RRB in the Philippines | Manila


manila, philippines, intramuros, fort santiagoOur primary purpose in traveling to Manila was to meet my family, but we managed to squeeze in some sightseeing too. Manila is a huge city and we only covered a small fraction of it during our three-night stay.We stayed at the Intercontinental Manila in Makati, one of Manila’s shopping/entertainment districts. It was conveniently located — not too far from the airport, across the street from literally six malls*, and had a great breakfast buffet (included in our room rate).manila, philippines, intercontinental makati, jeepneyJeepney.We did not ride the popular public transportation vehicle known as the jeepney, a sort of minibus that’s smaller than El Salvador’s “micros” (microbuses) but larger than a tuk-tuk. They are everywhere. Manila has a lot of traffic.Upon our late-afternoon arrival in Manila, following a more-than-24-hour journey from Kabul, we checked into our hotel, grabbed dinner at one of the many restaurants in the mall(s) across the street and face-planted. We were exhausted. Kabul has a way of doing that to you (along with the long travel process to get out of Kabul). We slept for 12 hours.manila, philippines, intramuros, fort santiagoFort Santiago.My family picked us up for lunch at noon the following day and took us to an area called Seaside Dampa in Pasay City, where you buy fresh seafood and other ingredients at the nearby market and then bring them to the restaurant, where they’ll cook up different dishes at your request. Afterwards, we headed to Intramuros, also known as “the Walled City,” the former seat of government under Spanish colonial rule.In Intramuros, we visited Fort Santiago, where Philippine national hero José Rizal was imprisoned before his execution. Built by Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi, the fort was later used by the Japanese Army during World War II and used to imprison hundreds of POWs.manila, philippines, intramuros, san agustin church, san agustin cathedralSan Agustin Church.After touring the fort and visiting the José Rizal shrine and museum, we stopped for a perfectly timed cafecito (OK, it was intended to be a coffee break but instead I ordered halo-halo) at Barbara’s. We then continued on to San Agustin Church, a 16th century Baroque-style Roman Catholic Church. During the World War II Japanese occupation, it was used as a concentration camp. During our visit, however, it was being set up for a wedding — a much more cheerful way to remember the church.manila, philippines, halo-halo, mix-mix, barabara'sHello, halo-halo.(I’m not going to go into the details of halo-halo, aka mix-mix, here, because I’ll have a post dedicated specifically to this wonderful Filipino dessert.)San Agustin Church was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993. (Aside: As I was writing this blog, I said to Kail, “Isn’t everything a UNESCO World Heritage site?” And he replied, “Just to give you a sense of how lucky we are in our travels, there are only 18 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the U.S.” OK, perhaps I’ve been a bit spoiled by our FS travels, having visited several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Joya de Cerén in El Salvador, Copán in Honduras, Antigua in Guatemala, Casco Viejo in Panama, Chitwan and Kathmandu in Nepal, Luang Prabang in Laos and Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom in Cambodia. Lest you think Foreign Service life consists of one UNESCO World Heritage Site visit after another, I’ll remind you that we’re currently serving in Afghanistan.)manila, philippines, intramurosBamboo bikes.I really enjoyed visiting Intramuros. It was so different from the rest of Manila (the little of it that we saw) and reminded me a lot of the historic, colonial-era towns we visited in Central America. Afterwards, we headed on our driving tour of scenes from my infancy and then to an area called Global City for dinner.We went to Sentro, a fancy take on traditional Filipino dishes (for example, “naked lumpia,” a deconstructed version of the traditionally fried Filipino spring roll). It was really good, although there’s something to be said for the traditional version of cooking dishes (as unhealthy as they may be — hey, we were on vacation). Next time we visit Manila, Global City would be a great place to stay, as there are a lot of outdoor, pedestrian-friendly shopping areas and restaurants.Have you ever visited a UNESCO World Heritage Site?See more photos from Manila.*Seriously, Glorietta Malls 1-5 and Greenbelt Mall. They are all connected, but still. Six malls!

Published by La Vie Overseas

I'm Natasha -- writer, runner and wife to a Foreign Service Officer with USAID. Current location: Frankfurt, Germany.

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