1) Manila tops the list of the most densely populated cities in the world with around 1.6 million people jampacked in an area of 16.56 sqm. However, the “Emerging Cities Outlook” also included the Philippine capital on its list of cities on the rise.
2) With a predominantly Catholic population, Manila has several centuries-old churches replete with antique religious iconography.
3) The oldest Chinatown in the world is located in Manila’s Binondo district. Founded in the 16th century as a community for Chinese Catholics, the area continues to attract restaurants, retailers, and other businesses.
4) With Manila needing more space, several burial grounds had to give way to urban expansion. Remedios Circle and Harrison Plaza in the Malate District, as well as two churches in the Santa Cruz and Sampaloc areas used to be cemeteries.
5) Created from the World War II US army jeep, the iconic Philippine jeepney continues to dominate city roads. These units dazzle Manila’s streets with their colorful decor depicting Philippine religious and pop culture imagery.
6) The University of Santo Tomas in Sampaloc, Manila was founded in 1611, making it the oldest university in Asia. It is also the largest Catholic University in the world in terms of student population.
7) Measuring 8.5”x 14,” the largest banknote in the world was issued by the Central Bank of the Philippines in Manila in 1998. The 100,000 peso bill was released to celebrate the 100 years of Philippine independence from Spanish colonial rule.
8) Manila was part of an important galleon trade route from the 16th to the 19th century. Goods from Asia such as spices, silk, and pearl were loaded up in the ships which sailed from the city to the New World.
9) At the heart of Manila is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The San Agustin Church, a Baroque-designed structure was completed in 1607. One notable detail of its interiors are the trompe l’oeil designs created by artisans.
10) Toward the end of World War II, most of the Manila was destroyed due to intensive aerial bombing. Massive reconstruction efforts had to be done to restore the city.
11) Manila’s historical buildings feature a variety of architectural influences, from Art Deco theaters to Spanish Colonial and Neoclassical structures. From an aerial perspective, the neoclassical Manila City Hall looks like a coffin.
12) Rizal park in the center of Manila was constructed to honor the country’s national hero, Jose Rizal. The flagpole near the monument serves as a Kilometer Zero marker, a starting reference for every Philippine highway, route, or location.
13) The walled city of Intramuros was constructed in the 16th century to protect the city from invasion. As the historic center of Manila, it has withstood wars, earthquakes, and other disasters.
14) Manila used to have a version of Fifth Avenue. At its heyday in the early to mid 20th century, Escolta was a thriving business hub replete with Art Deco buildings. Now, historic preservationists and local artists are trying to revive the area.
15) Manila Hotel, which celebrated its centennial years ago, hosted many famous names. Ernest Hemingway spent several days there as a journalist. So did James Michener, John Wayne, and the Beatles. Gen. Douglas MacArthur stayed there for six years until 1941.