Category: Don’t Skip Manila!

Yes, I’m talking about St. Scholastica’s College standing on a 3.5 hectare-block hemmed in by 4 streets: Leon Guinto, Pablo Ocampo (formerly Vito Cruz), Singalong and Estrada. This college in Malate was established in 1906 and predates the neighbor campus of De La Salle University. Run by Benedictine sisters, St. Scho moved from a modest residential house in Tondo to San Marcelino (where Adamson University sits now) until it finally moved to its present Malate site in 1911. Of note is the fact that this college founded by German nuns pioneered formal music education and established a Conservatory of Music only a year after it was founded. At the time we visited, we were lucky to listen in on a pair of Music students practicing a Kundiman classic, “Pobreng Alindahaw”.  Check out the YouTube link below.

Photo Credit: Old Manila Walks

Art Deco adorns the campus chapel, the jewel-box theater, corridors, reliefs and many nooks and crannies. Despite the heat and humidity, we were enthralled by the Art Deco elements around us. Though ravaged by World War II, the post-war (from 1946) reconstruction of the school buildings was pursued and completed within a decade. Thanks to Ivan (Man Dy) who conducted the Manila Moderne Art Deco Walking Tour, we were educated and adequately guided to spot these oft-ignored details: the lines, zigzags, geometric patterns in all Deco-inspired heritage! 

Art Deco here is not all colonial-American as I earlier understood.  The architecture and style found in this campus lent itself to Bavarian influences as the chapel photo above shows. Another style is evident in the concert hall, aptly named St. Cecilia’s Hall. St. Cecilia is the patron Saint of musicians. And guess who was the architect of this premier concert venue of its time? No less than Andres Luna de San Pedro, son of Juan Luna who built the concert hall in the Egyptian Art Deco style. 

No wonder then that the National Historical Commission declared St. Cecilia’s Hall as  a National Cultural Landmark. Notwithstanding that bigger concert halls and performing arts venues now exist, this iconic theatre hall was clearly the forerunner of the Cultural Center of the Philippines as many notable musical artists had their recitals and concerts here. 

The Deco style manifests in the college’s courtyard, grand staircases, wrought-iron grills, ceiling art, sleek lines, arches, and geometric shapes adorning walls and columns. Such inspiration for its many outstanding alumnae which counts one President (Cory Aquino), 2 beauty world titlists (Gloria Diaz and Aurora Pijuan), and the first woman Supreme Court Justice (Cecilia Muñoz-Palma). 

We often forget that many of our universities and colleges are hidden cultural gems, having withstood the test of time. Though many were bombed out in the last war, thankfully their reconstruction restored many of the architectural elements prevailing at the time. After this walking tour, I am now inclined to visit as many campuses within and outside Manila. Yes. Before some idiot think of demolishing old buildings which have been part of our history. 

Here’s a quick one. We meant to be dropped off in Glorietta when we were pleasantly surprised with the tents being set up and food trucks parked around that tiny park fronting Glorietta and Makati Shangrila Hotel.



There were burgers, fish & chips, arroz caldo, bbq’s, ice cream, tacos, roast chicken, mac and cheese, kakanin like rice cakes, and so much more!


How exciting to find these food trucks here. As soon as my apos and I got off the car, we lost no time checking out the many stalls. So many choices. And lots of new food dishes to try. We’re waiting for Truck Bun to get ready — planning on trying the Japa-dog, whatever that is. Also Jasper’s Chicken where we can actually sit inside the van! (The Chicken Karaage with Sour cream and their “wet sauce” was good!) Then finish off with Merry Moo’s ice cream. Or you can cross the street towards Family Mart to buy their P25 green tea soft-serve ice cream in the comforts of an air-conditioned space with tidy restroom. Hmmmm. Nice Thursday afternoon.




