Hometown: Manila

I have often declared my love for Japan in this blog in a number of entries. While the land of Astro-Boy, geisha and cherry blossoms has stolen my heart, it is Manila, the city where I was born and raised, where it holds roots. Though I still live within Metro Manila (the National Capital Region comprised of different cities including Manila), just less than an hour away from where I grew up, I don’t get to revisit the familiar places of my childhood as often as I want–Escolta, an old commercial center where my mom used to work; the busy marketplaces and crowded streets of Binondo and Divisoria, where my family often went to shop (or Harrison Plaza, the only shopping mall back then if my parents were in the mood to splurge); Rizal Park and Manila Zoo, where my parents took us when we were kids. They are way past their glory days, but still worth a visit–whether for the bargains, the hole-in-the-wall eateries and the old buildings.

So it was exciting when my former editor asked me to join her to write the pocket-sized travel guide she was commissioned to do for Enjoy Philippines on Manila, sometime mid-last year. It was also, I realized, unnerving to write about places close to your heart, while keeping expectations as grounded as possible for Manila-newbies, who may very well not find an ounce of charm in all the chaos, the noise, the grime, and the crowds that is part of everyday Manila. And we had to do it in a sentence or two per attraction or dining destination. It was a challenge, but editing skills came in handy (mostly my editor’s) and the project made me appreciate Manila even more.

Then last December, I was asked to do a travel story on Manila from the point of view of a local celebrity for the February 2011 issue of Jetstar Australia. It felt good to be able to write about the place where you come from, and (fingers-crossed) to capture its energy, its charming corners, and even its sins. Below are some photos of Manila from a few years back to a few months ago when I was able to go around and, well, water those roots. They are of a number of Manila attractions that a first-time visitor might want to visit to get a bit of culture, history and good food. (Looking again at the photos, I just realized that though Manila is densely populated, the photos hardly have any people in them, mostly because they were taken either on an early weekday morning or a slow Saturday afternoon.)

Early morning at the baywalk of Roxas Boulevard. A good spot to see the famed Manila Bay sunset

One afternoon a few years back, my friends and I decided to see Juan Luna’s Spoliarium at the National Museum. It’s a must-see. (Background is the Manila City Hall)

Lobby of the National Museum. You cannot bring your camera inside the exhibition halls so I have no photo of the Spoliarium

A portion of the facade of San Agustin Church, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Intramuros, Manila. Taken back in 2007 when P and I went on a Walk This Way Tour around Manila by Carlos Celdran

San Agustin Church repainted, 2010

A ‘guardia sibil’ in Casa Manila beside San Agustin Church

Casa Manila, a museum that is a reconstruction of a Spanish colonial home

Fort Santiago

After going around the historic Intramuros area, you can have a cold drink and a snack at the cafe of fine-dining restaurant, Ilustrado

Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown, is a great place to have good Chinese food in the city. Wai Ying is one of those casual eateries popular with residents

National Museum: P. Burgos Ave.
San Agustin Church and Casa Manila: Gen. Luna and Real Streets, Intramuros
Ilustrado: Gen Luna St., Intramuros
Fort Santiago: Gen. Luna St., Intramuros (Gen. Luna St. is one long street)
Wai Ying: 810 Benavidez St., Binondo

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10 thoughts on “Hometown: Manila

  1. This post made me want to explore Manila a.s.a.p. I’ve never done this for over 10 yrs now. There were those days before that I wanted to hop on a jeepney and head to Luneta and chinatown but I was a bit scared to roam around chinatown all by myself 🙂

  2. This post made me miss the shops and eateries of Escolta and Binondo, and yes, Sta. Cruz Church, with all the puppies for sale. Remember the puppies? I remember wanting to bring home all those puppies every time we stopped by the church after lunch.

    Halika na nga, let’s go this Sunday! Cris and Mia Chua gave me the address of a good vegan resto in Binondo. Or do estero, like I promised!

    • Oh my God, yes the puppies outside Sta. Cruz Church. P and I bought a puppy there for his sister years ago and he turned out to be half-Labrador.

      Aren’t most of the shops in Binondo/Divi area closed during Sundays? Will ask mom and send you a msg later.

    • No need to say please 🙂 I’m up for an adventure! What do you have in mind? We can even do it on a weekday fellow freelancer, para di maraming tao (well depends where, hehe). Text mo ko! (Sama na lang tayong tatlo ni Mabi, hehe)

  3. yes, i’m all for the weekday traveling (allergic ako sa crowds). and yes, sama natin si mabi. baka may idea si mabi? i’m really up for anything. food trip, dancing class, visiting sick animals, watching the pawikan…kahit anoooo!

  4. sorry po sa pagsingit at baka medyo non-sequitur ang segue pero baka gusto niyo ring umakyat sa yobags this weekend 🙂 it will be the international arts festival (feb 20-27) and i will be a part of it so baka lang from escolta eh gusto niyo na ring idiretso nang Baguio, hehehe

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