I highly recommend Abe Restaurant, which serves up local favourites such as kare-kare (oxtail stew with a thick peanut sauce). The food here brings back many childhood memories of my mum’s home-cooked meals. Be sure to also visit Dampa (Filipino for “hut”), a row of restaurants along Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard. Here, you can select fresh seafood from an array of market stalls and have it cooked your way at a restaurant of your choice. Another must-visit is Salcedo Saturday Market at Jaime C. Velasquez Park. On offer is a wide range of gourmet and organic produce, as well as diverse street food from all around the world – think Polish pierogi (filled dumplings) and Japanese takoyaki (octopus balls), to name just a few.
SM Mall of Asia is one of the largest malls in the world. Situated right by the scenic Manila Bay, the sprawling complex offers a good mix of local and global brands, as well as various leisure and entertainment facilities. For souvenirs, check out Balikbayan Handicrafts and Kultura Filipino for local and handmade products like woven baskets, mother-of-pearl photo frames, wooden toys and more.
To learn more about Manila’s rich cultural heritage, visit Intramuros, a medieval walled city with churches and schools lining its cobblestone streets. You can take a guided tour of the district on a horse-drawn calesa (calash) for a small fee. The city is also home to many top-class museums and galleries, such as the Ayala Museum (known for its ethnographic and archaeological collections), the National Museum of the Philippines (great for art) and the recently opened National Museum of Natural History (for beautiful exhibits on native flora and fauna).
Manila’s traffic is unpredictable, so factor in ample buffer time when planning your itinerary. The best time to visit is between December and February, when the weather is cooler; you’ll also get to experience the exuberant Christmas celebrations that the Philippines is so renowned for.
ILLUSTRATION BY TOMMY PARKER