Category Archives: Manila

Wandering around museums

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

~ Pablo Picasso
If you find reading books to learn about a country’s history and culture too tedious, go to museums. That’s a more exciting way of learning given that there are visuals to aid it. And museums, being (mostly) quiet, offer a break from the daily nuisance of a bustling city.
It seemed unlikely, but in spite of living in Baguio City for 9 months, I didn’t visit the BenCab Museum. When I went back to the place a year later in January, 2017, it was originally part of my itinerary. But curling up during chilly mornings in Baguio is irresistible, so instead of going out early, I heeded the bed’s call.
Being an item in my bucket list this year, it must be ticked off, so in May, when my friends and I went to Baguio (my second visit this year), we went to the distant museum despite the limited time we had.

Continue reading Wandering around museums

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Palatable adventure in Binondo

There’s something about Manila that lures me into exploring it. The atmosphere, perhaps?
Traversing the streets of Manila transcends a feeling of going back in time and watching the colorful culture circling the place. Despite the modern structures, moving around Manila feels like living inside a history book, seeing the historic capital described in it firsthand.
As part of my urban exploration, my friend and I visited the oldest Chinatown in the world—our very own Manila Chinatown in Binondo. Established in 1594, Manila Chinatown offers a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
How to get there
Well, I can only talk about how we got there, but this is still useful information.

 

From any southbound station, take the MRT and get off at Taft Avenue station. Then, take the LRT and alight at Carriedo station. We walked from the station going to Binondo, but I’m sure there are jeepneys headed that way. We just navigated the route through Google Maps and decided to walk since it’s a short distance. It took us 7 minutes or less to reach our first stop.
Ying Ying Restaurant
It was lunch time when we arrived and the two-story diner was full. There’s nothing spectacular about the interior. In fact, it’s akin to a school cafeteria. But it being jam-packed hinted that an exciting feast awaited us. The intervals between people coming out and going in were short.
We ordered braised beef noodles, fried pork dumplings, shrimp hakaw, and black gulaman. While waiting for our food, we helped ourselves with the house tea that sat waiting for hungry souls on the table. It was newly brewed, as the tea pot was hot.
A few minutes later, food was served. And indeed, it was an appetizing meal!
Braised Beef Noodles

Shrimp Hakaw
Wai Ying
We were hoping to eat Xiao Long Bao (pork wonton with savory soup inside), but it isn’t in Ying Ying’s menu, so we headed to Wai Ying after we chowed down on our food.
Wai Ying is another go-to restaurants when it comes to wonton and dumplings. Unfortunately, they’re not serving Xiao Long Bao either, so we ended up eating dessert instead. Their coffee jelly and buko pandan are superb!
We did not give up on our quest. We continued looking for a restaurant serving the savory dish. We tried our luck at Dong Bei Dumblings on Yuchengco St. The food joint has been receiving raves online, so it piqued our interest. Sure enough, the food joint serves Xiao Long Bao.
But there was one more problem: it was jam-packed and we were on the waiting list. And it seemed that we wouldn’t be able to get settled in the next half hour.
Chuan Kee
Since we didn’t want to waste our time waiting, we decided to buy hopia and other food items we can take home at Eng Bee Tin on Ongpin St.
After paying at the counter, we used the toilet located on the second floor. When I came back downstairs, my friend told me that the food joint adjacent to Eng Bee Tin had Xiao Long Bao in their menu. The food joint which we thought to be Café Mezzanine is in fact called Chuan Kee. They serve 10 pcs. of Xiao Long Bao for P170.
We knew at that point that our food trip in Binondo was drawing to a close since we had already found the highlight of our palatable adventure.
We placed our order, waited, and presto! Our eyes widened in glee as though we were presented with a precious gift.
We feasted on the juicy meaty goodness of each piece and savored the food trip’s finale one Xiao Long Bao at a time.
Xiao Long Bao
Expenses
The best thing about dining out in Binondo is, you don’t need to spend a fortune to get your fill. With less than a thousand pesos, your tummy will be happy. Here’s the breakdown of our expenses:
Expense per person
Ying Ying
P227.50
Wai Ying
P60.00
Chuan Kee
P138.50
Total
P426.00
You might spend more than that depending on your appetite, but that amount, I can say, is enough to satisfy your cravings.
Now I know what else lures me into exploring Manila: the sumptuous feast that you can find in places that marked our country’s history and have become part of our heritage.
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Davao adventure—my first shot at solo traveling

