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Expat Tips: The Difference Between Manila and Metro Manila

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Wait! Manila and Metro Manila…are they the same?


We usually hear foreigners or OFWs say, “I will be in Manila,” to mean their impending arrival to the Philippines. And they end up staying in Makati City or Quezon City, which literally is not in Manila. They are actually in Metro Manila.


To clarify further, Manila and Metro Manila are two different places.



Araw ng Maynila, a.k.a. “Manila Day” | Poster design by Lance Florentino


June 24 is Manila Day. In celebration of the foundation day of Manila, here are important facts that one should know about this city and the bigger district where it is located–Metro Manila.


Manila (or it’s complete name the “City of Manila”) is the official capital of the Philippines. In fact, the Philippines is sometimes called “Manila” in international circles. Thus, Manila is more popular abroad than Metro Manila. However, sometimes, Manila and Metro Manila might confuse some people.


Metro Manila on the other hand is the region where the City of Manila is located (along with 15 other cities), and thus bigger in size and population. But historically, Manila assumes a bigger image and role in the minds of people both here and abroad.



Manila City Hall

An Overview of the City of Manila

The City of Manila was established on 24 June 1571. On that day, the Spanish conqueror, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi arrived from New Spain (now called Mexico). He declared and exercised rule of the the city as a territory of the New Spain. Prior to this, he established the city council in the district of Intramuros.


Other than being the capital city of the Philippines, the City of Manila is also the second largest city of the country. Manila is located on the east of Manila Bay. It is surrounded by other cities like Navotas and Caloocan on the north side. San Juan and Mandaluyong City are on the east of Manila. Makati City is located southeast of Manila, while Pasay City is on the south.


Some of nice places to visit in Manila are Rizal Park, National Museum (at Rizal Park), Walled City of Intramuros, San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Chinatown in Binondo, Club Intramuros Golf Course, Fort Santiago, Malacañang Palace and Museum, Casa Manila, Malate Church, Manila Cathedral, Manila Ocean Park, Manila Zoo, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Manila Baywalk along Roxas Boulevard, Cultural Center of the Philippines, and more!


In Manila, Ermita is a district that is considered the center of the major commercial, cultural and financial activities. This is due to the many hotels, casinos and offices located in Ermita.


Manila is often the gauge for measuring progress in Metro Manila and the entire country. Life in Manila reflects life in the Philippines as a whole because from here, one can see the entire Philippine archipelago due to the presence of almost all ethnic groups. One also gets a taste of both city and rural life here. However, when geographically talking about Manila, most native Filipinos are often unequivocal about it. They clearly separate Manila from Metro Manila. Hence, when Filipinos use the word “Manila”, they usually refer to the “City of Manila,” not “Metro Manila”.


An Overview of Metro Manila

Keep in mind that Manila (or the City of Manila) is located within Metro Manila. Confusing? Here are more facts to clarify the difference.


In 1941, then President Manuel L. Quezon, in preparation for World War II, created what was called the Greater City of Manila to include the following, among others:

  • Manila

  • Quezon City

  • San Juan Del Monte

  • Caloocan


In 1975, by virtue of Presidential Decree 824 issued by then President Ferdinand Marcos, the Metro Manila Commission was formed with Imelda Marcos, wife of President Marcos, as governor. Other cities were added in the the scope of Metro Manila.


Today, Metro Manila is composed of 16 cities and one municipality, enumerated as follows:

  1. Caloocan City

  2. Las Pinas City

  3. Makati City

  4. Malabon City

  5. Mandaluyong City

  6. Manila (or City of Manila)

  7. Marikina City

  8. Muntinlupa City

  9. Navotas City

  10. Paranaque City

  11. Pasay City

  12. Pasig City

  13. Pateros Municipality (not yet a city)

  14. Quezon City

  15. San Juan City

  16. Taguig City

  17. Valenzuela City


Thus, the City of Manila is just one of the many cities found within Metro Manila. Metro Manila is also known as National Capital Region (NCR) on the map of the Philippines. Though a newly formed region in the country, Metro Manila compromises old cities, many of which have been around even in pre-Spanish times.


In summary, if you are foreigner living in Makati City or Bonifacio Global City (BGC), remember that you are not in Manila, because Manila is another city outside of Makati or BGC. More precisely, you are in Metro Manila.


There are also business districts and key places in Metro Manila that one should remember.

  • Makati City is the most famous business district and location of most embassies.

  • Taguig City is another important city being the location of Bonifacio Global City (BGC) and Fort Bonifacio (formerly an American military base).

  • Ortigas Business Center is located in Pasig City.

  • Quezon City is the largest city in Metro Manila in terms of land area.

  • If you’d like to see Manila Bay or enjoy being in Mall of Asia, those are located at Pasay City.

  • Ninoy Aquino International Airport is also located at the border of Pasay City and Parañaque City.

  • If you ride the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), this is a long train route along EDSA, a major central avenue in Metro Manila. EDSA stands for Epifanio delos Santos Avenue. Now, the MRT can take you from Pasay City, Makati City, Mandaluyong City, Pasig City and all the way to end of Quezon City.



The Metro Rail Transit (MRT) in Metro Manila


We hope that the geographical tips mentioned above will help you along when giving instructions to a cab driver or whenever you need to make business appointments in different venues in Metro Manila.


And one more thing…If the Mayor of Manila declares that there are no schools or offices on the 24th of June to celebrate “Araw ng Maynila”, this only covers the City of Manila. This might affect government offices in Manila.


However, if your office or school is located in Makati City, for example, then normal work or school schedule will resume. The same goes with other cities in Metro Manila.



Author: CS Gaerlan 


Photo source:

Araw ng Maynila poster – by Lance Florentino –



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