Olli Thomson

Shoot Manila – Where To Shoot Part 2


Welcome to the second post in my urban photographer’s guide to Manila. In the first post I identified four neighbourhoods with great shooting opportunities for the urban photographer. (Click on each neighbourhood name for a map). In this second post I look at three more. A third post considers what to shoot, while the final post deals with getting around and staying safe.

Where to Shoot

Bonifacio Global City

Bonifacio Global City (aka BGC, The Fort) is very different from most of Metro Manila. Development on this former military base began in the early 2000’s and is still ongoing on a huge scale. BGC is marked by a concentration of retail, business and residential high rises so if your interest lies in architectural photography this is the place to go.

Bonifacio High Street is the heart of the neighbourhood and is one of the few areas of Manila that is largely pedestrianised and traffic free. The High Street is an excellent spot for photography, particularly on weekends and evenings. As a visitor to Manila, you will also blend in a little more easily here since the neighbourhood is popular with the expat community.

Market Market, at the east end of High Street, is a large shopping mall which also has an outdoor covered market. Right beside this is a public transport terminal for buses and jeepneys. Both the market and the terminal offer good shooting opportunities.

If, after a few hours around BGC, you find yourself wanting to get back to more ‘authentic’ Manila this is easily done. Follow 26th Street across the bridge over the C-5 road and you will find yourself in Barangay Pembo in Makati. This is a great local neighbourhood to wander round and it’s only a short walk to get back to the air conditioned malls of BGC when you need a break.

Nearest Metro: MRT3 — Ayala

30th Street, BGC

Manila Baywalk

The Manila Baywalk was established in 2002 to create a pedestrian friendly, landscaped walkway along the shore of Manila Bay. The Baywalk runs for around 2km from the Manila Yacht Club in the south to the US Embassy in the north. Over the years the Baywalk became badly run down but in the last year the Manila city government have been rehabilitating it.

The Baywalk runs parallel to Roxas Boulevard, which accommodates a community of homeless people. Normally, though, many of these folks can be found on the Baywalk, often running small food and snack stalls. I’ve never found them to be anything other than friendly and welcoming and they also make great subjects for photography.

The Baywalk is also the best place to experience Manila’s spectacular sunsets. I personally find sunset pictures a little boring but the sunsets here in Manila are often very beautiful. Even if they are not your thing, you should see and shoot the sunset at some point while you are in Manila.

The Bay itself is home to a fleet of colourful outrigger boats, normally tied up at the south end near the Yacht Club. Local children can often be seen playing in the water, usually at the northern end where there is a small area of ‘beach’. Don’t think about joining them! The water is heavily polluted and the locals are a lot hardier than you or me.

The Cultural Center of the Phillipines (CCP) lies just south of the Baywalk. A stark brutalist structure, it offers good opportunities for architectural photography. Just north of the Baywalk, past the US Embassy, is Rizal Park, also known as Luneta. This is a hugely popular spot, particularly on weekends. Within the park are a number of smaller gardens which require a small entrance fee. The park is an excellent location for shooting people and also a pleasant green space to take a break when the busyness of the city gets too much.

Nearest Metro: LRT1 — Vito Cruz, Quirino, Pedro Gill, United Nations

Manila Bay

Cubao — Araneta

Quezon City sprawls across the entire North East of Metro Manila. It’s the biggest of the constituent cities in terms of both population and area. It’s a place I have yet to explore in any great depth, but one neighbourhood I have spent some time in is Cubao. Cubao is home to the Araneta Center, a vast complex of retail, entertainment, residential, and office developments. The Araneta Coliseum, also known as the Big Dome, is a 25,000 seat covered entertainment venue hosting everything from cock fighting to ice skating.

Beyond the malls and high-rises of Araneta, Cubao is also home to the Farmer’s Market which, I believe, is the largest wet market in Metro Manila. The Farmer’s Market is a great place to shoot. However, they do seem to have a very unpredictable attitude to photography. At times it is possible to wander round taking pictures; at other times, guards will ask you, politely, to put your camera away. My advice is to keep your camera out of sight and take a walk around the market first. Then you can go back to areas that caught your eye and shoot discreetly.

Cubao itself is another neigbourhood that gives a sense of the busyness and energy of the city. Two major highways, EDSA and Aurora Boulevard, cross here as do the LRT2 and MRT3 Metro lines. The raised rail tracks and little shops and stalls that nestle beneath them give Aurora Boulevard a Blade Runner like feel, particularly at night. There are plenty of nooks and crannies along the streets where you can position yourself discreetly and shoot away.

Nearest Metro: LRT2 — Araneta Center-Cubao; MRT3 — Araneta Center-Cubao

Aurora Boulevard, Queszon City

Having looked at Where to Shoot the next post in this series will offer some suggestions about What to Shoot.


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