Foreign Executives guide to quick Manila Tour

Manila Travel Blog

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I work for an American organization and through time have made many American bosses as friends. They come back from time to time from one and only time in the Philippines all the way approximately 4 times a year. :) I normally do my best to spend time and tour people around. Just last week we've thought of tracking the Manila tour calendar for each of our visitors as we feel like we're running out of new places to take people to :) But just in case, here's some tips to provide

Normal visits for our expats - 1 weekend day only (saturday only or sunday only), the rest are weeknights that tends to end really late :)

Day Trip!

--- Package one! ---

1. American Cemetery - a very nice, solemn place. This place is very well received by our visitors especially if they have family involved during the world war 2 and stationed in or near the philippines. We will just walk around the area for about 30 minutes as we read through the names, or talk through the different states. And for those who had exposure or familiar with war stories take the time to reminisce and share their family's experiences.

2. Intramuros - The walled city provide many possible past time for our visitors. They particularly liked this place just because its not something common they see or experience in the states. To have places preserved for centuries provide a unique glimpse for people.

- Manila Cathedral - the central focal point on the area. Apaprently very spanish feel and explanatory of their culture at the time, the cathedral and the capitol on the side. We rarely had the chance to walk over and go in though. Either its closed or a wedding is on going :)

- San Agustin Church - oldest stone church in the philippines. Built in the 1500s i think, outside the church dont show much promise and very plain, but the moment you entered in, you are transported to a different place. Even in college, San Agustin Church is a required stop for our art appreciation class. The intricate painting on the ceiling, the pulpit, etc are often highlighted during our art appreciation class. Since wedding happens here so often, you may even get to witness a bit of the traditional Filipino wedding. It also has a museum on the side, however, i have not had a chance to go in yet :)

- Casa Manila - I personally liked Casa Manila, its not too boring compared to walking long lines on a museum :) And the place is so nice and transports you back in time, i love it :) You can probably complete this in 20-30 minutes including talk time to yourselves, and entrance fee is about 75 pesos each. We went there last April 11, the only funny thing about it is that we had 3 blind mice as background music because a baby christening party was happening below :)

- Fort Santiago - For Santiago i think has entrance fee around 50 pesos per person. Inside there's a small garden, National Hero Jose Rizal's final prison cell. A small museum featuring the work of Dr. Jose Rizal, and re-tracing his final steps. There is a little garden inside and you will get to work around the walls by the canyons and have a sneak peek on the prison cells etc. From time to time the theatre group PETA has shows playing inside fort santiago. It's a bit creepy at night :) I think there are tour guides available if you want the full deal on the story of the place. :)

- There are a couple more museum around the area but there's only a limited number of hours i can spend in a museum haha :) so we skipped it, but just in case i think there's another bahay Chinoy :)

- Illustrado - this is a small restaurant that we made a quick stop on because the internet advertised the sampaguita (national flower) ice cream. I tried it for the first time last week, it tasted a bit green tea to me and smelled like sampaguita. :) My other friends had halo-halo (apparently translated as mix-mix haha no one really calls it that though), and we ordered a canonigo cake - which everyone hated except me haha :)

3. National Museum - as i mentioned above, I can handle a level of museum but not too much :) the National Museum near the City hall is a bit empty since our last visit there, but it housed the famed Juan Luna's Spolarium which is like a big mural. It's quite a picture. :) There was once about 10 years ago that this picture was placed on a phone card. :)

4. Rizal Park - Rizal park can be seen and appreciated even when you are in the car, but some would want to go down and take a picture by Jose Rizal's monument at the park. It is afterall a famous landmark for our country :).  Rizal park had a couple of mini-parks inside but its no longer a common place to walk around or visited by locals like me. But i believe there's a chinese garden, a planetarium, another one with dinosaur, quirino grandstand that sometimes hold concerts like the new year count down or a meeting place for religious group like El Shaddai. If you want to do the whole walk around Rizal park  it will probably take you 1-2 hrs, warning about the heat though :)

5. ChinaTown - ChinaTown is known for the Binondo church, for gold and jewelries, and best of all the food! :) The food experience in ChinaTown (also known as Binondo) deserves a separate blog in itself. I'll tell you more about it next time ;) But a quick explanation, authentic chinese dimsum and for sure, no where near panda express ;)

--- Package two! ---

Greenhills! - ok personally especially if executives wives and kids are around, greenhills definitely deserves an entire day by itself. Multiple long lines of stalls after stalls buying all sorts of stuff like pearls, imitation bags, clothes etc. Personally, i get dizzy myself. :) I remember one visitor, it was her first time and the moment we stepped there (it was a december by the way so the mayhem is doubled) all she could utter to our executive was - "whoa you werent kidding" :)

Manila will definitely and will always be a shopping haven for people who wants to do that. We already had the megamall and the mall of asia apparently the biggest mall in asia to date. I can name at least 10 super giant malls in 10 seconds and that doesnt mean that's all there is to it. If you love to shop, you probably need to allot a week dedicated solely to mall hopping and there will still be more. Prices here in Manila are definitely a lot more affordable for generic stuff. But if you're looking for real branded stuff, it will be more expensive here. :)

