Don't underestimate Manila

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November 24th 2012
Published: December 1st 2012
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A scenic viewA scenic viewA scenic view

Lake Taal
We feel incredibly fortunate in that while in Manila, we were well-taken care of by our friend Lili, who not only has been a resident of Manila for decades, but is also a well-known contributor to TravelBlog. She immediately disproved what at least one blogger had written about this fine city. It would be easy to dismiss Manila as a place worthy of interest if you read and believe all the blogs and publications, which usually portray it as a large dirty Southeast Asian city. Even the “bible” of the backpacking lot, the Lonely Planet says that Manila is a “misunderstood city”.

Manila is vibrant, exciting and ready to welcome any number of travelers to show off its warmth and hospitality. Although it may not be a place to spend more than a week, (not many cities are) there is plenty to do and see.

Part of the issue is that the government of the Philippines does not promote Manila, as a tourist destination while the other is perhaps that there are not enough hostels and guesthouses for the budget traveler. All of this contributes to a not-so-shining endorsement of this fine city. Indeed, Manila
View from TagaytayView from TagaytayView from Tagaytay

Taal Lake & Volcano
suffers from most of the ills that befall a large city; overcrowding, traffic congestion, and of course the accompanying poverty. In all honesty though, what large city in the world does not also suffer from these same issues?

Hopefully soon the government or the department of tourism will become better organized and embrace all of the potential jobs and income that can benefit from tourism. This city offers a great deal of history ...

From our point of view Manila has plenty to offer.

It was quite a stroke of luck that we were able to rent a condo in the upscale neighborhood of Makati. What a great neighborhood. We could easily walk to the Greenbelt Mall where there seemed to be an unlimited number of restaurants and bars. We enjoyed a breakfast buffet across the street from our condo at The Plantation for $5. Most establishments offer happy hours (what’s not to like about this) where we enjoyed San Miguel beer for $2.50. Most restaurants and coffee shops offer free wi-fi. We can recommend Via Mare Oyster Bar, Zuni Restaurant and Wine Bar, Cervaseria.

One of our favorite evenings
Manila city viewManila city viewManila city view

lovely and modern
was having dinner with our friends Lili and Tinnie at the Via Mare Oyster Bar. Travel affords us an opportunity to spend time with people that we genuinely care about and share an interest in travel with.

On our first day of touring Lili took us to the world’s smallest active volcano named Taal volcano. It is a short day trip from Manila. We started by having lunch on Taal Lake so we could first view the volcano from the seashore and at ground level. It is rather impressive surrounded by the lake. This volcano has an interesting history but changed the way things looked in 1911 when it erupted. According to the Lonely Planet it has 47 craters and 35 volcanic cones and remains one of the world’s deadliest volcanoes. Although dormant now, it could potentially wreak havoc some day. For now, it provides more than a few stunning vistas to enjoy.

Next we headed to the town of Tagaytay, which is on a ridge above the volcano. From the Taal Vista Hotel we were offered a lovely view of the lake, craters and volcanic cones. On the drive to this area we
Philipano chicken soupPhilipano chicken soupPhilipano chicken soup

Via Mare Oyster Bar
saw some amazing McMansions (American slang for huge homes) and lovely lakeside hotels with views that bring a hefty price tag.

We were discussing with Lili that Manila seemed to be missing the hop on hop off tourist buses that are featured in many cities to help tourist get around. She pointed out that those buses would not be successful in Manila because the sites are spread out and the city has a great deal of traffic. After our visit, that makes good sense.

A trip to Manila would not be complete without a visit to the Inramuros (walled city) within Manila. Built originally over 500 hundred years ago to protect the city from potential invaders, it was nearly ruined at the end of World War II as the Japanese dug in and the Americans bombed the city for eight days. In 1979, the government began in earnest to rebuild this area and many positive signs are emerging that will better display the proud history of Manila, including Fort Santiago and many other buildings and churches. We enjoy history quite a bit, so we found this place quite interesting. It is well worth hiring
Dining with good friendsDining with good friendsDining with good friends

A travel blog get together.
a guide who can provide great knowledge of the area and we enjoyed the horse and buggy ride that came along with that knowledge.

