This past month I was finally able to go back to the Philippines after 22 years. My first visit was way back in 1990 when I was six years old for a family reunion on my dad’s side. This time, the main purpose was to visit my grandma who just turned 96.
After the 14 hour flight, we arrived in Manila at 4 AM. After waiting for our luggage, we were out and on the road by 5 AM on a Sunday. To my surprise the streets were packed and there was actually traffic. The jeepneys that I remember from when I was a kid were filled with people. People were roaming the streets at Manila Bay, and exercising at the show theatre. It was a pretty big shock. Sure, the sun was out, and everything was bright, but it was 5AM! My first meal there was at Aristocrat on the way back to our place. Yup, this restaurant had a few people there, and more and more people came in as we ate. My cousin told me that the lifestyle is different here. The sun rises earlier, roosters wake you up, and many people work shift hours because there are many call centres that go all through the night. Being a Sunday, many people were probably going to church too.
I guess the traffic wasn’t too bad, because it wasn’t until later, when driving around started to scare me. Where 3 lanes turn into 5, and people are cutting each other off everywhere, and there are scooters going between the cars, and people dodging the cars. People tail other people like crazy too. Seems like the jeepney’s loved to accelerate and brake hard just to be right up on the ass if the car infront.
Anyways, I really wanted to check out the big malls, so I checked out Mall of Asia which was huge, but did have a lot of open space. It even had an ice skating rink that I skated on (Bad ice! Disgusting rental skates! – Stinky and damp, and made out of Scuba material with very little support on the sides). Also quite expensive for me because we got there 1 hour prior to closing. It’s an all day rate of $10 which I guess isn’t bad.
I also got to visit Green Belt in Makati, which was the one I was more excited for because they had the high end stuff. It’s the cool, downtown area of Manila too. That being said it was really expensive. Men’s Louis Vuitton Wallets turned out to be equivalent to $800. Even Onitsuka Tiger shoes were about $120, and their t-shirts were $80. No way I was buying there when I know I can get it cheaper in North America. I guess not everything is cheaper in Asia. I’m sure you can get cheap stuff, but not the stuff I was looking for. This is the probably the area I’d want to live in or have a place to stay.
My first trip was a short 1 hour plane ride to Caticlan and then a 10 minute boat ride to Boracay. One of the most popular beaches in the Philippines. It has one side of the island where all the hotels and really nice beach is. Very long, with nice clean beaches, and very clear water. I was able to get my PADI SCUBA Open Water Certification there, but it was more expensive than other places. I also got to visit Shangri La there which was very secluded, and far from the main beach area. It’s very private and very quiet. I don’t think there was any food that Boracay is really known for, so we just ate at a bunch of places. I was told that I should try a place called 15 Shots and Still Standing at a bar in station 1, but never made it there. I was also with just my parents, and feeling a bit nauseous from all of the Nitrogen I inhaled from SCUBA diving, so it wouldn’t have been too smart. Next time, with friends.
My second trip was to Cebu, and we stayed at Plantation Bay Resort. The thing I was told that Cebu was known for was their Lechon. It’s different and doesn’t require the Mang Thomas sauce (sarsa). We got some lechon from the airport before taking our shuttle to the resort, but it was pretty much all gone. We were stuck with the head which I didn’t want to touch. The next day however, we were able to get someone to tour us around Cebu. We got to CnT Lechon which is one of two really popular places. OMG it was so delicious fresh. I also bought a entire pig which we brought on the plane back to Manila, but it didn’t hold up well. The super crispy skin was no longer crisp. The lechon did live up to the expectations when it was fresh though. I also got to visit the dried fish market, which stinks, and the best Filipino guitar company called Allegre. I got to try out their top of the line guitar, which was 65000 pesos, or about $1600. It was a classical guitar too. Our resort was pretty cool, because we had a man made lagoon right outside our balcony. The activities I wanted to do there were so expensive though. $20 to shoot 7 bullets in a handgun, and $18 for another set. $30 to shoot 15 bullets from a rifle. Such a ripoff. 15 bullets would disappear so fast. Parasailing was also quite expensive at about $90, and you need two people.
My next trip was to Tagaytay, where they are known for their bulalu, or kind of like a beef soup/stew, with bone marrow. I tried it a bunch, and was happy with it. Seemed like everywhere had it. The thing about Tagaytay is that it has a great view of the Taal volcano. Which is a huge volcano, with another smaller active volcano inside it. I didn’t get to ride a horse up a trail up the mountain because of very foggy and rainy weather. They did say that area is very similar to Vancouver because of all the rain. We also went to Nasugbo which is about another 45 minutes away and stayed at a nice resort called Canyon Cove. I did the zipline at the park, but it was very slow, and not very exhilarating. $10 for two rides, a picture, and a mug though.
Basically my trip was Manila for 3 days, go away, Manila for 1/2 day, fly the next morning, back to Manila for 1/2 day, then drive away next morning. Then I came back for another 1/2 day, and then flew home. Very tiring. And that was my trip. I didn’t get to travel around Manila much because of the bad traffic, and because there wasn’t much time there. I’m sure there were a lot of places to eat, but we also ate at home a lot. Keep reading, and I’ll post the different restaurants and food I tried, and slowly build up this list here.
- Chow King
- Holy Cow!
- Elements Gastrolounge
- Ziggurat Cuisine (just stopped by for tea on a drunken night)
- Caffe Ti Amo
- Murphy’s (an Irish pub to watch rugby and drink beer)
- CnT Lechon
- Palermo at Plantation Bay
- Kilimanjaro Kafe at Plantation Bay
- Savannah Grill at Plantation Bay