A week after I visited a monastery run by Benedictine Monks down South, I was reminded of my Visita Iglesia back in April earlier this year. Among the 7 churches and chapels I visited, the most striking in my book was the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat, more popularly called San Beda Chapel. It is a gem waiting to be discovered and rediscovered…… in an area more remembered as the posh San Miguel district in Manila where the moneyed and high society used to lead elegant lifestyles by the banks of the then clean, oil spill-free Pasig River. Quite ironically, it is also known of late as the Mendiola site that bore witness to way too many rallies, even bloody protests, as rallyists marched towards Malacañang.




Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat



This neo-Gothic Chapel was designed by a Swedish architect by the name of George Asp. It would have looked even lovelier when it was consecrated in 1925, with those Sistine Chapel-like ceilings painted by artist-monk Fr. Lesmes Lopez, a Benedictine Monk. Awesome is an overused word, but yes, it is indeed awesome!




You would have thought you’re somewhere in Europe. But naah, this is the San Beda Chapel right in Mendiola!



The stars in the galaxy must have conspired to spare this magnificent church from the destruction of the Second World War. Just a block away from Malacañan Palace by the Pasig River, both structures survived the carpet bombing during the Battle of Manila. Many of its historic counterparts in Intramuros were not as lucky. It surprises me though that not too many are even aware of the striking beauty of this college chapel. One look at the painting of the Apotheosis of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, the retablo and many bronze angels holding lamps to illumine the chapel in a “Rennaissance” kind of way, and you’re transported out of the slums, dirt, grime, chaos of Manila. I can imagine the old rich and elite hearing Sunday masses in this lovely college chapel back then. Can you?





Photo Sourced from the Net

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.

Juan Luna’s obra maestra, the SPOLIARIUM , greets you as soon as you step into the Hall of Masters in the National Art Gallery. I have visited it quite a few times, appreciating how this painting brought and still bring so much pride to us Filipinos.

Browsing through my favorite Facebook pages, I was struck to find this photo of how the obra maestra looked in 1958. The National Museum offers this information and I do not wish to add nor subtract from it:


“Spoliarium (1958): Photo shows the Juan Luna masterpiece “Spoliarium” on display at the lobby of the Department of Foreign Affairs building on Padre Faura St. (now the Department of Justice building) where it was mounted on a wooden frame after it was shipped to the Philippines as a gift by the Franco Government in Spain that year. Unfortunately, because of its size, the painting was sliced into three pieces before it was crated and brought to the country. (The slices in the painting can be seen here) The Spoliarium was later restored by artist Antonio Dumlao before it was unveiled again in 1962. The painting remained at the DFA before it was transferred to the National Museum where it can be seen today.



The Spoliarium was entry by Luna to the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884 in Madrid, where it garnered the first gold medal (out of three). In 1886, it was sold to the Diputación Provincial de Barcelona for 20,000 pesetas. It measures 4.22 meters x 7.675 meters, and considered as the largest painting in the Philippines. (Thank you, Vic Torres, for the photo and the annotation.)”




Sourced from the Net

(Source: National Art Gallery)



It almost breaks your heart to see even just a photo of a visibly “split up” SPOLIARIUM. Thanks to Antonio Dumlao, we are now privileged to view this obra maestra in all its glory. But pray tell, who is ANTONIO DUMLAO?




Spoliarium at the Hall of Masters. National Art Gallery. Manila



More Internet surfing and more heartbreaks which can only be appeased by my sharing these with you.



First off, Antonio Dumlao was an accomplished artist. He was commissioned to give a “facelift” to the Juan Luna obra maestra in 1960 despite the fact that he was never trained in restoration work. In fact, he never had any formal education in the arts. He quit the same year he enrolled to study fine arts in the University of the Philippines. With or without formal education, Dumlao was a gifted artist. He was a muralist, a portrait canvas artist, a sculptor and a stained glass innovator. For many years, he served as Art Director of San Miguel Corporation and developed a friendship with his top art patron, Don Andres Soriano, through whom he met Don Manuel Elizalde, another art patron.




