How often do we entertain foreign guests and balikbayan (returning Filipinos) family and friends?



I’ve done quite a few — from long weekend trips in mountain villages up North or to some beach destinations down South to whole day together-ness via roadtrips north or south of Manila. And for the briefest encounters……. There’s THE DRILL. A glimpse into over 300 years under Spanish rule (Fort Santiago y Intramuros) + the heart and core of Chinatown (a.k.a. Binondo Walk cum Foodtrip) + end-of-day relaxation along Manila Bay interspersed with brief food tripping episodes.




Rizal Park


Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila



By itself, the Rizal Park-Intramuros-National Museum can take a whole day already. But who wants to do long walks at 39 Celsius in humid April? I say the Museum can wait and the Park can easily be a “drive-thru”. We were first driven to Fort Santiago (entrance: 75 pesos, 50 pesos for students) passing Rizal Park (Dr. Rizal is the national hero), and then walked from Fort Santiago towards San Agustin Church, the oldest surviving church in this predominantly Catholic country. If there’s time, you can visit the Museum housed in the Convent adjoining the Church or visit Casa Manila (showcasing Filipino-Spanish lifestyle) just off the church corner. Or you can choose to sit on a horse-drawn carriage (the cheaper calesa or the pricey caruaje) sightseeing for the next hour or two. The choices depend on how much time you have. In some instances, I totally skipped Fort Santiago and instead visited Baluarte de San Diego. More trees there. Ergo, more shade!




The National Art Gallery which used to be Legislative Building


Baluarte de San Diego in Intramuros, Manila



From Intramuros, you can either take a cab or a jeepney or drive past the Museum and City Hall across Jones Bridge overlooking the lovely Postal Office to reach Binondo. Hungry or not, a Binondo Walk is never complete without dropping in on those “hole in the wall” spots. My personal favorites are Po Heng Lumpia House and Dong Bei Dumpling House. Need I tell you what they serve?




Chinese Lumpia (Vegetable Roll) from the best : Po Heng Lumpia House in Binondo, Manila.


Dumplings or Sio-Mai. Freshly Made!


Kutchay Siomai or Dumplings with Chives Fillings. Only from that hole-in-the-wall, Dong Bei Dumpling House in Binondo, Manila.



Finally done with Hispanic Philippines (Intramuros) and Chinoy Philippines (Binondo Chinatown)? Maybe it’s time for a cup of Cappuccino in Harbour Square within the reclaimed area housing the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Folk Arts Theatre and Philippine International Convention Center. It’s your modern Philippines complete with junk food outlets lining the Bay. Grab a bite here, if you like. Many choices across a wide price range. This is also a superb place to unwind or chill while waiting for the famous Manila Bay Sunset.




Manila Bay, viewed from Harbour Square in the CCP Complex near Cultural Center of the Philippines.


Roxas Boulevard near Manila Bay. At Twilight.