I’ve never thought of Manila as a destination. It has always been a stopover; a gateway; a bridge that links to all the wonderful places around the beautiful island of Luzon. Its glints and glamour may seem inviting but one could only agree that it is also a home to: as Isa Garcia says it, hot sweltering mess of angry drivers, selfie takers, Facebook trolls, political dissent, and social acrobatics with a line towed in the sand to clearly separate the haves from the have-nots. So, imagine my obvious dislike when my travel group agreed to visit Manila for the annual tour. What in the world are they thinking?! Come on, out of the 7,641 islands of the Philippines, can’t you think of any better place?
But you see, there are some lessons that takes a little longer to understand. I may have not agreed with their choices, there is a bigger reason for the Universe to make this happen. And so off we went to country’s economic hub, Metro Manila.
Places we visited in Metro Manila
Well, if there’s one thing I didn’t regret on this trip, it was the chance given to visit the Malacañan Palace – though not as how I imagined it to be. HAHA. Who wouldn’t want to pay a visit to the house of the Philippine president, right?
For those who are interested to see a glimpse of the rich history of Malacañang Palace and the lives of the presidents who used to stay there, the Malacañan, Presidential Museum and Library actually offers a tour around such part of the palace. However, there are several protocols to follow upon the visit to ensure safety and security like online reservation, pre-registration, strict inspection, and prohibition of non-essentials inside the museum.
NOTE: The Presidential Museum and Library is open Mondays to Fridays from 9am to 12pm and 1pm to 3pm (except on public holidays). Guests are asked to wear smart casual attire and pay an entrance fee of P50 for adults and P30 for students and senior citizens. For online reservations, you may click here.
Of course, a trip around Manila won’t be complete without visiting the Walled City of Intramuros. It is a perfect spot to take numerous IG-worthy shots thanks to its Spanish-like features. Intramuros would surely bring back the old world charm with its museums, churches, shops, pavements, and structures like Fort Santiago, Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Church, Puerta Real Gardens, Rizal Bagumbayan Light and Sound Museum, and Palacio Del Gobernador.
Manila Ocean Park
Manila Ocean Park is one of the country’s marine theme park and educational facility. Had I came in the area when I was a little younger, I would have had so much fun exploring and getting to know the various species of animals found inside. But having been explored the jungles and forests of the Philippines, I knew by heart that it’s more fun watching those wild animals on BBC and NatGeo than inside those transparent cages.
Seeing those seals perform and having those sting rays interact with humans may seem disheartening, but I guess there’s still something educational on it: that if we don’t take strict measures in the preservation and protection of our flora and fauna, there would come a time when the only place left for them to dwell are on the walls of our man-made theme parks.
I’ve come to an age where I can honestly admit how unacknowledged I am. Much more when we visited the Mind Museum. I am not the science-freak type of person but the impressive hands-on, interactive exhibit inside the JY Campos Park of BGC is totally amazing. The Mind Museum features various galleries such of Atom Gallery, Life Gallery, Earth Gallery, Universe Gallery, and Technology Gallery.
And I couldn’t help but think what kind of citizens we could have raised if young children are more interested in studying facts and answering long-standing and realistic problems rather than becoming part of the problem in the society.
I have been to a number of museums in the country, but I’ve never been as astounded as when we were in Ayala Museum. Tight security measures, superbly curated exhibits, and highly-interactive displays – no wonder it is considered as one of the leading private museums in the country. The Ayala Museum features the rich history, culture, art, heritage, and treasures of the country through its augmented reality diorama, textile exhibit, a whole floor display of exquisite pieces of pre-Hispanic gold jewelry, and rotating art exhibit of Luna, Amorsolo, and other renowned Filipino artists.
Going around, I remembered one of my classmates who shared how she hated going to museums. Had she been in this kind of museum, would she still abhor it?
Venice Grand Canal Mall
McKinley Hill’s Venice Grand Canal Mall is surely a dream come true to those who want visit Italy but are short on budget or pressed with time. It is a perfect getaway for lovers, barkada, and families who want to bond and spend time with each other. Here you can experience gondola rides, dining next to a man-made canal, and take numerous ig-worthy photos!
Before heading back to the airport, some members of the group asked if we can pay a visit to the newly-opened casino resort and hotel complex in Parañaque. Grand is such an understatement to describe this world class hotel. The hotel’s designs speaks so much of exquisite Asia’s vibrant colors.
The National Museum of the Philippines is a huge complex that houses the country’s rich natural, ethnographical, visual, and cultural heritage. It was established in 1901 and has grown into wider areas of concerns such as: National Museum of Fine Arts, Anthropology, Natural History, and Planetarium.
Sadly, we were not able to visit all the rest of the museums given the very short time allotted – heck, we weren’t even able to go up the second floor of the National Museum of Fine Arts. Such a disheartening experience. But isn’t it funny how the turn of events made me want to stay in Manila all the more.
I underestimated Manila. I underestimated its capacity to lure and charm the wanderers and wonderers. Maybe there’s an underlying reason why they wanted to visit it once again despite its notorious reputation. Aside from having to explore other places or having to see things in a rather different perspective, I’ve come to realize that there is wisdom on what our CL coordinator shared when we kept on hearing the same statement over and over again: that maybe, we need to be especially reminded of something important, something that we have not been so keen about, something that is needed for our brain to think over again, something that we have forgotten or not paid attention to.
Because there are some pages of a book that we need to be read over and over again to finally make sense. And I guess, that is Manila for me. That beyond the bad rap it continues to receive, there are still things that are worth doing, worth visiting, and worth learning in the country’s capital.
It is not just a stopover. Not a bridge. Or a gateway.
There is always something left to love somewhere, somehow.
See you on trail!