No matter how many times you visit Metro Manila (which consists of four cities and 13 municipalities), the ever-changing metropolis never ceases to surprise. On my longest visit to the city last April, I tried to cram as many things to do, places to explore and people to see.
Living in Metro Manila for a quarter of my life (I grew up in Quezon City, studied in a university in Manila for four years, and worked in Makati and Ortigas after graduation), you’d think I know the place like the back of my hand. But each visit still felt different.
Visiting my family on my father’s birthday.
Like Manila, I’ve evolved, too. I gained a healthier appetite for new and exciting experiences. Back then, my focus was to graduate, get a job and help my father send my siblings to school so traveling for pleasure was unthinkable. I’m grateful that I can afford to follow my curiosity now – from sampling new food to checking new local sights and attractions. And this is why exploring Manila has always been high up on my list.
Here you’ll find the places I explored, the restaurants I appreciated, and the great people I spent time with in Manila. Browse this quick post and who knows, you might stumble upon something you want to try on your next trip to the capital:
Gliding through Intramuros with Dr. Maria Majan Esteban, a close friend from college.
While Neil was attending a conference in Marriott Manila, I managed to squeeze in a meet-up with Em at Intramuros. To try something a bit more fun than a typical chat over coffee, we went on a Segway tour of old Manila. For a little over an hour, we began the drive from Intramuros Golf Course and admired the grand historic walls, buildings, and paths we saw along the way. I understand that it’s a bit intimidating to glide over uneven lawn and rolling landscape on a Segway Personal Transporter (PT) but think of it as a bicycle and you will get the hang of this self-balancing electric vehicle in no time. Segway-ing is also faster and less sweaty than walking inside Manila’s famous walled city. A must-try. 🙂
Sarsá Kitchen + Bar (Filipino Restaurant)
Makati remains as one of Metro Manila’s most happening spots so you’d likely find plenty of hotels and sprawling bed and breakfasts here. I got a scoop from Jewel that she stayed in Antel Spa Residences for a really good rate. With her advice, I didn’t have to book through AirBNB. Instead, I directly contacted the owner of a studio room in Antel for a 3-night stay. If you’re not messy, tell your AirBNB host that you want to waive the cleaning fee. Since Antel is surrounded by restaurants, cafes, bars and shops, you don’t have to worry about entertainment, drinks, or food.
The Subway fast food chain located at 7844 Mavenue Bldg, Unit MBG2, Makati Avenue, Makati can be easily overlooked due to its humble size. But for someone who missed the franchise, it’s easy to notice. Open all week, this sandwich spot surely hits the spot. It also happens to be just a few steps away from where we were staying in Makati (Antel).
Coffee in Subway isn’t good so I suggest to skip it. Go directly to Crepe Amelie instead. Located at A. Venue Mall in Makati, it’s a five-minute walk from Subway (and from our room in Antel Residence). As the name suggests, the specialty here is crepe but we didn’t try it. They offer other meals as well as coffee and tea options. Crepe Amelie has fewer than 20 indoor and outdoor seats yet it looked deceptively spacious. The intimate atmosphere would also make you want to order more just so could extend your stay without being embarrassed.
High School Mini-Reunion at Gerry’s Grill, UP Town Center
Meeting the IV-I boys at Gerry’s Grill UP Town Center – Ayala 360.
My ever-supportive high school classmates agreed to meet up in UP Town Center for dinner. I set up the rendezvous but I was late. My excuse? I had to stay a little longer at my family’s house to celebrate my father’s birthday plus I got lost while searching for UP Town Center. Of all cities in Metro Manila, I never imagined Quezon City (where I grew up) would become such a stranger! The boys, I mean the guys, forgave me. I really had fun catching up with Christian, Manuel, Dave, RC, and Joseph. It was so cool how we could easily pick up where we left off and talk about the last decade as if it was a short period that passed.
Jewel gladly introduced us to the best chicken in town!
Looking for a lunch spot that serves grilled chicken with phenomenal selections of sauce? Señor Pollo, a Latin restaurant in Ebro Street Makati, is a great stop. Dip the moist, tender meat on a chili, sweet and sour, or garlic sauce for the best eating experience. The place is al-fresco (without air-con) so it’s not good to wear thick garments on your visit here. The interiors are artsy and I imagine hanging out here at night to be hip and fun. I haven’t tried it as we were heading back to the airport to catch a flight back to Cebu. If you have, tell me about the experience, will you?
Venice Piazza Grand Canal Mall
Have a few hours before your boarding time? Drop by Venice Piazza Grand Canal Mall before your flight. A mere three hours would be enough to soak up the grand view in this little version of Venice. Find tourists being driven by a gondolier on a greenish water via a single canal. Though you are not on a boat, it’s fun to watch guests happily gliding through the canal on a pretty gondola. For many of us who haven’t been to Venice, this replica helps us better picture what’s out there (though I want to hear the opinion of those who have been to the real Venice for reference). You will easily hit your 10,000 steps if you explore each store in the Canal. Enjoy window shopping or pick up some last-minute souvenirs before you leave.
As you can see, taming Metro Manila in just a few days wasn’t exactly a cinch. But it’s doable. If you try it, you will always find a reason to keep coming back!