For anyone visiting the Philippines for the first time: If ever you find yourself in Metro Manila, don’t dismiss the Philippine capital as simply a take-off point to the country’s amazing beaches and mountain escapes. Last week amidst all the deadlines and the running, I got to squeeze in some time to get out of the house for a walking tour in historic Intramuros, Manila, a little shopping in the bohemian enclave of Cubao X in Quezon City, and a serving of art and Eggs Benedict in a park in Makati City.
In one afternoon…
“If These Walls Could Talk” Intramuros tour by Carlos Celdran: A quick history lesson of Manila can be had in this popular walking tour around the oldest district of Manila in Intramuros by Carlos, dubbed ‘the Pied Piper of Manila.’ Covering Fort Santiago, Father Blanco’s Garden, San Agustin Church, and Casa Manila, the tour offers a funny and educational history of Manila from pre-Hispanic times to 300 years of Spanish rule, to the American colonization, World War II, and until the present time with Carlos’s brand of irreverent humor and engaging spiel. (I just think it would be great if Carlos lets the group go around Fort Santiago for a bit on their own–like he does with the next stop–since it’s a pretty small area anyway.) I love this quote of his on the city: “I believe that Manila can be a reflection of your state of mind. Being a city of extreme contrasts it can easily become an intense personal experience. Manila can be chaotic and spiritual, dirty and divine, gritty and gorgeous all at once. If you don’t find beauty and poetry here, you will never find it anywhere.”
Carlos Celdran’s Walk This Way Tour, celdrantours.blogspot.com
In the evening…
Cubao X. Known before as Marikina Shoe Expo in Araneta Center, my friends and I used to go to this place on Saturday mornings to check out the second-hand clothing stores (ukay-ukay) that were located in the U-shaped compound. A couple of years later, a group of artists decided to open an art gallery called Future Prospects and a filmmaker who was into cool vintage furniture opened Vintage Pop. It attracted people from different parts of the local art scene and led to a number of other shops opening–from those selling charming curios to old records. A bar (Mogwai) now stands where Future Prospects used to be, and a photo gallery/coffee shop (Manila Collective) now occupies the space of Vintage Pop. Several shops and galleries have gone, but thankfully, they are always replaced by something just as interesting.
While I don’t get to go there as often as before (the crowd now appears younger–college students and twentysomethings–or it can be because I’m getting older), it’s a great place to visit–to have a beer or coffee, look (or buy) local artwork, shop for clothes (second-hand or brand new), accessories and even comic books. When there are gallery openings or some other events, local bands sometimes play on the street and the evening can be a pretty memorable one. Loud but memorable. (I am getting old.) Cubao X is located at Gen. Romulo Ave. in Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City. The MRT (along EDSA) and LRT Purple Line have stops at Araneta Center.
On a Saturday morning…
Salcedo Park. Also known as the Jaime Velasquez Park in Salcedo Village, Makati, it is the venue for the popular Salcedo Saturday Market, which features many stalls selling fresh produce and fish as well as freshly cooked food from different cuisines from 7 am to 2 pm. Once a year (around February), the Museum Foundation of the Philippines also hold Art in the Park in Salcedo. This year we saw wewilldoodle’s live art by the playground, Ral Arrogante’s whimsical weather vanes, a lot of installation art, paintings from different galleries, artist collective, and art colleges in the country. In between, checking out the artwork at the park (or buying food at the marketplace) you can duck into the nearby Coffee Bean or Starbucks for some coffee and air-conditioning, the gallery at the Picasso Service Apartments for more art, or Apartment 1B for a cozy and lovely meal.
Salcedo Park is between Leviste and Tordesillas Streets in Makati City. Apartment 1B is at the corner of Leviste and Sedeno Streets.