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Manila

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Overcrowded and underrated, Manila’s energetic metropolis is too often dismissed by travellers to the Philippines – yet beyond the sprawling skyscrapers and non-stop traffic, there’s a wealth of history here for those who know where to go, not to mention an eclectic jumble of art galleries, bean-to-cup cafés and indie markets.

First-time visitors should head straight to the Intramuros area, a walled city the size of roughly 64 rugby pitches and once the domain of the Spanish colonists. Pick up a map at the Intramuros Visitor Centre and begin with the impressive Fort Santiago, with its manicured gardens, fountains and lily ponds.

Much of Intramuros has been lovingly rebuilt in the wake of the city’s destruction during the three-year Japanese occupation in WWII; the devastating Battle for Manila in 1945 was one of the bloodiest urban battlegrounds in the whole Pacific Theatre. The Filipinos and US troops won the month-long battle and liberated the city, but the only structure to survive intact was the Baroque-style San Agustin Church, which can be visited to this day.

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