Manila Tour Guide 3.0
The time has come for me to update the Manila Guide (here’s part l and part ll) and it only took me 5 months to get it together. Ha. Moving right along, life has been crazy so this tour guide to Manila is for other busy people like me who just need a simple list and photos. Happy to share the Manila love. Enjoy peeps!
The Fort or BGC, is where most foreigners live so if you live there you can roll your eyes and disregard this tip. For those of us who live outside the bubble, I quite enjoy taking visitors to BGC because it has the South East Asia big city feel. With BGC High Street paving it’s way through 5 blocks of the city it’s an easy place to walk and explore. There are so many dining choices but I am partial to Din Tai Fung and newly opened Shake Shack.
Manila American Cemetery|
We take visitors to the Manila American Cemetery for its grandness. In all of Manila I don’t believe such a large green space exits. It’s clean, refreshing and has a depth of history and peace. Anyone can visit, you will leave your drivers license at the front gate. The cemetery closes at 5 pm daily.
Sidcor Sunday Market|
Sidcor Sunday Market is quickly becoming my favorite market to visit. It’s organized, has so many options but most importantly, it feels like a real Filipino market. Legazpi and Salcedo are both very nice weekend markets to visit but they very much cater to one social class. I enjoy Sidcor because it brings a nice mix of Manileños. Here are my ultimate guide to Divisoria and Cartimar.
Greenhills is a must if your visitors have never been to a market or swap meet in Asia. It has all the fakes you could ever want. It can be a shopping experience or you could spend time here just for pure sport! My mom and aunt once set a record goal of buying 13 purses in one morning.
I feel strongly that every visitor should visit at least one wet market during their visit. The palengke is a humanizing experience you won’t find anywhere. The culture can’t hide behind sky scrapers and foreign name brands at a wet market. Plus, prices are ALWAYS better at the palengke. Here are 8 markets to get you acquainted with Manila.
Kilus Foundation is one of my top tips for Manila visitors for a number of reasons. First, it’s a foundation so while you shop you are also supporting a livelihood project to better a group of Filipino people. The tetra pak bags are the misprinted or defective juice boxes from the factory that are then sewn and woven into these lovely useful bags. I also appreciate that this location isn’t found in a mall, you have to go the neighborhood where the factory is located and right next to the workshop is a lovely church (picture right) and a panaderia. This street gives me a glimpse into the real life of Pasigueños. I LOVE IT!
Telas De Mercato|
This stop was dedicated to the sewers in my family. I don’t imagine many others have family members that would travel across the world to lug back beautiful and affordable fabrics, but lucky for me, I do. Telas De Mercato is air conditioned, clean, organized and well priced for the high quality fabric you will buy.
You can read more about my visit here.
Give your family a heads up to get their spa services AFTER they arrive in Manila. A unique way the Philippines shines is with their spa services. You can get a high quality pedicure for under $10USD. Arrange a spa service the first few days of your visitors stay so they can get it all out of the way. This way they can enjoy a nice looking pedicure but also relax and fight the jet lag.
This photo is equal parts embarrassing as it awesome. Only in the Philippines can you get a full service like this. My mom has gotten her hair colored at Piandre the last 10 years she has been visiting me. My colorist DM at Ayala Malls 30th is the bomb.
You can read more about Piandre here.
I had five sisters and my mother visiting last February and they had an in-home massage almost every night of their stay. For all 5 nights of services these still didn’t come close to the price of one massage where they are from. We used Zennya and had a great experience.
There are few places located in Manila that allow you to feel this secluded in their secret garden. Rustic Mornings is an outdoor dining restaurant in Marikina that offers a fresh feeling of nature with a whimsical setting. The entire menu at Rustic Mornings is sobrang sarap! I am partial to having breakfast at Rustic Mornings because of the churro waffles but when I visited with my sisters and mom the lunch menu was just as strong.
Bamboo Bike Tour|
The Bamboo Bike Tour was a highlight of my families trip. It comes highly recommended even from my 65 year old mother. I wasn’t able to participate as I had class but I look forward to taking my own tour when the weather cools off a bit. Anything that gets visitors in Intramuros is a win in my book!
Tip: I recommend booking the Bamboo Bike Tour for the morning then visit the National Museum, Chinatown Museum or Museo San Augustin shortly after.
