When in Manila, be cool and dress casually unless you are going to a ball or attending a formal meeting. Since Manila is the capital city of the Philippines, you could end up doing a number of things in a number of occasions and functions.
What to wear in Manila depends on what you intend to do in the capital city. Why are you vacationing here in the first place? Are you hitting the beach? Are you meeting long lost relatives or friends? Are you planning to hop from mall to mall? Are you on official business?
When visiting friends or relatives, it is best that you come in cool, casual attire. Some Asian cities and countries may be culturally sensitive in what to wear, what to cover and what to keep exposed. Such sensitivity does not exist in Manila. Local or foreign tourists can walk around in the simplest cotton shirt, short pants and a pair of slippers, both for male and female. A baseball cap could help protect your head from the scorching tropical sun, as well as sunglasses for your eyes.
While there are no beaches in Manila, you could hit the water and cool off at swimming pool resorts that abound in the city. Filipinos are generally conservative, which is why wearing a skimpy bikini to a public pool may be frowned at in some circles. If you checked in at a 5-star hotel and go for a swim at the pool, though, a tiny bikini is perfectly fine.
When intending to visit upscale bars and malls, you might want to dress more decently and fashionably. A nice shirt, slacks and good shoes would do as you stroll around posh department stores such as the Podium, Power Plant Mall, Serendra or Bonifacio High Street. The most popular malls for the common Filipino are the SM Malls and Ayala Malls. You do not need to dress up when visiting these places. Jeans are cool. Everybody wears them so you might want to blend in. For women, jeans, skirts, minis, lightweight dresses, and shorts are fine.
Filipinos do not normally wear coat and tie even in formal occasions, so unless you are attending a wedding, an official business function or meeting the president, leave your coat and tie behind.
Bring more clothes than you’re used to bringing since you will be sweaty and perspiring more than you think. A good deodorant and perfume are a must.
Another thing you should not forget to wear is a mosquito repellant, especially when you intend to engage in outdoor activities.
As a general rule of thumb, what to wear depends on what you plan to do. Manila and the rest of the Philippines are highly westernized. Foreign tourists who are visiting for the first time are usually surprised how much Filipinos talk and dress like Americans. In fact, historians and social analysts call Filipinos “brown Americans.”
So, do not worry what to wear in Manila. Be as how you would dress in your own city, only in a much, much warmer and more humid environment. If you feel you would like to put on something but left that piece of clothing at home, there are so many upscale department stores to buy a similar piece of clothing. No worries.