The fantastic Pinto Art Museum is tucked away in the hills of Antipolo, a little east of the capital. The grounds alone, landscaped and dotted with sculptures, are worth the trip. The six spacious, semi-open-air galleries house some sprawling canvasses by local artists, most of them painted in the last two decades.
2. Mandalay Whisky and Cigars
Walk through The Belle & Dragon sports bar to a nondescript back room and look for a coat closet. This is the entrance to Mandalay Whisky and Cigars (100 Carlos Palanca, Legazpi Village, Makati), a dimly-lit secret cocktail bar. Makati’s most impressive selection of whisky awaits, including award-winning Yamazaki single malts. Regulars stow their favourite bottles in on-site cubbies.
3. Maginhawa Street
A pilgrimage to Maginhawa Street in the northern suburb of Quezon City is the best way to feel the pulse of Manila’s foodie culture. The range of affordable and exciting eateries includes old favourites like Van Gogh is Bipolar, with its five-course mood-enhancing meals; newcomer Soru Izakaya (below), a Filipino-Japanese fusion concept; and fashionable third-wave coffeeshop Catabolic Cafe.
A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spot at Poblacion, A’ Toda Madre has close to 100 different types of top-shelf tequila on offer and authentic Mexican street food, from mahi-mahi tacos to steak burritos and ceviche. The house margaritas are arguably Manila’s best and a steal at PHP150 (US$3).
Hidden off a busy commercial thoroughfare in Makati is this art and design hub featuring chic furniture shops, top galleries such as The Drawing Room (below), and fashionable cafes and restaurants like Toyo Eatery, a modern Filipino restaurant with a highly original tasting menu. Think local abalone with pickled ampalaya (bitter gourd) on dried taro leaves in coconut cream, and banana inipit (a type of pastry) with burnt custard and curry leaf.
6. Purple Yam
The downtown district of Malate, not Makati, was once Manila’s dining hub. Those days are gone, but in-the-know foodies still trek down to Malate to dine at Purple Yam, a reservations-only place with brilliant set meals composed mainly of locally sourced ingredients. Try their mudcrabs in a sauce made with tamarind and tellicherry black peppercorns, or their black rice paella (below). The setting is the owner’s gorgeous ancestral home that was built in 1949.
A favourite among Manila expats, the Salcedo Community Market (below), held on Saturdays, is the place to sample specialised cuisine from various Philippine regions. Aromas waft from some 40 food stalls and the entire experience is a feast for the senses. Must-try delicacies include ube (purple yam) flavoured suman (glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk and wrapped in banana leaves) and longaniza (a type of Spanish sausage similar to chorizo). The similar Legazpi Sunday Market takes place at the corner of Legazpi and Ruffani Streets on Sundays.
8. Esclota Street
For a history lesson on what Manila was like in its pre-WWII glory years, head down to Esclota Street. A few old Art Deco buildings still stand and a couple of museums display fascinating old photos. The historic First United Building is an up-and-coming artists’ zone, home to HUB: Make Lab (below), a creative space and market for all things alternative.
– TEXT BY GREG BLOOM
PHOTOS: PURPLE YAM, HUB: MAKE LAB, THE DRAWING ROOM, SUPPLIED
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.