New old eats
For a new twist on traditional Filipino fare, try Abe’s Kapampangan dishes such as bringhe (chicken, rice and coconut milk casserole). At the elegant Romulo Cafe, savour traditional Filipino comfort food like lechon kawali (deep-fried roasted pork). The walls of this cafe are adorned with historical photographs of the late general Carlos P. Romulo.
Shop like a local
For real bargains, visit the Greenhills Shopping Center, which locals frequent. It is famous for fashion items, freshwater and South Sea pearls, electronics and souvenirs. Another good place to shop for such items is the iconic 168 Shopping Mall in Divisoria. Here, you can find almost anything at unimaginably low prices, but be prepared to brave the crowded streets. And don’t be afraid to bargain!
The old walled city of Intramuros is a beautiful place to see how life was during Spanish times. I highly recommend the walking tour offered by Carlos Celdran. See the infamous Fort Santiago where our national hero Jose Rizal was incarcerated. You may also want to take a ride on a kalesa (horse-drawn carriage; above). Stop at San Agustin Church – the Philippines’ oldest stone church (built in 1589) – to see the Trompe L’oeil art-covered ceiling and walls.
Manila is known for its nightlife. Check out the hippest clubs and lounges in the heart of Bonifacio Global City. These include Hyve (8F W Global Center, 9th Ave corner 30th St), an upscale bar and lounge. Urbn Bar and Kitchen (3F Fort Pointe II Bldg, 28th St) is a trendy place to dance and dine. Another popular spot would be Buddha Bar in Makati.
Catch the sunset from vantage points along Roxas Boulevard, a famous waterfront stretch teeming with hotels, bars and restaurants. Or enjoy it on Manila Bay with a sunset cruise that includes dinner.
Fiestas or festivals – celebrated year round – are part of the rich Filipino culture. Many are religious and honour the patron saints of different cities or towns. Festivals celebrated in May include the Catholic Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May), during which flowers are offered to the image of the Virgin Mary. Travel further afield to Lucban in Quezon Province to experience the Pahiyas Festival. Held in honour of St Isidro, the patron saint of farmers, the festival sees people decorating the exterior of their homes with kiping (leaf-shaped rice wafers).
Travel just over an hour by car to Tagaytay for spectacular views of Taal Volcano. At Tagaytay, visit Antonio’s for dishes like tempura scallops with lumpfish caviar.
Or take a 1.5 hour ferry ride to the island of Corregidor, which was used as a fortress to defend Manila Bay during World War II. Besides visiting the historical monuments here, you can also enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking.
View other useful insider’s guides.
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.