Antonio Dumlao. (Photo sourced from the Net)

(Photo sourced from the Net)



DUMLAO was friends with Fernando Amorsolo, a contemporary, who has great admiration and respect for his work. Ironically, not much is known about DUMLAO. Nor about his deep friendship with his childhood friend from Intramuros days, Vicente Manansala. When Dumlao had a stroke in 1979, his daughter recounted how “Mang Enteng” flew to his father’s bedside. Genuine friends, indeed. Two years after that visit, Manansala had a heart attack and died before Dumlao, who died in 1983.




Ina ng Lahi. Photo sourced from the Net.

(Sourced from the Net: “Ina Ng Lahi”. UP Vargas Museum. Filipiniana Collection.)




Not just a painter or muralist. He works on stained glass too!
Photo Sourced from the Net.

(Sourced from the Net: “Sarimanok” Stained Glass. Far eastern University)



Imagine how this gifted muralist restored Luna’s Spoliarium! Makes me wonder how much of the mural is Luna’s and how much was Dumlao’s. I know, that’s NOT fair to say. Forgive this non-artist, layman’s random thought. One thing’s for sure though. This Luna fan is now officially a Dumlao fan too. His other stained glass works are still in Malacañang and in the Mosque in Quiapo. Now, this requires a visit! Join me?


Food tripping in Manila? We’ve tried some restaurants and takeout counters and came up with this list!


Tutto Domani

Cafe Breton

Spectrum In Raffles-Fairmont Hotel

Lobby of Makati Shangrila Hotel

Sentro 1771 in Greenbelt 3

TONKATSU By Terazawa

Yomenya Goemon in Greenbelt 3

Toast Box

Heaven & Eggs in Glorietta 4

Going Greek in Cyma

DRAFT in Greenbelt 2

Burger Bar

Teddy’s Bigger Burgers


Grace Park

Hatch 22


Wooden Spoon

TWG Tea Salon

Zaifu at Power Plant Mall

KAYA Korean Restaurant

Morelli’s Gelato in Power Plant Mall

Cucina Victoria in Power Plant Mall

DRAFT in Rockwell



Going Mad For Garlic….. anytime!

Las Flores

Tokyo Bubble Tea at The Fort

Bar Dolci at The Fort

Shi Lin (Chinese, what else?) At The Fort

IHOP. Or OverHyped?

Cabalen (Pinoy Buffet) in Market, Market

Banapple at Market, Market


SHINE Bakery & Cafe



SARSA Kitchen

Ramen Nagi


BLACKBIRD (formerly Nielson Tower)


Romulo Cafe in Jupiter Street (Pinoy With A Twist)


Hole In The Wall


Pino or Pipino? Carnivores Vs Vegetarians?

Build and Design Your Own Burger

Build and Design Your Own Pizza Pie

Shinjuku in Little Tokyo off Pasay Road

Toby’s Estate

Cara Mia or Amicí?

XO 46 in Salcedo Village (Spanish-Filipino Cuisine)

Kanin Club for Rice-Eaters

Rai Rai Ken

Kite Kebab in Poblacion

Señor Pollo in Poblacion

Coffee and Saints (Don Bosco Church, Makati)

The Plantation in Legazpi Village

Sophie’s Mom in San Antonio Village, Makati

Mochiko in Malunggay Street, Makati

As Korean As DONU Grill in Polaris

The Curator, A Coffee Shop

Commune Cafe & Bar

Your Local & Yardstick

Rural Kitchen of Liliw


China Blue in Conrad Hotel

Cafe Adriatico or Abe’s in Mall of Asia

Lugang Cafe (Chinese)

Sebastian’s Artisanal Ice Cream

Movie Stars Cafe

Razon’s in MOA and Elsewhere



BLACK PIG in Alabang

Vieux Chalet in Antipolo

Swiss Deli in BF Homes III


Binondo: Po Heng Lumpia House

Binondo: Happy & Delicious Kitchen

Binondo: Dong-Bei Dumpling House

Ambos Mundos


Ginzadon in Resorts World

Corazon in Shangrila Mall

Casa Roces Near Malacañan Palace


Peri Peri Chicken 


Lombardi’s for Italian Food

Project Pie in Mandaluyong

Makan Makan in Hotel H2O

Dulcelin in UP Town Hall

Crepeman in Maginhawa Street

Papa Diddi in Maginhawa Street

Cafe Publico in Greenhills’ Promenade

Krazy Garlic in Greenhill’s Promenade


TDF (To Die For)

