Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is one of the birthplaces of Filipino martial arts (FMA). Previous inhabitants of the city — along with the island of Cebu — played a pivotal role during historical times in the development of Eskrima, Arnis, and even Panatukan, but despite that, the city has a surprising lack of FMA schools. It has also been overshadowed somewhat in the tourism department, with a certain class of holidaymakers preferring those other Asian metropolises like Bangkok, Macau, Singapore, and Hong Kong. But a new Manila is beginning to emerge with a change in fortune and a boost from the luxury tourism industry.
The fourth-largest city in the world and a major attraction, Manila has been included in this year’s Forbes Travel Guide Star Awards. The city’s inaugural recognition on the list was due to the development of two 5-star hotels, the Marco Polo Ortigas and the Sky Tower at Solaire Resort and Casino. The Filipino capital is carving a new niche for itself as a glamorous and distinctly unique tourist hub and the ultimate hotspot, hence the name Entertainment City.
Spanning an area of 8-square kilometers in the Bay City section of Metro Manila, this government-sponsored economic development zone is where the newest, brightest, and most luxurious integrated resorts are located. Also known as E-City, it has quickly developed a strong reputation amongst tourists and casino professionals alike thanks to a number of casino mega resorts including Solaire, Okada Manila, and the renowned City of Dreams. The City of Dreams is a sprawling complex of luxury hotels, entertainment facilities, fine dining, and high-end shopping that has developed a reputation as a glamorous casino resort on par with Macau. It plays host to the annual PokerStars Live Manila Tournament, drawing in the best professional players on the circuit. In 2019, a fourth integrated resort, Resorts World Bayshore, is set to open in E-City, putting this previously overlooked city at the very center of casino gaming in the Southeast Asian region.
Beyond the casino lure, Manila is also attempting to break new ground in the region with theater and entertainment. Some of Broadway’s biggest musicals are being touted for runs in E-City, like Wicked, which opened last year in the 1,740-seat theatre at Solaire. CenterPlay is the City of Dreams’ unique take on the theater experience as this stage is set in the middle of the casino and hosts regular live performances in addition to keeping visitors entertained with the interactive DreamPlay, which incorporates high-grossing movies like Kung Fu Panda and Shrek.
Then there’s the nightlife. To those in the know, Manila has a thriving nightlife scene, which mixes laid back speakeasies and bars with diverse night clubs, as well as some excellent music events. The nightlife in E-City is quite a different story with its focus on luxe and glamor. A number of exclusive bars and restaurants attached to the resorts are attempting to woo the elite with members-only whiskey bars and eclectic but always tasteful cocktail saloons.
Focusing on increasing luxury tourism is a smart economic move for any country, and it can certainly be argued that Manila, and, in turn, the Philippines, deserves its share of this exclusive market. So far, E-City and its high-rise, high-tech resorts have managed to co-exist well with the older, more soulful parts of the city. Anyone concerned about a trip to Manila losing that unique feeling, which is a unique combination of the country’s diverse cultural history and 21st-century life, needn’t worry. Although it’s true that the City of Dreams, Solaire, and the other complexes are designed with a luxe market in mind, there is still plenty to explore within its boundaries for the travelers who are seeking to experience a more authentic and original side of the city.