I’m not a big fan of cities and recommend you head straight south so that you can enjoy your vacation in nature and on paradise beaches. If you are on a budget I found Manila’s couchsurfing crowd rather responsive. From the internet the most interesting thing seemed to be to check out the slums – the poorer the better. Manila is speckled with affluent areas next to poor ones, so you don’t have to walk far most of the time, and I found the people there friendlier.
If you want to head south asap, best to book your flight in advance, but since I didn’t, I ended up staying at the Crosswinds. Not the greatest reviews on Tripadvisor but I found it acceptable, and across the street there is a shared dorm youth hostel for 700p a night (unfortunately it was fully booked when I was there). It is an easy walk from the airport and there is a robust market to explore in the area.
Back to suggested itinerary.
One night in Manila.