Best Mango Torte STILL from CUERVA’s

PIMBRERA in San Antonio Plaza (Forbes)

Bon Banhmi

Ellie’s Cookies

CPR. Naaah, not the medical/first-aid procedure. Long before initials became the norm in addressing bosses, the entire Philippine nation had CPR. CARLOS Peña ROMULO. My generation still remember those history quizzes back in Grade School where United Nations, Gen. MacArthur’s landing at Leyte and liberation were associated with CPR. As when I remember my father’s generation refer to him as Mr. United Nations. Always, with Filipino pride.




Sourced from the Net. This photo inspired the bronze statues representing the Leyte Landing of General Douglas MacArthur, then President Sergio Osmena, then Brig. Gen. Carlos P. Romulo , etc.


From the staircase to the private function room (good for 80 pax) on the second floor, this portrait of CPR would greet the visitor.



Mr. United Nations, impressive orator, diplomat, soldier, Filipino patriot, journalist and author. An achiever at a very young age, he was no ordinary teenager. Wet behind the ears, he was already a reporter at age 16, a newspaper editor by age 20, and a publisher by age 32. He is also the co-founder of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines. During the Japanese Occupation, he made sure the Philippines was not forgotten, chronicling the plight of Filipino fighters, his voice heard by as many Americans while he agonized just thinking of his family back in the Philippines. But more than all these, his legacy extends to this Filipino restaurant — Romulo’s Cafe.




Bangus Pate. Bangus is milkfish, flaked and made into a pate that are served as appetizers with Crostinis.


This Tuna Sisig is ideal for vegetarians and vegans.



You can start and end with the appetizers and NOT feel cheated. The Bangus Paté and Tuna Sisig are must-try appetizers. No pork in your Sisig? No liver pâté? I’m telling you. You won’t miss your pork and duck liver. Filipino ingenuity at work here.




Crispy Squid. Oh this is a favorite!


Fish Rolls



And there’s the crunchy squid and fish rolls. I can down these appetizers with a cup of steamed rice and wear a smile all night. All 4 appetizers so savory, and healthy. No guilt pangs. YET. 😉




Fried Tilapia


Pinakbet with Bagnet. A Northern Philippines (Ilocano) dish.



We TRIED staying healthy, but not for long. The deep-fried, splayed Tilapia served with 3 sauce dips is both a gustatory and aesthetic delight. The BAGNET in the Pinakbet stole the scene from the shrimps adorning the veggie dish. Too tempting. It broke all resolve to have a Meatless Friday — of course, others were dead set early on to break the rule 😉 — and so came the Crispy Pata and the Lengua .




Can’t stay away from meat? Try the Crispy Pata.


Lengua. (Ox Tongue)



Good company, good food, good service and a place so charming. The high ceiling, black-and-white motif, and tastefully-designed interiors all combine perfectly to highlight the framed photos hanging on the walls. Each one a lesson in history. CPR giving a speech — this little man standing tall amidst prominent Americans and other foreigners in the audience. CPR in a family photo, in earlier times and late in his years. CPR doting on his grandchildren. What a legacy!




Suman Con Latik. A very Filipino snack food with a twist!


Framed photos such as these are each a lesson in history. CPR is very much a part of the Philippines’ wartime and post war history.


A doting grandpa, more than anything else.

Back at the National Museum to attend the Museum Foundation’s Lecture Series on Batanes. No less than Architect Toti Villalon gave the lecture with a few prominent residents of Batanes in the audience. But we were more than an hour early for the lecture. So we found ourselves meandering from hall to hall, trying to avoid the student crowds who filled the Hall of the Masters.




The National Art Gallery/ National Museum with the Clock Tower of the Manila City Hall in the background.



