Composed of four cities and 13 municipalities, Metro Manila is home to roughly 20 percent of the country's 62 million Filipinos. The capital, Manila, is situated at the mouth of a natural harbor -- the Manila Bay of world-famous sunsets. Malacanang Palace, the official residence of the Philippine President, stands regally on the banks of the Pasig River, which meanders through the length of the metropolis.
Within the city limits are located the medieval walled city of Intramuros, Spain's stronghold in Asia during its Empire era; Escolta and Sta. Cruz, two of the oldest commercial centers in the country; and historic Paco and Luneta Parks. Here, too, can be found enclaves as exotic and enduring as Chinatown, the Muslim quarter of Quiapo, and the noisy bargain mecca that is Divisoria. Along the sunset strip lining Manila Bay, luxury hotels vie for the tourist trade with the poshest accommodations and the best views, while a few blocks away along Ermita's bar-lined streets, more racy pursuits await the night owl.
The country's premier business district, Makati, throbs with a different life. Busy sidewalks and avenues lead to hushed office sanctums, sparkling malls, elegant shops, swank galleries and boutiques, and some of the most valuable residential real estates in the country. Evenings, this classy entertainment city pulsates with the thousand and one lights of discos, pubs, bistros, restaurants, music lounges, jazz bars, karaoke bars and 24-hour diners.
Where to stay is never a problem in Metro Manila. The visitor can choose from any of the wide range of accommodations to suit every taste and budget-from the most prestigious hotel chains to deluxe motels to cozy pensions and family-run inns.
A wealth of diversions and attractions await the visitor. Museum tours offer glimpses of the rich historical and cultural heritage of the islands. At Ayala Museum in Makati, colorful dioramas depict scenes from Philippine history. The Cultural Center of the Philippines Museum showcases archaeological 'and ethnological finds, as well as contemporary artworks. The Metropolitan Museum of Manila mounts exhibits of classical and modern masters. There are also private galleries and specialized museums, like Casa Manila, the model turn-of-the-century Spanish house at Intramuros; the Rizal Shrine in Fort Santiago, the Ecclesiastical Art Collection of the San Agustin Church, and the Museo de Malacanang at the Presidential Palace.
Ballet companies, symphony orchestras, theater guilds and pop artists regularly take to the stage. Hotels and restaurants beckon nightly with band music, folk and jazz singers, and ethnic dance troupes. Open-air concerts and performances entertain weekend crowds at Paco Park, Puerta Real Gardens and Luneta Park.
Metro Manila has 3 greens, which offer some of the best golfing in Southeast Asia. Affordable rentals and green fees, coupled with the balmy weather and friendly, English-speaking caddies, make for a perfect golfing holiday.
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