By Ana Maria Villanueva-Lykes
You’ve fallen in love with her beautiful chaos, drowned in her swirl of colors. There is no one quite like her. You’ve been away for so long, yet you still hear the echo of her voice. It’s a cacophony of sounds- the honking of colorful jeepneys, the cry of the ballot vendor, calling for your return. And so you go back, seeking out her smells, the intoxicating scent of sampaguita, the mouth-watering aroma of street food fare. On your reunion, go on a full day date with her and re experience her splendor. An hour or two is not enough. Rekindle the spark with Manila with this sunrise to sunset itinerary:
You’ve lived on cereal for so long; it’s time to enjoy breakfast the way you used to with large helpings of fried rice, eggs, and chorizo. Dulcinea has some of the best Filipino breakfast favorites including chorizo bilbao, chorizo Pamplona and jamon serrano sprinkled with a generous helping of tradition. Their famous Spanish style Churros Con Chocolate will give you the sugar buzz that you need to start off your Manila tour.
Dulcinea has ten branches all over the city, but it’s best to have your breakfast at Greenbelt 1 in Makati where you’ll be close to your next stop. If you have the craving for freshly baked puto bumbong or bibingka, head over to Via Mare or to the Manila Peninsula.
9:00 Historical tour
Start your day quietly at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, a sprawling green 152-acre plateau at the Global City Taguig, a short scenic ride from Makati. The cemetery contains the largest number of graves of American heroes from World War II. White washed headstones stand in a uniform circular pattern, reminiscent of how these soldiers used to stand in attention. Around these sentinels are a lush variety of tropical trees and shrubberies that offer a quiet sanctuary in the middle of a concrete jungle. Outside is a spectacular view of the Laguna de Bay and neighbouring mountains. Close by is the Cemetery of Heroes where our own heroes and martyrs are laid to rest.
It won’t be a tour without the shopping, and Pinoys are known for cheap retailing. From Taguig, take the C5 road to Tiendesitas in Pasig City. Tiendesitas offers a new shopping experience, showcasing the best Philippine products from art, antiques, furniture, pets, plants, to novelty items, souvenirs, native delicacies, and fashion. More than 450 traders sell their wares under Maranao inspired pavilions adorned with cogon grass, old kalesa wheels, and duyans.
Before you blow all your hard-earned dollars on antique jars, head back to Taguig for lunch at Serendra Piazza. Serendra at Bonifacio Global City is a two level indoor and outdoor diner’s paradise. If you’re missing lola’s dishes, Conti’s or Abe’s is a great choice.
Head over to old Manila, to trace your roots in Intramuros. Within the walled city are numerous places of interest that harks back to the 16th century Spanish colonial period. The San Agustin Church is the oldest church in the country. The Trompe-l’œil painted ceiling, the ornately carved massive door, the choir loft with 17th century molave seats, and the courtyard make the San Agustin Church a worthy stop. Beside the Church is the museum, home to countless church artifacts, statues, paintings with gold niches from the 17th century, and tombs of Spanish conquistadors like Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Juan de Salcedo.
Barbara’s across the museum has a little courtyard where you can cool off and share a slice of decadent chocolate cake with caramel sauce. Upstairs is the dining hall that takes you back to the 17th century with its lavish chandeliers and ornately bordered mirrors, and traditional Filipino and Spanish cuisine.
If you prefer the oriental delicacies, head to Binondo for some Chinese buns and hopia. Be careful because you can get lost in Chinatown, allured by the good luck charms, exotic ingredients, and jewelry in shops and stalls along the streets.
3:30 Spa treatment
Rejuvenate at the Wensha Spa Center near the World Trade Center for a very affordable body massage and treatment. Be warned though, the center allows you to sleep over, so there might be a good chance you’ll doze and miss the rest of your Manila date.
5:45 Dinner cruise
Head over to the Manila Baywalk for the world renowned Manila Bay sunset. The water reflects the fusion of city lights and the burst of colors in the sky. After the dazzling display, take a moment to reflect at the Malate Church, just across Roxas Boulevard, famous for its Baroque style and history.
Later, take a walk towards the Harbor Square in the CCP Complex for the Spirit of Manila Prestige Cruise. Experience Manila from afar, on a moving vantage point while dining al fresco over a full course gourmet meal.
Once back on land, rediscover just how Manila loves to party. At the Remedios Circle are bars with character and life that offer a variety of entertainment options from live bands to ballroom dancing. In quiet cafes, the artsy spirits toast to poetry and food art.
Intoxicated with the festive air and the bottles of wine and spirits, wind down at Cafe Adriatico, dubbed as “the first true Filipino café,” by the late food connoisseur Doreen Fernandez. Indulge on a midnight snack of Salpicao and Chocolate Eh.
1:30 Second wind
If the rich dose of chocolate gives you a second wind, take a ride back to Greenbelt 3, Makati at Absinthe for a glass of the anise-flavored “Green Fairy” while dancing to the beats of DJs imported from all over the world.
Not quite done yet? Put on your dancing shoes and dance with Latin flair or snack on some tapas at the Cafe Havanna in Greenbelt 3.
4:30 Turning in
Before the sun catches you, head over to the Horizon Club of the Makati Shangri-la where you can finally rest your weary head in a pillow of luxury and dream of your love affair with the city that will always be in your heart.
(The author maintains a travel blog – http://anaviajera.com.)