We were drawn to the Amorsolo portraits — thinking how lucky those high society people were to pose for this National Artist. But one particular portrait got our full attention. Having just visited the newly-restored Old Senate Hall within the National Art Gallery (the same building used to house the Legislature), we were pleasantly surprised to find a hunk of a statesman in the twice-elected Speaker of the House.




Guess who? No less than the Speaker of the House (twice elected) Jose B. Laurel Jr.



With those looks, it’s tempting to think the Legislature consisted mainly of women. But this Presidential son (he is the eldest of 9 children of ex-President Jose P. Laurel) and Vice-Presidential brother (Doy Laurel, the man who withdrew his presidential ambitions in favor of Cory Aquino to run and win as Vice President) earned every laurel (pun intended) on his head. He made a bid for the Vice Presidency himself, but lost to Diosdado Macapagal, who went on to become President and whose daughter likewise became President. These days, they call it political dynasty. But the Laurels have all proven their worth, and for a “political clan”, remains low-profile and unassuming. Surely, their patriarch, President Jose P. Laurel, knew how to raise a BIG family.




Died not too long ago. Lived a quiet life though his family remained in the political limelight.

Originally intended as a public library but subsequently built to house the Legislature, this magnificent building designed by Juan Arellano was a casualty during the Battle of Manila in 1945. It was reconstructed in 1946 based on the original plans and remained the august halls of the Senate of the Philippines until it moved out in 1996. It took nearly a decade to transform this architectural treasure into what it is now: the official repository of national arts, treasures, archaeological finds and historical relics. The National Art Gallery of our very own National Museum.





The Old Senate of the Philippines. Fully restored!


Check out this hall where many statesmen of old (a rarity now) used to walk!



Whenever I visit the Museum, I always start with the Hall of Masters. It’s like paying your respects to geniuses the likes of Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo. If that P150 (US$4) admission fee entitles one to a viewing of Luna’s Spoliarium and Hidalgo’s Assassination of Governor Bustamante ALONE, it would have been worth it. But there’s more. LOTS MORE. One visit won’t be enough.




The ornate ceiling in the Old Senate Hall within the National Art Gallery.


The Marker of the Old Senate Hall of the Philippines.



The Old Senate Hall has been completely restored. Here, where many revered statesmen walked the very floors and whose walls echoed many speeches from statesmen whose names now grace many street signs, shrines and monuments. Thank you, National Museum for allowing us to reconnect with our past. Thank you, Jeremy Barns, Museum Director, and everyone else who made this possible.




How many National Anthems were played in this Hall?


The Entrance to the National Art Gallery.


Lovely Building. Next up: Museum of Natural History. In the same area!

WHO IS JONES? Why was this oldest bridge in the Philippines named Jones Bridge?




Puente de Espana, then Jones Bridge, to honor the man behind the Jones Act granting independence to the Philippine Islands.



WILLIAM ATKINSON JONES. Member of US House of Representatives from 1891 to 1918. Right about the same period when the US bought the Philippines from Spain for $20 million. Imagine that. US$20Million for 7,107 islands.




The Post Office Building and the Jones Bridge. Two landmarks rich in history.



Back to the question — why was the bridge named after Rep. William Atkinson Jones? Used to be called Puente de España since it was built in 1701 spanning over Pasig River and connecting Binondo to the core of the capital city of Manila. Originally done by Juan Arellano in the Neo-Classical design but destroyed and renamed Jones Bridge by the US Colonial Government in 1916 to honor the man who sponsored the bill, later enacted into law, granting independence to the Philippines. Bombed out in World War II, this formerly ornate arch bridge was yet again rebuilt but in simpler design after 1945. The oldest bridge in the country.




Not my copy. Credits to Old Manila Nostalgia.



When Jones died in 1918, the Philippines paid for the marker on his grave in gratitude for the Jones Act which granted Philippine Independence. So much history behind this bridge across Pasig River with a bonus grand view of yet another landmark, the Postal Office of Manila. Next time you head for Binondo or Chinatown and cross this bridge from Plaza Lawton, think Philippine Independence. 😉