It was Spanish language that guided me to Ermita.
When you are living in a country, listening to a language where almost every single word sounded like Spanish, you develop an inclination to learn Espanol. And so I signed up for a Spanish course at Instituto Cervantes, which was bang in the middle of Ermita, a district in downtown Manila. While the Instituto Cervantes campus itself had seduced me to bring my camera to class many times, it was the streets of Ermita which brought out the shutterbug in me.
In Spanish, Ermita means hermitage. During the American rule, this was the key district of Manila, housing the creme-de-la-creme, and hosting the creme-de-la-creme. It still has some of the best landmarks of Manila, like the Rizal park, Manila ocean park, and the National Museum of the Philippines. But to me, the essence of Ermita lies in it’s omnipresent street-life.
You can get to Ermita by train (yellow line), or take a taxi from elsewhere in Manila for about 100 Pesos. Remember to bargain though. After you have spent your good time to see the common landmarks (Rizal park etc, which I mentioned above), you can check out a little bit of Jai-Alai game at the Philippines Jai Alai center.
And once you are done with all such prominent tourist attractions, just stroll around in the streets. A few warnings for good measure:
1) There is a fair share of petty crime in Ermita. Do not act like a stupid tourist, and keep your camera close to you.
2) The traffic can only be described as chaotic. You’ve been warned.
To get around, hop into one of the tricycles that ply the roads. You will be surprised to notice that there is a good number of female tricycle drivers in this area.
Tricycle rides cost anything between 20 to 50 pesos. If that is too expensive for you, hop onto one of the colorful jeepneys on the road, which charge a flat 8 pesos per ride, regardless of the distance. Just ensure that you admire the artwork on the jeepneys before you hop on.