As you know, Metro Manila isn't all sunshine and roses. Some aspects of it — like the petty crimes, and the feel of disrepair in some areas — can send any rational-minded tourist packing. Still, as long as you pay heed to the following words of advice, you can enjoy the Philippines' national capital region in spite of its many flaws.
Familiarize yourself with public transportation.
Granted, you can always bring your own ride in Metro Manila. But if you want to save on gas, or you can't drive your car due to "color-coding," public utility vehicles (PUVs) like buses, jeepneys, and trains are your best bet.
Of course, you have to know which routes these vehicles take. For example, if you're coming from Buendia (Sen. Gil Puyat) Avenue, some jeeps in Makati will take a right turn at Ayala Avenue, while others will go straight along Buendia towards EDSA. When in doubt about your choice of transportation, don't be afraid to ask passersby. Most Filipinos are willing to answer questions even from a complete stranger.
Dress as simply as you can.
Unless you're heading for a fashion show (and even then!), it's best not to dress to the nines when you're walking along the streets of Metro Manila. You'll definitely attract attention if you look like a model — but some of that attention might not be the kind you're looking for.
Instead, wear the most practical clothes possible. If you must go to a place where flashy dresses are required, either bring your own mode of transportation, or keep your flashy outfits, shoes, and jewelry inside a bag so you can change into them later. Even if you're lucky enough not to meet dodgy individuals on the street, commuting in a plain outfit is still more comfortable.
Ignore the mendicants on the street.
This might sound callous and cruel, but if you want to stay safe in Metro Manila, it's in your best interest to do this. Since you can't tell whether that ragged-looking woman/child genuinely needs help, or if they're part of a crime syndicate, the safest thing to do is to assume the latter. You can always look up Philippine charities online, and donate to those instead, if you're feeling altruistic.
Always have extra cash with you.
Metro Manila may have ATM machines everywhere, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea to rely on them all the time. Sometimes, ATMs go offline; other times, they attract long lines that'll have you waiting several hours just to get a few thousand pesos!
If you're going out, have at least 10 percent more cash on hand than what you usually expect to spend in a day. That way, in case untoward incidents happen, you'll still have enough money to pay for a PUV to drive you home.
Aside from giving you that much-needed exercise, walking briskly gives you an alert, wary air that wards off potential thieves. It also helps to give your surroundings a quick once-over, especially if you're walking alone.
As much as possible, avoid being the only person on an unfamiliar street. Look for uniformed officers or lighted areas where you can stay close and stay safe. Put emergency numbers on speed dial just in case.
Take note of "landmarks."
Landmarks are the places that help you determine where you are at any given time. For example, if you're going to the Cityland Square in Barangay Pio del Pilar, the landmarks are Buendia (Gil Puyat) PNR station and Cash and Carry mall. When you know which establishments mark the location of your destination, it's hard to get lost in Metro Manila.
Then again, landmarks can change or get torn down. In that case, you can also take note of nearby streets or intersections. Going back to the previous example, Cityland Square is also along the corner of Buendia and South Superhighway (a.k.a. Osmeña Highway), so you can use those as "landmarks" too.
Have a local help you out.
If you really want to enjoy Metro Manila, it helps to know a resident who knows the area inside and out. Luckily, most Filipinos can speak conversational English, so it shouldn't be too hard to find someone who can guide you to the place you want to go.
Also, Filipinos are pretty easy to befriend. As long as you're "game" for anything they throw at you, and you don't hesitate to treat them with a free lunch once in a while, they're quite the amicable bunch.
These are just some of the secrets to surviving in Metro Manila. If you have any thoughts on this post, or if you have anything else to add, add them in the comments!