San Augustin Museum|
The San Augustin Museum and had a lovely visit admiring the dioramas and history of the Manila Galleons. The museum also tells a story of Catholicism in the Philippines, which is a remarkable feat. You will find art and antiquities not only from the Philippines but also Spain, Mexico, Singapore, and China. I highly recommend a visit if you are interested in history and beautiful architecture.
You can read about my visit here.
The National Museum of Natural History is newly opened and is an absolute must. The museum is a national treasure in my opinion and will shed a different narrative on the Philippines than most visitors have seen before. The narrative I am talking about is nature, lol.
You can read about our visit here.
Masungi Geo Reserve|
While Manila isn’t the greenest city it sure is settled next to some incredible tropical jungle. Masungi Georeserve is a once in a lifetime experience. You must make this work in your itinerary! Scaling over cliffs, repelling down mountains edges and swinging in hammocks - you must! Promise me?
You can read about our visit here.
Tip: I recommend visiting Masungi Georeserve in the morning, then stop for a quick shop at Crescent Moon Pottery then swing by Burrow Cafe for a late lunch. Cap your day off with a visit to Pinto Art Museum, you won’t regret it. You could even get a tattoo from a member of the Kalinga tribe while you’re there.
Crescent Moon Potter Garden|
After Masungi stop by family owned pottery garden, Crescent Moon. Crescent Moon really is a hidden treasure that I can’t keep secret. They have a lunch buffet if you choose to eat here as well. You can also stop for a quick shop and another secret: they sells surplus by the kilo in the back of the restaurant and it is so worth it!
Pinto Art Museum|
Pinto Art Museum is heaven on earth, I am convinced of this. A magical art museum created from white stucco and filled with local Filipino artist all accompanied with an open air breeze waltzing through. Heaven. Free tours area available so plan your visit accordingly.
You can read about our visits here.
Don’t forget to stop once in a while and take the beauty of the Filipino people in. Their smiles are infectious.
To break up our time in Manila and let my guests see more of the Philippines than the metropolitan I usually head to Batangas or Tagaytay. This trip we headed to a dreamy airbnb and spent a once in a lifetime dinner together. It was such a great overnight getaway.
While on the way to Tagaytay you must stop and try some fruitas. Yes, it’s very touristy but for good reason. it’s fun to try new fruits! Plus, we picked up some healthy snacks for our airbnb.
We stopped at Balay Dako for lunch because it usually has great Filipino food but this visit the meals weren’t that great and the prices seemed to have gone up. At least the view and ambiance were nice. How often can one say they ate lunch overlooking a volcano within a volcano all within a lake.
You can read about our visit here.
Tip: You could easily stop at the Starbucks just passed Balay Dako located on the ridge that has an incredible view of Taal.
The Airbnb we stayed in, Nara Hill, was crazy, we might as well been in Bali. We stayed in a Nip Hut overlooking the intense jungle that spilled out into the lake with Taal peering in the background. It was so fun and a unique experience for all of us.
There were so many highlights from our trip but honestly, I think this one is for the books. Antonio’s is remarkable. The food and ambiance really felt like a once in a life time experience (I keep repeating myself. I will not apologize instead I will use it to prove my point that Manila and the Philippines is truly incredible!). Full transparency, I was worried the dinner price was too high so I told my family we could just eat salad and dessert. Bahahhahahha! Kuripot ako. When we arrived we learned that for the price of the meal it included FIVE courses. Never will we experience a five course meal in the setting we did with the quality of service and ingredients for the price we did (except for me because I am definitely coming back here. Muahahaha.)
Bag Of Beans|
On our way out of Tagaytay we stopped at Bag Of Beans, a Tagaytay institution. I had never been and it piqued my interest. I would only recommend if you have time to spare and want an affordable breakfast with another gorgeous view.
The Farm At San Benito|
And for the cherry on top, The Farm At San Benito. We went for the day but sadly, the day rate has gone up this year. To get the most out of your visit I would recommend eating breakfast right before you check into the Farm and then extending your day just a bit more by ordering dinner right when your day pass expires. Like I sad, kuripot ako!
You can watch our visit here.
Hay Naku, Pilipinas you are a treasure trove and I love showing you off. Which by the way, isn’t hard to do. I really want us Manileños to have pride in where we live so I offer this visitors guide. May it show the incredible magic and wonder of this country.