2 days in Metropolitan Manila

People I meet going to the Philippines on their way to the beach ask me what’s worthwhile experiencing in Metro-Manila, where to go, what to eat, where to stay. Metro-Manila often gets put-off by travel websites as a city that’s too miserable to even bother visiting, but indeed, such warnings make the French want to come even more, or so they say. And what’s there not to like about France and the French?

As the densest city in the world (number 1-wiki it), Metro-Manila is very much remarkable. So much that I’ll have to make a two day itinerary restriction.

Don’t have a place to crash and looking for a reliable hostel in the center of one of the most recently gentrified yet resilient up-and-coming neighbourhoods where the who’s who of society comes for a drink? Stay at Z-Hostel .

Otherwise, if you’re not quite on a budget stay at the Shangri La Fort Bonifacio or Shangri La Makati, if you stay at the prior do say hi to Gale at the High Street Lounge.

Day 1:

8am-12noonish

Grab coffee and a bite at Blocleaf Café.

Go on a bicycle tour of Intramuros in the morning with Bambike , finish the tour with a pint of local craft beer the Bambike Intramuros shop has on tap. Reflect on early days of Globalisation amidst Romanesque architecture. Least we begin to remember that the Philippine islands didn’t just fall to the hands of some colonizers who everybody from the Philippines is named after as many may mistakenly believe when I talk about my mixed heritage. The maternal French/English ‘Litton’ part of my family actually relocated to the Philippines to escape the onset of WWII. Do think twice before you meet somebody of mixed heritage and describe their surname as coming from some ‘colonizer’. The Philippines also hosted a number of Jewish refugees following the Holocaust, and Vietnamese during the Viet Nam war. A little history lesson. My Grandfather could give you a much more expansive one.

12noonish to 2pm

Have lunch at Barbara’s, or skip out on lunch and get churros con chocolaté at the Bayleaf Hotel Intramuros . Check-out the view from the roof-top. Stop for souvenirs at The Manila Collectible in Intramuros. Say hi to Virgie.

Go back to your accommodation. Take a swim and a siesta, a nap.

Or check out the National Museum near intramuros, or the Ayala Museum back in Makati.

If you’re looking for stylish tropical garb stop by Tropa Store.

This should take you to just about sunset time.

Go for sunset cocktails on the rooftop of the Raffles hotel at Mirèo Terrace .

Or if yoga is your thing, take a class at YogaHive in Salcedo Village. Try a class with Chloe or Quino.

7pm-ish- bedtime

Pop by Batala Bar in Makati for another drink and dinner. It’s solar powered and everything’s local, check out their crafty retail space too. Try to get there in time for the complimentary 8:30pm bamboo-infused lambanog shot.

If you’re staying in Fort Bonifacio and don’t want to spend too much time stuck in traffic at this hour, grab dinner at Manam or Abé , and a drink at the recently opened Coconut Club.  You could continue barhopping in Fort Bonifacio to Chotto Matte and Las Flores and make your way to Poblacion. But if you’re not feeling the wannabe New York or Singapore vibes of Fort Bonifacio just pop over straight to Poblacion.

Check-out Alamat, Tambai, Dulo, and if you’re really feeling social check out this bar under Pura Vida (its name I can’t currently recall). You won’t be lost for choice in Poblacion.

If it ends up being 4am and you’re feeling a bit peckish and want legitimate Korean food, eat at Mansun, or get the best rice porridge from Go-To Monster —your stomach will be very happy, your wallet still full too.

Day 2:

8am to 12noonish

If it’s a Saturday, check-out the Salcedo Market for a plethora of local bites.

If it’s Sunday, check-out the Legazpi Sunday Market.

If it’s neither Saturday nor Sunday, check-out Manila’s Chinatown, the first ‘Chinatown’ in the world. Wear a hat. Bring a reusable shopping bag incase you want to buy some local lacatan bananas.

