Explore Old Manila one step at a time

For many years, Manila was regarded as an up-and-coming megacity of Asia. It was even dubbed as “The Pearl of the Orient” — a beautiful, elegant and progressive metropolis and received the buzz of many international publications as the next big thing as a tropical paradise. But then, World War II happened and Manila was reduced to ash and rubble.

Fast forward to present day. For many of us, the only time we explored the districts of Old Manila — Intramuros, Escolta, and Binondo — was when we were students on a field trip. And for some, the grime and traffic of the city is enough to deter them from ever exploring what it has to offer.

In recent years, Manila has experienced an upswing — artistically, culturally, historically and even gastronomically. In time, walking tours have sprouted and become a hit with Filipinos of all ages. Each tour group offers something different in the hopes of showcasing and promoting our own history and heritage. Below are just some of the walking tours that you should definitely consider when exploring Old Manila and all its splendor.

Don’t Skip Manila founders Anne Uy and Andrei Julian

Don’t Skip Manila

What prompted you to start offering walking tours around Manila?

We started offering walking tours last Jan. 2018 with a desire to (re)tell the stories of the city of Manila to local and foreign travelers. It has been a long frustration of ours that this city is constantly misjudged as a destination to skip.

Why did you choose to focus on Old Manila?

Geographically, there are 16 districts of Manila and we aim to create 16 walking tours. We started in the common tourist destinations like Intramuros, Binondo, National Museum but we also partnered with different groups to cover lesser known places like BASECO and Pandacan, to the commonly judged districts like Quiapo.

What do you hope that people will learn from your tours?

An idea that Manila is a reflection to what we are searching for — a mirror of our soul. If you are looking for chaos, you’ll see chaos. If you look for poverty, you’ll see poverty, traffic, et. al. But if you are looking for history, you’ll see history, arts, culture, food, and even love. If you are looking for home, you’ll find home in Manila.

For more information about Don’t Skip Manila, visit their website www.dontskipmanila.wixisite.com or their Facebook page www.facebook.com/DontSkipManilaPH.

Benjamin Canapi, head tour guide of WanderManila

WanderManila

What prompted you to start offering walking tours around Manila?

My love affair with Manila started with one of Carlos Celdran’s tours back in 2006. His tour forced me to reevaluate how I looked at Manila. I then started to get involved with as many activities in Manila as I  could. I started offering free Manila walking tours in 2015 and when my family decided to take over the operations of La Monja Loca, I was encouraged by Carlos to start touring on a more regular basis.

Why did you choose to focus on Old Manila?

While WanderManila can theoretically tour anywhere in Metro Manila, we tend to skew more towards Old Manila destinations, which includes Intramuros, Luneta, the heritage buildings along Padre Burgos, Binondo, Escolta, Quiapo, among others. These areas have fantastic stories to tell, and from a tourism perspective, you’d like to tell the story of Manila from the beginning.

What makes your walking tours different from others?

The better tour groups have a good mix of history and entertainment blended into their tours, and I’d like to believe that we’re on that level despite being new to the field. Having said that, our biggest selling points are our ability to customize a tour based on the customer’s preferences, and our flexibility and ability to adjust on the fly. We go out of our way to make sure that every tour is unique.

What do you hope that people will learn or get from your tours?

We want people to walk away from our tours with a better, healthier respect and appreciation for the city of Manila. We want people to realize what a gem this city was in the past, in the hopes that enough of us start clamoring for changes to happen to this city for the future. For locals, we want them to fall in love with the city all over again.

For more information about WanderManila, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/wandermanila and Instagram page at wander.manila

At the Fort Santiago gate. Sucesos Walking Tours also offers tours for students.

Sucesos Walking Tours

What prompted you to start offering walking tours around Manila?

I started touring people when I was in college. When I began teaching, I continued to accept requests from agencies to tour their clients on weekends. At that time, I integrated my walking tours in my teaching repertoire. Every semester, I conducted free walking tours for my students. We explored Intramuros, the National Museum and the Rizal Park. As a teacher, I have seen its positive impact and proven its potential to awaken interest in history and inspire patriotism and good citizenship.

In 2013, I co-founded Sucesos with friends. We specialize in organizing tours and events on Philippine history and cultural heritage. We offer group tours of Intramuros, the National Museum, Escolta, and Binondo. We chose these sites because of their unique attractions and historical significance. We also provide out-of-town educational trips for schools and organizations.

What makes your tours unique?

One of the problems of cultural tourism in the country is the need for more guides who are competent in history and other related social sciences. Our well-researched tours are conducted through short talks and walking commentaries.

What do you hope that people will learn from your tours?

Sucesos derived its name from Antonio de Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (1609). Jose Rizal annotated and published this again in 1890. Rizal hoped that by understanding our past, we may be able to “judge our present better and dedicate ourselves to the study of our future.” The founders of Sucesos share this view. To Filipinos, our tours can serve as aids to thoughtful reflection and national soul-searching. To foreigners, these can be the fastest and the best way to understand who we are.

For more information about Sucesos Walking Tours, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sucesoswalks.

Façade of San Sebastian Church in Quiapo, Manila

Manilakad

What prompted you to start offering walking tours around Manila?

I used to organize adventure travel all over the Philippines. I thought maybe I should do walking tours at the place of my birth, Manila. I also advocate walking as a good form of exercise and an environmental way of moving around.

What makes your walking tours different from others?

Since I have an outdoor background (mountaineering & scuba diving), there’s an element of adventure in my tour. Itineraries are carefully curated and flexible according to demands of clients. My itineraries are never stagnant and adjust to current situations.

What do you hope that people will learn or get from your tours?

Hopefully, participants will increase their appreciation of the heritage, history and culture of the Philippines while listening to historical tidbits in a fun environment.

For more information about Manilakad, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Manilakad or contact JP Ordona at (0916) 359-7888.

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