LOST AND LOV­ING IT

MANILA IS A VI­BRANT CITY STEEPED IN HIS­TORY. IT’S EVEN BET­TER WHEN YOU TAKE A CROWDED BUS OFF THE BEATEN TRACK

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | ESCAPE - WORDS: VICKI WOOD Vicki Wood was a guest of Bris­bane Air­port Cor­po­ra­tion, Fairmont Makati, Manila and Philip­pine Air­lines.

Al­though I wouldn’t rec­om­mend get­ting lost in a for­eign coun­try, the mis­ad­ven­ture that may take place can lead to the per­fect es­cape. De­cid­ing to take a Jeep­ney for the pure ex­pe­ri­ence, we were sent on a road of dis­cov­ery, wit­ness­ing the life­style of the Filipino through back-streets, rather than the main roads of Manila. Jeep­neys are re­fur­bished Amer­i­can mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles left over from World War II. They are now man­u­fac­tured in the Philip­pines and are a main­stay of the coun­try’s pub­lic trans­porta­tion. On our lit­tle ad­ven­ture we also tried to hop on the many other modes of trans­port to get us back on track, in­clud­ing mo­tor­bikes, tuk tuks, rick­shaws, taxis and horse and bug­gies that con­trib­ute to Manila’s bustling at­mos­phere. The city of con­trasts is even more ap­par­ent in Makati, one of the 16 metropoli­tan cities that make up the district of Manila. It is home to sleek skyscrap­ers, slick ho­tels, churches dat­ing back to 1620 and high-end malls. It is the fi­nan­cial hub with lots of banks and busi­nesses lin­ing the streets among world-class shopping cen­tres that seem to en­gulf the sur­round­ings.

The best known is Green­belt Park, a sprawl­ing 2.8 hectare gar­den in­te­grat­ing an in­door ex­pe­ri­ence of re­tail and din­ing. Travelling on a week­end meant the city was qui­eter than the usual hus­tle dur­ing the work­ing week and less con­gested than the likes of Sin­ga­pore and Hong Kong. It made it eas­ier to ex­plore but it was when you trav­elled out­side of the cen­tral area that you got to see the rich his­tory and di­ver­sity of Manila. Filipino cul­ture has been in­flu­enced by both the East and the West with sig­nif­i­cant change brought by Spain and the US. Its in­tense life­style has been di­rected by sev­eral ma­jor events through­out its his­tory. The Span­ish colonised the coun­try more than 300 years ago, Ja­pan seized the Philip­pines in 1941 dur­ing World War II, and the islands were granted full in­de­pen­dence in 1946. It was a sober­ing feel­ing to walk through the Manila Amer­i­can Me­mo­rial where more than 17,100 grave sites lie, and more than 36,000 names are en­graved in stone for those never found. We were taken through the “old Manila’’ on Bam­bikes, made by a small bou­tique busi­ness ben­e­fit­ing tourists and residents alike. The strong bam­boo frame car­ried us through the cob­ble­stone streets to churches, mu­se­ums, and a rooftop bar with a 360-de­gree view of Manila. Bam­bike Evo­lu­tion Cy­cles founder Bryan Ben­itez-mcclel­land is rein­vest­ing in the com­mu­nity by help­ing tourists learn about the Philip­pines. Part of the pro­ceeds from tours goes back into the re­gion in the form of feed­ing pro­grams for stu­dents, pro­vid­ing safe places to play and of­fer­ing full-time em­ploy­ment with ben­e­fits. Baron Travel was ex­cep­tional in help­ing us nav­i­gate our way through Manila and giv­ing us the high­lights of the re­gion in three days. If you only have a short time to visit, the Ayala Mu­seum is the per­fect place to find out about the de­tailed and com­pelling his­tory of the Philip­pines. The Dio­rama dis­plays were the best I had ever seen and the ex­quis­ite gold ex­hibit left your eyes bog­gled. But for some­thing to­tally dif­fer­ent, for lit­tle and big kids, is the Dessert Mu­seum, eight rooms of de­li­cious­ness, each de­signed ac­cord­ing to the lat­est trends. Four of the mouth­wa­ter­ing rooms have al­ready been changed in the year and a half it has been open. More than 1000 peo­ple a day fol­low

candy rab­bits through donut holes, slide down a sprin­kle slide and swing on cake puffs. If you are not too full from this treat you can ex­plore the Sal­cedo Mar­kets on a Satur­day. The food com­mu­nity is full of fab­u­lous flavours and rich tra­di­tions in the heart of Makati. Formed in 2005, the mar­ket meets ev­ery Satur­day at the Jaime Ve­lasquez Park of Sal­cedo vil­lage. Its stalls of­fer a wide range of wet and dry food, with cuisines from all over the world. The most in­ter­est­ing we were tempted to try was Isaw, chicken in­tes­tine wrapped on a stick. This is some­thing Filipinos en­joy, but I can now say I have tried it and prob­a­bly never will again. An added bonus to the trip was to travel out a bit fur­ther to Marik­ina, the home of the shoe in­dus­try in the Philip­pines. You can dine in the 200-year-old build­ing once owned by Don Lau­re­ano Gue­vara, recog­nised as the fa­ther of the shoe in­dus­try, stroll the streets and pur­chase some shoes, visit Our Lady of the Aban­doned Church, the old­est church in the Philip­pines, lay your eyes on a gi­ant float­ing heel, and see the fit­ting trib­ute to the city at the Shoe Mu­seum which in­cludes a num­ber of shoes worn by for­mer Philip­pines First Lady Imelda Mar­cos. There is much more to ex­plore in the Philip­pines con­sid­er­ing it com­prises more than 7000 islands. But ex­plor­ing Manila is eas­ily achiev­able in a few days. Use the ex­tra time to get on a quick flight and take an ad­ven­ture to one or more of the fa­mous islands like Palawan or Palaui.

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