal venue for wedding ceremonies – visitors can take a jeep to Rockwell for a completely different kind of tour.

3. Unang Pagawaan ng Sapatos sa Marikina, Marikina City

Fondly called “Kapitan Moy” by locals, this home-turned-shoe-factory-turned-events-venue (among others) is the birthplace of Laureano Guevara, nicknamed Kapitan Moy. He was the leading shoemaker in the city known for this craft.

He began learning his trade in 1887. Says the historical marker, it was here where “nakatuklas sila ng mga wastong pamamaraan sa paggawa ng sapatos (they discovered the correct methods in shoemaking).” A short stroll will take tourists to the Shoe Museum, where some 600 of Imelda Marcos’ famous footwear are on display.

4. Mira-Nila Heritage House, Quezon City

Built in 1929 by Conrado and Francisca Tirona Benitez, this ancestral home is a “grand Filipino house with [an] Italianate façade, meticulously preserved interiors and graceful lawns and gardens,” according to its official website,

Overlooking Manila, it bears the name Mira-Nila because it “prompts the viewer in Spanish ‘to look at Manila.’” It is a beautifully landscaped and furnished home, “one of the few surviving examples of what life used to be in pre-war Philippines,” according to the same site.

5. Libingan ng mga Bayani, Taguig City

Neat rows of white crosses dot the grassy expanse of this national shrine. Visitors are greeted with a quote attributed to General Douglas MacArthur: “I do not know the dignity of his birth but I do know the glory of his death.” He is supposed to have said this when he visited the Philippines in the 1960s to pay tribute to his comrades who died in World War II.

Guests can view the final resting places of former Philippine Presidents, National Artists, and military men, among others. And if the weary travelers get hungry, they can always grab a bite at any of the restaurants in McKinley Hill.

6. First Shot in Filipino-American War, San Juan City

Yes, one of the default “tourist spots” Pinoys like to bring their foreign visitors to is Greenhills, as well as other similar bazaars where one can score a bargain or ten. While on the way to shop, how about a little detour?

At the San Juan Bridge are two markers, one in English, the other in Filipino. The former reads, “Here, at 9:00 o’clock in the evening of February 4th, 1899, Private William Grayson of the First Nebraska Volunteers fired the shot that started the Filipino-American War.”

The three-year conflict left “4,200 Americans and over 20,000 Filipino combatants” dead, according to the US Department of State Office of the Historian ( Interestingly, the online account makes no mention of the tiny bit of trivia involving the American Grayson.

7. Ang Bahay ng mga Nakpil at Bautista, Quiapo, Manila

Built in 1914, this historical structure was the home of Petrona Nakpil and husband Dr. Ariston Bautista Lin, who formulated medicine to fight cholera. Also among its residents were Julio Nakpil, a revolutionary and composer of songs for the Katipunan, and his wife Gregoria de Jesus, “Lakambini” of Katipunan and widow of Andres Bonifacio.

Two renowned architects stayed in the home that also served as a jewelry shop: Julio and Gregoria’s son Juan, and his cousin Angel.

According to the Bahay Nakpil-Bautista Foundation, Inc., the house is a museum of sorts for the Katipunan, containing, among others, furniture used by some Philippine national heroes.

8. Lichauco House, Sta. Ana, Manila

The Lichauco House was originally the “O’brien House,” built by the latter’s family “during the early American period,” according to the NHCP. When they transferred to another home during the Japanese occupation, it became a “refuge for many civilians.”

Marcial Lichauco, who was ambassador under former President Diosdado Macapagal, then bought it from the O’briens at the end of World War II, and turned it into his family home with his wife, Jessie.

The second heritage tree in the city of Manila, a century-old balete, can be found in the compound, as well. The first is found in Malacañang.

NHCP said the house was a living “example of structures built during the American colonial era and a… witness to the development of the historic district of Santa Ana.”

9. Old Legislative Building, now National Museum, Ermita, Manila

Here’s a place that deserves a day at least of exploring. The former legislative building was designed in 1918 by American architect Daniel Burnham, who was known for his classical style, patterned after the structures of Greece and Rome.

This building now houses the National Museum, with exhibits in the “arts and natural sciences,” among others, according to the museum’s website ( Works of National Artists can be found here. Adjacent to the structure is the National Museum of the Filipino People, which contains the country’s anthropological and archaeological treasures.

10. Presidential Museum and Library, Malacañan Palace, Manila

Yes, Malacañan—without a ‘g’ at the end, referring to the palace—is open to visitors. Located in Kalayaan Hall, the Presidential Museum and Library is filled not just with objects from the lives of Philippine presidents and heroes, but stories, too.

Which President enjoyed chess so much, he continued to visit his chess set even from the grave? Which war-time flag on display was bought off eBay from an American who had no idea what to make of it? Which painting is so valuable, selling it would fund the entire reconstruction of Malacañan, should the latter fall?

Visits should be set at least seven working days prior by contacting the Tours and Visitor Relations office.