This study seeks to understand the internal structure of the City of Manila – a highly urbanised city in the westernmost region of Metropolitan Manila, the Philippines, and often considered one of the densest cities in the world.

It analyses the social, economic and spatial structures of the city to consider emerging patterns of neighbourhood distribution and key challenges for the development of sustainable neighbourhoods.

Key findings:
  • The City of Manila is an example of a persistently expanding historic city that has seen continuous population growth in recent decades.
  • Manila’s land cover consists of almost entirely built-up areas, with vertical and interstitial expansion transitioning to land reclamation.
  • Neighbourhoods of varying types, intensities and wide socioeconomic groups can be found in all districts of the city. Unconventional living
    quarters have existed for several years, including dwellings in abandoned ancestral buildings, old cinemas and a public cemetery.
  • Proximity to places of work and access to urban services are among the primary drivers of the settlement pattern in Manila. Its centrality, however,
    does not guarantee that quality and adequate social services are extended to residents, especially among lower-income neighbourhoods.
  • Barangays – the smallest political and administrative unit in the Philippines – tend not to completely capture the nuances, functionalities and
    even boundaries of neighbourhoods (kapitbahayan) in Manila. A new way of approaching kapitbahayan based on ‘lived understanding’ of
    neighbourhoods can shed light on the attainment of good health, quality education and sustainable living for the population of Manila.