Part 1: Sprinting to the airport

All the seats by the window were taken, so I had no choice but to settle for a middle seat.
I thought I wouldn’t make it to the airport on time. At 3:45 PM, I was still on the MRT, wishing that it was a bullet train I was riding on. This is bad. My flight is at 6 pm!
At 4 pm, I was still at the station, trying to hail a cab to NAIA Terminal 3, but getting refused every time.
Damn Manila traffic.
I had to use my last resort: Grab Car. With a bit of hesitation, I pulled out my phone, clutched it tight in my hand—lest someone would snatch it—and ran a booking. At that point, I didn’t mind paying a higher amount, which was brought about by the price surge, just to catch my flight. While in the car, crazy thoughts were running in my head.
What if I don’t make it on time? Shall I book another flight? Shall I just stay in Manila and feel sorry for myself for a flopped trip? Shall I go somewhere else and just forget about all the plans I laid out, the paid reservation at the hotel, and all the crazy stuff I should be doing in Davao City?
Then my optimistic side toppled the pessimism. I will make it.
I arrived at the departure area a few minutes before 5. After getting through the X-ray machine and having my bags checked, I went straight to the self service check-in machine, half-walking, half-running and panting the whole time.

A beautiful Cebu Pacific personnel assisted me along the check-in process and in less than a minute, I got my boarding pass. I was then told to go straight to Gate 116, as boarding time was 5:15 pm.

Whew, thank God I made it. Now, I wait.
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Beauty and the Beast: An enchanting retelling of a familiar love story

Once upon a time, there was a self-centered, haughty prince living in a majestic castle in the middle of the dark woods.

One night, an old woman knocked on the castle’s gargantuan door, begging to be accommodated for the night. The prince, selfish as he was, refused to let the old woman stay despite the cold and harsh environment of the forest.
She begged a second time, telling him not to make judgments based on one’s appearance, but the prince rejected and banished her. Little did he know that the old woman was an enchantress putting him to test. A few moments later, she transformed to reveal her true self.
Realizing his mistake, the prince knelt before her and begged for her forgiveness. But it was too late. She cast a spell on him and turned him into a hideous beast. The spell would be undone only if he would learn to love and someone would love him in return before the last petal of the rose from the enchantress falls.

Many miles beyond the woods, there was a beautiful lady living with her genius old man in a provincial town. She was so lovable that a muscular over-confident hunter named Gaston was allured by her beauty. But she always turned him down.
One night, as her father was traveling to an invention fair, he got lost in the forest upon getting attacked by a pack of wolves. He found the castle and knocked on the door for shelter. He found himself talking to a human clock and human candelabra. When the Beast found out, he was so enraged he made the old man a prisoner, believing that he was an intruder intending to reveal his secret.
When the young lady knew of his father’s disappearance, she searched for him in the woods where she chanced upon the castle. She entered it and found her father locked away in a corner.
Realizing there was another intruder, the Beast got angry and attempted to banish the lady. But the lady begged the beast to release her father and take her in his stead. Upon hearing this, the Beast commanded his servants to send the old man out of the castle without letting the lady say goodbye to him.
Having heard this fairy tale many times, we know what happened next.
There was a thick barrier between the main characters at first, but it eventually broke down, giving way to a love that conquered everything. And just like other fairy tales, the Beast and the lady lived happily ever after.
This is the story of Belle and the prince. This is the story of Beauty and the Beast.
For the first time, the original Broadway stage musical adaptation of this ever famous love story has come to the Philippines to create a spectacular world of romance for the Filipino audience at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theater.
Indeed, the musical is fascinating from start to finish, but I’d like to zero in on several elements that stood out.
Stage design
Sure, it’s a Broadway musical. They’ve got the budget to afford a majestic stage design. But it definitely takes craftsmanship, creativity and imagination to yield a masterful output that will make the audience imagine that they are physically in the story. Alongside this, skillfully carrying out the director’s precise instructions is essential in achieving a seamless transition of scenes onstage. And they’ve achieved it.
The enchantress
The musical opened with a short narration of how the haughty prince turned into a hideous beast. The old woman who later revealed herself as an enchantress was an essential character. Onstage, there was a hunched woman begging the prince for temporary shelter. With a few flicker of lights, the hunched woman was replaced by an approximately 10-feet tall enchantress in a gown that extended to the stage’s floor. Putting this scene at the beginning was a total turn on.
‘Be Our Guest’ number
The story was about the unexpected romance that sprouted between Belle and the Beast. But among all the scenes that unfolded, my personal favorite is the “Be Our Guest” number where in all the house servants gleefully sang and gracefully danced as they welcomed Belle to the castle. It was a magnificent showcasing of the performers’ dancing prowess as well as of the designer’s craftsmanship. Towards the end of the performance, two huge bottles blew out smoke akin to champagne bottles spewing their contents. It concluded with party poppers (?) shooting out glimmering strips into the audience who applauded the performance.

