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Last updated : Nov 2009
Manila Cultural Guide
Manila Culture Guide - TravelPuppy.com
The Filipino personality is a little bit of many cultures put together. The spirit of camaraderie and friendship that Filipinos are known for is thought to be taken from their Malay ancestors. The close family units are thought to have been inherited from the Chinese. The devoutness comes from the Spaniards who introduced Christianity in the 16th century. But what all can agree on is their hospitality, and this is what distinguishes the Filipino.

The Cultural Centre of the Philippines, CCP Building, CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City (telephone: (02) 832 1125), is the centre for a number of the high arts. The project of the former first lady Imelda Marcos was built in real Pharaonic style and presumably covers the bodies of labourers buried in cement as its constructors rushed to meet her deadlines. It is also the central ticketing agency for most of the arts. The National Commission for Culture and the Arts, 633 General Luna Street, Intramuros (telephone: (02) 527 2192; fax: (02) 527 2191 is the main centre that promotes Philippines culture and arts.


The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (telephone: (02) 832 1120) and resident company of the Cultural Centre of the Philippines, CCP Building, CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City (telephone: (02) 832 1125), is the main classical ensemble. The Philippine Chamber Choir has grown into a choral force of substantial fame. Popular open-air recitals are held, in Paco Park or at Rizal Park Amphitheater, in Rizal Park (telephone: (02) 535 3353).


Dulaang Talyer is one of the leading modern and avant-garde companies. The Cultural Centre of the Philippines (see Music above) plays host to the highest level of the repertoire, with Tanghalang Pilipino as its resident company. The Folk Arts Theatre (telephone: (02) 832 1120) is set in the same complex and preserves and interprets traditional dramas. The William Shaw Theatre, located on the 5th floor of the Shangri-La Plaza, Mandaluyong (telephone: (02) 633 4821), hosts comedies and more serious events. Intramuros has its own theatre company at the Rajah Sulayman Theatre, Fort Santiago (telephone: (02) 410 0821). Open-air productions and recitals take place at the Rizal Park Ampitheater (see Music above).


Dance is prominent in varieties of the Philippines’ cultural traditions. Ballet and performance arts are one of the main cultural exports. Ballet Philippines (telephone: (02) 832 3675) is the foremost national company for modern and classical repertoire and interpretations of native traditions. The Ballet Philippines, the Philippine Ballet Theatre and the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company are all based at the Cultural Centre of the Philippines (see Music). The Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group, also resident, is a main promoter of traditional dance. AC DanzMove is the dance troupe, located at Assumption College, Makati City (telephone: (02) 894 2678).


There is a busy film industry in the Philippines which produces mostly sentimental and violent subject matter. José Estrada, the former president, was a career actor before moving into politics. Movie fans always remember Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) was filmed in the Philippines. Then President Marcos furnished the helicopters for the famous ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ air cavalry charge. The famed director Peter Weir filmed The Year of Living Dangerously (1982) and used Manila for Jakarta, instead of Saigon.

The Shangri-La Cinema is situated at the Shangri-La Plaza, on the corner of Shaw Boulevard and EDSA, Mandaluyong City (telephone: (02) 633 7851). The SM Megamall, EDSA, Ortigas Centre, Mandaluyong (telephone: (02) 633 1901 or 632 9408), is a main multiplex cinema venue. Additional cinemas are located in Santa Cruz, around the junction of CM Recto Avenue and Rizal Avenue, or in Paco on Pedro Gil Street.

Cultural Events

The National Arts Month is a popular yearly arts festival held in February at many venues in Manila. At the same time is the annual Bamboo Organ Festival, at Las Piñas Village, near Manila. This event occurs in the 2nd week of February, bringing the world’s most important organists to this enchanting small town. In June, The Manila Film Festival coincides with the independence celebrations on 24th June and gives celebrants an opportunity to see their favourite stars.

Literary Notes

José Rizal, a novelist who wrote Noli Me Tangere or Touch Me Not (1887). He created contemporary Philippine literature which is a main work in the evolution of the modern national consciousness. His other famous novel, El Filibusterismo or Subversion (1891) is even more definite in its dissection of Spanish colonialism.

British authors have contributed some of the best descriptions of Manila. James Hamilton-Paterson wrote Ghosts of Manila (1994), a story of the horrible events in the twilight of the Marcos era and thinly fictionalised from true events.

 James Fenton authored the last act of the Marcos soap opera in his memoir, The Snap Revolution (1986). It captures the occasion, but from an arguably patronising and leftist perspective.

 Corazon Aquino and the Brushfire Revolution (1995), by Robert Reid and Eileen Guerrero, follow the events differently but also with a jaded eye.

 William Boyd used Manila as a backdrop in 1902 in The Blue Afternoon (1997),

Brownout on Breadfruit Boulevard (1995) by Timothy Mo makes an excellent play of Manila’s once daily electricity outages, weaving them with more than a whiff of scatology.

 A Short History of the Philippines (1969) by Teodoro Agoncillo, is believably the best work in this genre.