--- Package three's :) Out of the city escapades ---

There are places that we can travel to that are a few hours outside Manila that is equal the fun

Tagaytay - About 1 hr drive from makati on free flowing traffic. There's the taal volcano where you can take a boat ride to get to and do trekking or horse back riding. There's well visited sonya's garden loved by our health conscious executives. There's tagaytay highlands only accessible if you know a member but a nice good place to eat and relax. Palace in the sky, shows a bit of political history and fall of dictatorship in the philippines, its nice. Buffet lunch/dinner probably at Josephine's or Taal vista. Taal vista offer cultural dances from time to time too you'll love it. There's picnic groove that even provides zipline adventure i think. There's some cool cafes like bag of beans, tavern i think its a good place to go to. And probably if you have an extra night there's good bed and breakfast near the area

Pinatubo - Mt. Pinatubo had been among the preferred places to go to. For many Americans, there is a sense of curiosity to this place especially compared to the Mt. St. Helens eruption in the US and this place is described to be much more worse. We normally do the trekking to the crater. It's about 3 hrs drive from manila to get to the office where you will be driven around on 4x4 jeep, and then hike yourway to the crater where you can swim there and even visit some sites where there's hot spring from the volcano. Just remember to check the weather, there had been reported flash floods before that killed a couple of people. Its wise to bring food and water because there's nowhere you can avail for one going there. :)

Anilao - Diver's paradise. Since i dont dive i havent experienced this myself. But apparently some have even seen killer whales do a flip seen on the shore. I find it hard to imagine that we have killer whales in our country :) But the diving experience are well recommended by our executives so if you have a feel for it, go for it :)

Corregidor - another good place for people who were war fanatics. For me the trip is a bit expensive 2000 pesos for day trip buffet lunch included. You  take a 45 minute ferry from the Manila bay to Corregidor island and spend about 5 hrs there and come back. I havent been there yet, I was supposed to but realized that the trip is fully booked for the day so its best to reserve in advance. Personally i feel 2000 pesos is too much but the place will be full of story and will have a different culture feel and free tour guide so maybe its not too bad. If you're up for some ghost experiences its also good have overnight for a slightly added rate. The reason for the pricing is that only 1 tour company operating in the area :)

Clark, Pampanga - Clark is the old US Air Base, and for me there's nothing much to see there except you can definitely have some food adventures there! :) It's filled with many hotels and casinos apparently. From time to time there are like air shows with balloons, air force exhibitions etc.

Subic - Subic is about 2-3 hrs drive from Manila. I believe this is the US Naval Base. :) There are resorts there you can enjoy the beach and some water sports. My favorite so far though was the tree top jungle extreme adventure. We did a 60 feet (i think) free fall drop haha it definitely shook off some of our work stress and probably exchanged it with new ones. haha :) The faciltators we think can part time as standup comedian it was a good experience for us. But for our executives we tend to hesitate a bit, mainly because - they are too valuable to throw on a 60 feet free fall drop haha :)

--- Food! ---

There's still so much more but my hands are tired. But I think Food is about half of the experience in the Philippines so we cant miss it out :)

1. Filipino food of course - many are afraid of what they see on fear factor like Balut (Pre-mature duck egg). Visitor friends, sometimes its safe to bet on - "I wont eat anything you wont" I wont eat balut or the little chick on it just the yoke. So it might be safe to put up that challenge. If they want to experience the better safer stuff, there are good places to eat like Centro, Recipes, Dencios, Gerry's that served decent and edible filipino food :)

2. Chinese food - one rule: NO PANDA EXPRESS! :) These are the more authentic chinese food stuff. Chinatown has a lot of little tiny places that serves great food. But you can also visit some of the more commercialized easily acessible places like perhaps David's tea house. We got visitors who like spicier food, last time we went to Aloha Hotel Szechuan tea house, and our visitor gaved it a 5 star because he loved it. I'm glad, its among my favorites :)

3. Indian/Mediterranean food - New Bombay and Zigurrat. I'm not a fan of these foods but my friends and our visitors are. Let me know if you need directions :)

4. SEAFOOD! - I love seafoods! and for this the best and most fun place to be is by Dampa. Where you walk by the wet market, pick the seafood fresh as you can and asked them to have it cooked whichever way you like. My family's favorites, Chili Crab, clam soup, squid stewed in squid ink and coconut milk, garlic shrimps, sinigang (tamarind soup) with prawns. Yummy! :)

5. Korean/Japanese - since there's a lot of korean and japanse now living in the country there's very accessible good korean and japanese food places here as well. Among them Korean village (a bit filipinize korean food alraedy :)) my dad and brother's favorite Nalbu, for japanese - little tokyo was pretty cool

6. Fastfood! - everyone has to try them i guess :) Jollibee our local fearless version of fastfood i guess is a must try, but it will be cool to see what our McDonalds or KFC serves right? :)

That's all for now. I'll upload pictures if I have them. :)

-- Aimee

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photo by: Deats