We ate lunch at Restauarnte della Mitre, where all the items on the menu are named after different Bishops and Cardinals. It is said that if you eat there you will be blessed. Who can take the chance, we enjoyed our lunch there very much.

We made a quick trip through Chinatown. Since we lived in San Francisco and spent a fair amount of time in their Chinatown we just took a quick peek. We did however stop in one of the lovely churches in Chinatown where a Chinese wedding was about to begin. We decided to wait the ten minutes so we could see the bride walk down the aisle. She was lovely. There were two very young flower girls and when it was time for them to walk down the aisle one of them had a complete melt down and had to be picked up and removed for a period of time. She never did resume her duties.

Lili also showed us the Coconut Palace, which Imelda Marcos had built in anticipation of a stay by Pope John Paul. A serious amount of money went into the construction of this place, where the Pope never stayed, as he elected to stay elsewhere when he heard of her opulent plans for his stay. It is now the residence and workplace for the Vice President of the Philippines.

Our last afternoon in Manila before heading off to the southern islands Lili took us to her massage parlor where we all enjoyed a wonderful one hour massage for $11. What a great afternoon. We’ve been telling Lili what a wonderful hostess and tour guide she has been but after the massage we were telling her she had failed us by not getting these massages on our first day in town so we could get them each day there after!

We will be back in Manila for one night after our visit to the islands of Malapascua, Bohol and Palawan. We look forward to having dinner again with our Travel Blog friends before departing this lovely country.

If you would like to read some local Filipano bloggers who have gone
I should have taken notesI should have taken notesI should have taken notes

Lili took great care to make sure we tried several local dishes and she told me the names of all of them.
to many parts of their country you will want to read the following bloggers.



Additional photos below
Photos: 43, Displayed: 26


Singing waitersSinging waiters
Singing waiters

Club Balai Isabel
Cleaning the swimming areaCleaning the swimming area
Cleaning the swimming area

gathering up the seaweed
Seaweed gatheringSeaweed gathering
Seaweed gathering

hard work on the lake

1st December 2012
Club Balai Isabel

Great way to enjoy a visit to the Philippines...being entertained by Liliram & TinNie...I really like that about Travelblog...meeting up with like minded folks...immediate good friends...gotta luv it
1st December 2012
Club Balai Isabel

Yes, indeed
It is fantastic meeting fellow travel bloggers! We loved our time with TinNie and Liliram and look forward to seeing them again in a few days. What a great country.
1st December 2012
Dining with good friends

Another wonderful TB get together!!!
Liliram is so cool! I do hope I get the chance to meet this wonderful lady in the not so distant future. I know Manila gets a bad rap from some people, but as you say, sometimes you need to step back and reassess your initial impression of a particular place before giving it that second chance it deserves. I'd love to give the Philippines a go too...oh so many wonderful places to travel to and so little time......
1st December 2012
Dining with good friends

Exactly as you say!
Manila has so much history to offer and is a more modern city than I was expecting. Meeting Liliram and TinNie was fantastic. We will have dinner with them again on the 13th. Good to have new friends that feel like old friends. I loved the Spanish feel to the old sections of town.
1st December 2012

You hit the nail on the head. Manila has many hidden treasures that are rich in history. Thank you for reminding me its time for a visit. Safe travels! Leanne and I miss you dearly. Irene
1st December 2012

Irene, so great to hear from you!
So good to hear you are reading along. Manila has so much more to offer than we expected. I think it gets a bad press and I'm really not sure why. Yes, you need to visit. Miss you a lot.
1st December 2012

There is no better way than seeing the place with local friends!!! You were very lucky guys to have such fabulous guides;-) Enjoy the rest of the Philippines;-) B&T
1st December 2012

We feel you learn so much more with a local
It is great having friends show you the way. You always get to see those hidden gems. The Philippines has sooooo....much to offer that we will only scratch the surface.
1st December 2012