12noonish to dinner

Make your way to the Alley at Karrivin. Check out the well curated contemporary art gallery ArtInformal. Explore the shops at rest of the Alley and have an early dinner at Toyo Eatery (they’re closed on Sunday’s and Monday’s however). You could also try Romulo Cafe. Or if you’re feeling vegetarian, Corner Tree Cafe— Ariana Grande eats there when she’s on tour.

Or if you’re looking for some of the best pasta in South East Asia, have dinner at La Nuova Pasteleria in San Antonio Plaza. Try the spinach ravioli. It hasn’t changed since I was 5 years old.

After dinner

If it’s Thursday and you want to dance to electronic beats with the fun artsy crowd, check out XXXX on Chino Roces.  If you’re feeling gay and pop go to Nectar in Fort Bonifacio.

Otherwise go back to Poblacion or Batala Bar for a pint or two, or stop by a grocery for some local fare and stay in and read a book , and rest + prepare for your travels the next day.

Keep an open mind and enjoy your travels.

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A place to be

 

I have been living in Manila, Philippines for the past three months now. It is my first time living in the country as a young adult with a particular identity. I don’t follow many traditions of the 21st and 20th centuries. I don’t idolize bacon. I don’t wear polyester, lycra, or nylon clothing.  I don’t like nor use shampoo. Going to the supermarket is a traumatising experience.

Before moving here to start another chapter of life I was anxious: Will I find a community of people that accepts me and nurtures my interests as a designer, artist, and struggling environmentalist? Will I be persecuted for my sexuality? Will the buildings and people inspire me, or send me constantly day-dreaming of Rome?

I just came back from an organic vegetable market and filled my fridge for less than 12 dollars. I have re-discovered and put together a budding cultural understanding of this land’s pre-colonial and colonial past. I met some tribal Filipinos the other day that share the same philosophy as I do on the interconnectedness between Nature and Man in our universe. Textiles are also very important to them. They make beautiful soil paintings from ground earth. I can feel comfortable going out in a skirt. No more anxieties about being myself in this place.

 

 

Why Manila ought to be the Gay Capital of Asia (from a man’s perspective)

You’ve probably read the recent news about Taiwan legalising gay marriage, and in the Philippines, a country (made of more than 7,000 islands) not too far away, it has got to start somewhere. Manila!

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ONE: You can’t say Manila without saying, MANila

TWO: Pilipinas (How Filipinos say ‘Philippines)… Pili-PINAS, wait, did you just say penis?!

THREE: You don’t have to look too hard to find gay nightlife

FOUR: These Golden Queens 

FIVE: Manila Luzon

SIX: Because it’s the home of The King of Catwalk (who I happened to message on Grindr- a gay networking app.)IMG_6897 2

SEVEN: Because unlike many other languages where the word for ‘gay’ is borrowed from English, there’s actually a native for ‘gay’ in Tagalog. It’s bakla 

EIGHT: There’s actually a Manila based LGBTQ magazine that’s pretty rad

NINE: And you still wonder why Manila should be the gay capital of Asia and gain more momentum as the next Asian capital where gay marriage ought to be legalised? Help President Duterte stay true to his word by expressing yourself, today.

Why do I choose to go vegan?

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It’s hard being vegan. Even for someone like me. I ate cheese yesterday, but didn’t realise I ordered it, but I ate it anyways, because it was in front of me, and I was weak. I ate feta and cream at brunch today. There is regret. It takes a lot of effort to be yourself in today’s world. I didn’t forget to thank and pray for the cows and goats though. You can only pray so much however and if you aren’t taking any action the praying probably isn’t coming from the heart.

So it’s ‘Veganuary’, as disgusting as that may sound to some… But hey! The Animal Agriculture Industry is the number one contributor to green house gases and human induced Climate Change.  And if, unlike Trump, you hopefully believe that climate change is real, like me and many others, you’ll decide to go vegan, at least a couple times a week, if not everyday.