Another favorite scene of mine is Mrs. Potts (head of kitchen who turned into a tea pot) singing “Beauty and the Beast” while Belle and the Beast was enjoying their moment together. How can I ever forget one of the songs I grew up with? I just wish Belle and the Beast sang the song in a duet.
Levitation
He learned to love. Belle reciprocated his love. But the last petal of the rose fell.
Just when Belle was about to lose hope because she thought she was losing the love of her life, an amazing thing occurred. The beast levitated and rotated while suspended in the air (yes, this happened onstage). With the flickering lights, the Beast returned to his true form–a handsome prince Belle didn’t recognize at first. It was one of the most amazing, most admirable, and most applause-worthy scenes of the two-hour musical.
True, Beauty and the Beast is a familiar fairy tale we grew up with. But the musical is an enchanting retelling of a love that conquers all. I’d say you must see it for yourself.


The musical stages until February 8, 2015 at 8 pm, with matinees at 2 pm every Saturday and Sunday. For ticket prices and reservations, visit https://www.ticketworld.com.ph/Online/beautyandthebeast.

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Tracing back history in Fort Santiago

Every travel starts with an aim. And ours was to wander around and get lost in history.

History classes told me stories of the past. Tales during the Colonial time, the American invasion, the Japanese occupation. Through history, I learned that the Philippines was under Spanish rule for 333 years, that Filipinos cowered in their own country, that men who fought for liberty were punished and executed.
 
Through history, I learned about Dr. Jose Rizal and Fort Santiago–the national hero’s final days in the fortress.

Fort Santiago has always been part of my lifetime traveler’s itinerary. And recently, I ticked the destination off my list, as I officially set foot on the historical site with an equally adventurous and always curious friend.

We rode on the Pasig River ferry on our way to Intramuros, an experience we quite enjoyed, not only because it was our first time, but also it was indeed exciting. But what awaited us in Intramuros was far more exhilarating.

Fort Santiago is a military structure built in the 16th century during the Spanish Colonization. It is within “The Walled City,” or Intramuros which literally means “within the walls.” (Places “outside the walls” were called Extramuros.)

One of the things that truly amazed us was the outfit of the guards stationed around the place. They were wearing the grey uniform worn by Filipino and Spanish soldiers before complete with a hat. So, aside from the historical atmosphere set by the old structures, and the horse-drawn carriages (Kalesa) taking tourists around, the guards will also make you feel that you’re living during the Spanish Era.

Upon our entrance to our trip’s highlight, our hearts jumped in glee and our blood raced through our veins–a clear indication that we were getting closer to the place where one of the greatest men in the world spent the last days of his life before his execution. Entrance fee is P75.00 for adults and P50.00 for children and students.

The rustic ambiance set our minds to reminiscence. We didn’t hire a tour guide which was better, because we had the liberty to roam around and take all the attraction and information in at our own pace without pressure.

Rizal’s hat and trench coat
The national hero’s alcohol stove

The Dungeons
Literally following Rizal’s footsteps.

And since we didn’t have to follow a schedule, I had the luxury of letting my quirky side take over. It didn’t have to be an all too serious trip, did it?

Well, I just thought of teaching these guys some modern technology…
…and having some massage for my aching back.
Meanwhile, here’s another propagandist.
***

The Rizal Shrine in Fort Santiago will tell you a lot of stories about Dr. Jose Rizal through mementos displayed, and the representation of his prison cell and the trial complete with life size mannequins. Seeing the things that belonged to him and touched by his very own hands hundreds of years ago was an exceptional experience quite different from learning about him through history books and classes. It was like an up close and personal meet up with one of history’s greatest men. Only he didn’t talk back.

Photos courtesy of Jen Decena.

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