Manila City Guide
Metropolitan Manila, commonly known as Metro Manila, is the seat of government and the most populous region of the country comprising of 16 cities including Manila, the capital, and Quezon City, the most heavily-populated city in the Philippines. Home to nearly 13 million people, Metro Manila is the center of culture, economy, education and government of the Philippines and is one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in Southeast Asia.
With an exciting and diverse LGBT scene, Manila should be on your list if you're looking for a fun and relaxing getaway in the Southeast Asian region. According to our sources on the ground, Manila (as of September 2016) does continue to be relatively safe and welcoming towards LGBT tourists. However, it is always a good idea to exercise care and good judgment to keep yourself and your companions safe - we'll share some safety tips below!
This city guide is by no means exhaustive and merely serves as a resource to help you find your footing in Manila. Be sure to check out the BE Navigator for other LGBTI-friendly services and spaces in the city. Happy trails!
Get acquainted with the local lingo
LGBT - Gaining recognition; media use is now more common than it was. However, Filipinos often conflate sexual orientation and gender identity; a gay man is expected to be effeminate or to desire becoming a woman.
Bakla/bading/gay - Filipino terms used to refer to gay men.
Transpinay - A term used by some trans groups to refer to their local communities, particularly trans women.
Tomboy - Used to refer to more masculine-looking lesbians.
Hada - Refers to oral sex.
Jowa - Boyfriend/partner
Bet/keri - Expressions that signify approval
Wiz - An expression that signifies disapproval
Warla - An unfortunate occurrence
Award - Fight/quarrel
Bekinese - A popular slang among Manila's gay culture.
Understand the LGBTI scene in Manila from the perspective of the advocates.
Metro Manila has a vibrant LGBTI community. Reach out to groups who are organising interesting work on the ground and find out how you can help. Rainbow Rights is an advocacy NGO pushing for legal reforms for LGBT rights, Babaylanes is a pioneer in LGBT activism, and don’t forget to check out Metro Manila Pride to find out if there are Pride events going on while you are in the city. Trans* organisations such as Pinoy FTM, STRAP, TransMan Pilipinas and GANDA Filipinas are equally active and we'd encourage you to follow them on Facebook and elsewhere before your visit!
Explore the city by mixing fun and history.
Carlos Celdran offers LGBT-friendly performative tours that can help you understand the history of the Philippines and why the Catholic Church is such an influential social and political force. After that, kick back at some of Manila’s hottest gay bars and other LGBT-friendly establishments. These include O-Bar in Ortigas, Sebastian's Ice Cream and Catch272 - check out this article over at Spot.ph for more ideas and inspiration.
In terms of the LGBT media landscape in Manila, Team Mag and Feist Magazine are the most well-known publications and you should definitely follow them on social media to get the most out of your trip. There have also been several LGBT-themed programmes on national TV.
Support Manila’s fight against the HIV epidemic.
Check out TLY, a community-based group that conducts campaigns to encourage HIV testing and find out what you can do to help stop the growing epidemic in the Philippines. Other similar organisations include TLF SHARE and Take The Test - do check them out if you get the chance. Be sure to stay safe while having fun!
The Philippines is facing extremely high incidence of HIV among men who have sex with men and trans people. Condom use is low and infections typically occur through sexual transmission.
There are limited LGBT health programmes in the Philippines. Some NGOs deliver reproductive health services for lesbian women while trans people access hormones through personal contacts, and standards cannot be guaranteed.
Help us update our database of safe and inclusive spaces in Asia.
While the Philippines does not have anti-sodomy laws, other laws such as the anti-trafficking law and public order ordinances have been used to arrest and detain LGBT individuals and conduct raids on LGBT-friendly establishments and gay cruising sites.
Federal efforts to criminalise discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity have so far been blocked.
Certain local governments have extended legal protection to LGBT people through local anti-discrimination ordinances. These areas include nine cities (including Quezon City), two municipalities and two provinces.
President Duterte is currently waging a campaign against drug peddling. So be aware of your surroundings if you're using or buying any.
Manila is relatively safe for LGBT tourists, but just like anywhere else, incidents of hate crimes have been reported by LGBT groups. If you encounter situations of violence or threats of violence, you can file a report at the Women’s and Children’s Desk of the Philippine National Police.
The Commission on Human Rights has regional offices across the country, with trained staff who can handle reports of human rights violations against LGBT people – including police abuse – and provide referrals for legal aid.
Like most parts of Southeast Asia, stigma against LGBT people remains common in certain segments of society. Expect negative reactions to public displays of affection between two men or two women, as well as negative reactions and stereotyping of trans people.
But all these has never stopped us from having fun! Stay safe, be aware and happy travelling!