Welcome to My Place . . . Manila
Dubliner Brendan Crowe on the best pools, parks and street food to enjoy in the Philippines
Brendan Crowe and his wife Justyna, in Manila.
“I came over here to work in a tech support company on assignment, originally to help out for six months in Cebu. I liked it so much I asked to stay on and got a transfer to Manila and a promotion to a senior operations manager position.”
The couple live in condo which has residential gardens and swimming pools in Mandaluyong, “with our dog Barry and a stray kitten we found one night and nursed back to health along the way”.
Where is the first place you always bring people to when they visit Manila?
First of all I bring them to one of the three open swimming pools in our estate. (I know, tough life.)
Then we visit Greenfield market in Mandaluyong, where from Thursday to Saturday you can enjoy live bands, some traditional Filipino street food, and either fresh mango juice or a nice cold San Miguel beer.
San Miguel might sound very familiar to anyone who has been in Spain. This brewery started as La Fabrica de Cerveza de San Miguel in Manila in 1890, when the Philippines was a Spanish colony.
Greenfield is surrounded by coffee shops, restaurants and bars, so you have a lot of places to choose from if you can’t get a seat in the market area.
Manila Bay has the best sunset experience on a sunny day. The sky changes colour minute by minute, and it is absolutely mesmerising. After the sun sets, you can enjoy the boardwalk which is filled with restaurants, bars and a small amusement park.
The boardwalk is just outside the Mall of Asia, which is the third largest shopping centre in the world, so you can enjoy shopping before or after the sunset.
The top three things to do there, that don’t cost money, are ...
1. National Museum introduced free admission from July 2016 and it’s definitely worth going to.
2. Paco Park Presents organises free admission concerts that take place on Fridays at 6pm .
3. The Luneta, or the dancing fountain, in Rizal Park. (This actually has a 50 pesos admission fee, which is less than €1)
Where do you recommend for a meal eaten out doors?
If you expect the long streets filled with food stalls like in Bangkok, you might be disappointed when you come to Manila. It doesn’t mean Filipinos can’t make incredible dishes. Things you must try include lechon, pancit, sisig and all varieties of seafood dishes. Manila bay is filled with restaurants with tables outside, so is Eastwood in Quezon City.
Eastwood is a shopping mall but it has a square outside which is rare in a shopping centre filled city. One of our favourite places to eat, even though it is indoors , is a place called Vikings. It is an unlimited food buffet, which we usually stay away from, but not this one. Amazing food, unlimited beer, for less than €20 (prices vary between 738 to 938 pesos).
Where is the best place to get a sense of Manila’s place in history?
Manila has its own old town called Intramuros. It is located close to Mall of Asia and Manila boardwalk, so you can easily see both spots in one day. Fort Santiago, which is part of a historical park, is where you can feel the presence of the Spanish colonial times. It’s one of the main attractions in the city – where you can escape the view of skyscrapers.
What should visitors save room in their suitcase for after a visit to Manila?
Anything and everything made from bamboo – dishes, candle sticks, chopsticks and much more. And things made from coconut – soap, sugar, oils, sweets. And don’t leave without buying some dried mango snacks and chocolates. The best place to shop for souvenirs and local products is Kultura shop, where there are fair prices and no need to haggle. If you’re looking for local shopping feeling, go to Divisoria market. You can get everything there – and you also get a one-of-a-kind experience for free.
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