Philippines for some reason is the country that South East Asia travellers skip very often. Maybe it's the right thing to do. We visited Manila (the capital), Boracay (party island), Negros (slow & quiet island), Cebu (bustling & buzzing island) and Palawan (wild jungle island) and Palawan is the only place in Philippines where I'd actually go again some day.
Manila is huge, very industrial, dirty and loud. There seem to be several things that make it not so pleasant. First, the Filipinos especially in Manila try to mimic Americans in anything you see - fast food & junk food chains, huge malls, highways & concrete jungles, huge cars, music & TV, fashion, etc. Their famous jeepneys are actually a parody of American military jeeps. Jeepneys are a sort of public transport, each customly decorated, each has the destination painted in curly old school fonts on the sides and the front. You shove yourself in, pay $0.10 and enjoy the crazy ride.
This all of course results in no problems for travellers as everyone speaks English, but all this American parody just doesn't feel good.
Second, majority is Christians which automatically means lots of drinking, partying, sexual harassment, transvestites and very naughty clothing. Not exactly the best feature for a city.
One of the very authentic Filipino things is karaoke bars. They love it. You literally can't walk a block without hearing some 80' music hit being sang and yelled on repeat. Filipinos will sing or at least hum anywhere and anytime, even in sleep (imagine 20 Filipinos on a bus, all sleeping and singing at the same time) And yes, the karaoke or humming music will always be from the 70' - 90'. If you need to tell a Filipino from other South East Asians, just put onDangerous by Roxette and the person who starts singing is a Filipino.
Nevertheless there is some charm to this city - colorful decorated jeepneys trying to make their way through traffic jammed streets, tiny bars & lechon stalls everywhere, Chinese district with colorful shops, Spanish influenced architecture.
Less cheerful is of course the sight of luxury SUVs and gold covered fashionistas right next to sick, skinny, naked, dirty kids and their moms picking food from trash. Religion is a big part of people's lives here, but the Catholic church prohibits both abortion and contraception, and sexual education is close to non-existent. So those women who already live way below poverty line with their 3, 4, 5, 6 kids are likely to give birth to a couple more, causing more and more children being born into poverty and a very sad and dark world for them.
We stayed in the Ermita area, it's the party hub, other parts of the city didn't seem anything special. Prices for hostels are generally quite expensive if you want to stay close to the center (around $15 per fan room) and it's probably a good idea to take an air-conditioned room because Manila is mercilessly HOT anytime of the day/night. Prices for food are quite reasonable ($1-4 for a meal), alcohol is cheap (San Miguel beer at a bar costs around $0.5-0.8, Filipino rum at a store $0.5 for half a liter!)
We didn't really like Filipino food - it's mostly meat, especially pork in a fatty sauce, sausages, eggs, potatoes, and almost no vegetables. On more remote islands fruits are awesome though. Balut is definitely something to try - tastes exactly like what it is - egg and poultry.
Girls in the Philippines are generally very pretty - a mixture of south east asian and spanish features, in combination with flirty dresses and makeup - true asian chikitas. Guys are funny - a lot of them have a very big and round belly, and they often walk on the streets with shirts pulled up to expose their treasured bellies, the bigger belly - the better.
Thats it about Manila. Next on the way - Boracay, the beach party town.