Choosing to go vegan however hasn’t just been an ethical issue; being vegan has provided a number of quality of life benefits (aside from making me less anxious and more hopeful that Climate Change will slow down if more people go vegan):

-clear skin

-higher energy levels

-lower food bills (in theory, as meat becomes less and less subsidized, and more vegetables and other crops are planted to feed people and not livestock).

But where do you get your protein from?

When people say that plants have feelings too… Plants don’t show the clear feelings of fear and pain that cows, pigs, chicken, and fish do. Plants don’t quite run away. Plants were designed to be harvested. Humans designed ways to hunt and kill, by choice. Have you ever seen or read about a man killing a deer, antelope or cow just with their teeth? Nope humans aren’t lions.

The milk of other animals was meant for the babies of those animals, not for humans! 

And if you think that the dairy industry in Europe is humane, small dairy farms seem to be quickly disappearing

And unless you really know where your eggs came from…  Don’t eat them.

At the end of the day, since all animals and animal products originate from plants, instead of inefficiently going through animals for nutrients, why not just go straight to plants? Well maybe because more land in the USA, for example, is used for Animal Agriculture rather than edible plant agriculture, so fresh veg is generally more expensive than it ought to be…

Anyways less talk, and more action! Go vegan and plant more vegetables.

Manila Mode

Manila- a multi-ethnic tropical city quickly changing in the face of progress. What does fashion look like in such a city and how do people dress and why? One Italian-Filipino friend bitterly said that fashion doesn’t exist in Manila…Often young people try too hard to copy the Europeans- wearing a leather jacket in 30 degree (celsius) weather under the sun? Perhaps trying too hard is an understatement. Another friend said that most middle to upper-class Manila millenials go shopping at the usual victimiser-high-street stores; Topshop and H&M. Talk about fast-fashion in a rapidly growing economy…

Second-hand clothing stores, and creative Manila millenials that don’t see the holy-grail in fast fashion do exist in significant numbers however; you just have to talk to Manila fashion-plate AJ Cabrera. selections from AJ’s instagram account @sparkmyspliff 

As the Philippine economy does continue to grow however, so does a desire and greater manifestation for an identifiable Filipino fashion identity. Such an identity does exist, but most people don’t know about it, and you can’t see much of it in a way that catches your soul through your eyes when you’re walking about even the poshest Manila centres only to be bombarded by suffocating scents of product and synthetic dyes and finishings…

As a multi-ethnic Filipino, I believe that the heart of a Philippine fashion identity lies within the islands’ beautiful natural fibres, as it has been all along, but today and everyday it shifts and transforms as fashions do, amidst all their great potential of the Philippine melting pot.

As Manila beckons more and more to progress, so does the demand for responsible living; a bit of irony for the time being. Regardless, as has been the case for China, as more wealth is generated within the nation, so too will a nostalgic yet very forward thinking return to classic, more or less indigenous, environmentally textiles, arise; or so we hope. But at the end of the day, style and responsibility doesn’t come with wealth; it comes with soul.

Jeepney Rides

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Following the end of WWII, American troops sold and left behind a number of surplus military jeeps that the Filipinos transformed into passenger Jeepneys seen along the streets of Manila today. It has often been a personal mantra that in order to truly discover and understand a city, one must travel via its public transportation. For Manila, that often means, by Jeepney.

At Topman, Powerplant Mall

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I took this photo because in the past two week prior to this photo I visited Topman stores in Soho, Singapore, and now Manila. Globalization indeed. Do check out my article in Cornell’s The Thread magazine regarding corporate social responsibility of fashion labels such as Topman and H&M! It is available to view for free here!

Food Stands, Near Ayala Ave

the food stand manila

Going through my photos of Manila makes me miss the city.

 These food stands of similar construction seem to be common in South East Asian countries. In Indonesia, they’re called warungs. I’m not quite sure what they’re called in Manila though…I’ll have to ask someone!