Locally born architect and designer James J.J. Acuna shares his favorite spots in the ever-evolving Philippine capital.
Manila according to designer and architect James J.J. Acuna.
EAT Tucked inside a creative complex on the edge of Makati,
Toyo Eatery ( fb.com/toyoeatery) serves excellent Filipino fare by chef Jordy Navarra, who presents local flavors and ingredients in elevated ways—his Bahay Kubo ‘salad’ combines all 18 vegetables mentioned in a popular Tagalog folk song of the same name. Two other great spots are Grace Park ( fb.com/graceparkdining) for its farm-to-table comfort food by Margarita Forés, crowned Asia’s Best Female Chef in 2016; and
Hey Handsome ( fb.com/handsome come), where Southeast Asian dishes are reinterpreted through the lens of chef Nicco Santos. I love the lamb buah keluak and always order beetroot paneer on the side.
SHOP Aphro ( fb.com/aphroliving) is Manila’s top concept store, selling artwork and home items by mostly Filipino talents. Price points vary, but there’s something for everyone looking for a one-of-a-kind gift. For Filipino fashion, stop by Rajo! ( rajolaurel.com)— it’s the ateliercum-showroom of one of the Philippines’ leading designers— or Tropa ( tropastore.com), which showcases local brands with a focus on modern, minimalist attire and low-impact production methods.
DO Explore the city’s walled Spanish-colonial district on an Intramuros tour with performance artist Carlos Celdran ( carlosceldran
walks.wordpress.com), whose theatrical approach to history provides a nuanced look at why the country is the way it is today. Architecture buffs should check out the brutalist National Theater ( culturalcenter.gov.ph) at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, one of the greatest achievements of celebrated architect Leandro V. Locsin; do take the guided tour to fully admire the sweeping curves of poured-in-place concrete and capiz-shell chandeliers hung from the gold-leafed ceiling. Finally, the cluster of galleries around Chino Roces Avenue— Silverlens ( silverlensgalleries.com), Bellas Artes Outpost ( bellasartes projects.org), and The Drawing Room ( drawingroomgallery.com) —provides a glimpse into the city’s burgeoning contemporary art scene.