Welcome to the Philippines
Jealous much, would love to meet you guys too. Ad I do hope I meet Tita Lili and Tinnie too when we go home for a visit. Are you guys planning on an Asian trip this time, or a trip to Osaka maybe?
1st December 2012

And we would love to meet you.
We hope Japan will be the next Asian country we visit but that may be a couple of years. Hopefully, our paths can cross. We would love to meet you.
1st December 2012

Manila with friends
What a wonderful trip you're having! Manila sounds like a fascinating place, yet another one on the list, although its getting pretty long now....And liliram sounds like another fabulous travel blogger and great hostess!
2nd December 2012

I would put the Philippines higher on the list...however I have not seen what else is on the list.
We are having a fantastic time. Another blog will be coming soon. So much to see and to do. This country does not seem to be good at marketing its assets. Happy travels.
2nd December 2012

Are you guys returning to Manila? I would want to meet fellow travel bloggers as well. :)
2nd December 2012

Hello Jay,
Yes, we will be in Manila on Dec. 13th and will be having dinner with Liliram and TinNie. Hopefully, you can join us. Send Liliram a message if you can make it. I'm not sure of the location. Hope you can make it!
2nd December 2012

Memories memories
It's a long long time since we were in the Philippines and your blog was a lovely reminder of the places we went to and the great time we had there, although there have been many changes to what we remember. As always now that we're in one spot, we're more than a little jealous of your wide-ranging travels. Stay safe and we look forward to further instalments. David & Pat
2nd December 2012

Hello dear friends,
It is grand hearing from you again. Being rooted is not a bad thing. OUr travels are sadly coming to an end soon. We are having the best time in the Philippines. It is very diverse. They do not market this country very well. Unless I had read blogs by Luliram and TinNie last year we might not have come here. This trip has been a joy because it has been so very diverse. Chat with you soon.
2nd December 2012

Enjoy reading blogs about my country!
Hi there! I'm back only late last night, aching all over, after a long weekend spent in the mountains (Sagada). I'm a local, yet my list of domestic destinations keeps growing. So many islands! Enjoyed reading this, and happy to note you had a wonderful time. Our other TB friends can still catch up and meet us for Dec13 early dinner in Rockwell. TynNie and Jay Exiomo would be there.
2nd December 2012

Can't wait.
2nd December 2012
I should have taken notes

It's Pinakbet
The vegetable dish is called Pinakbet aka Pakbet, a dish from the Northern Philippines where locals claim to be most frugal and hardworking. Sautéed veggies like okra, string beans, squash, bitter gourd or bitter melon (locally called ampalaya) -- some versions are cooked with shrimp paste. And the soup is called Pancit Molo, a dish from Central Philippines (Panay Island in the Visayas). [photo=7282141]
2nd December 2012
I should have taken notes

Food update
I'm going to go in and update those photos.
3rd December 2012
Lili, Tinnie and Merry

yay! can't wait to see you again, and looking forward to meeting Jay as well :) Tita Lili is a pro isn't she?! Beautiful note about Manila -- yeah there are dodgy areas in the City but there are good things to see as well, if you know where to go ;) enjoy your R & R. x
3rd December 2012
Lili, Tinnie and Merry

Every large city has a few bad spots.
Manila has a lot to offer. We can't wait to see you again.
3rd December 2012

Maybe we should attempt to enjoy Manila more next time around...
We will be back there next year so we'll try to take your blog on board and give it more of a chance, as you probably know we really were never enamoured with Manila.. we did try though and did explore quite a bit of the city but doubtless there is a lot more to discover! Nice to read a positive view for a chance, we'll look foward to your following blogs as it will give us a reminder of what is in store in a few weeks!
3rd December 2012

I'm sure we were influenced by the part of town we stayed in
Manila has so many different communities and personalities. We found most of them great. All big cities have a couple of areas to avoid. We stayed in a wonderful part of town and had a friend showing us around so it was fantastic.

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