Ladies and gentlemen, we have just been cleared to land at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Please make sure…
I wake up from deep slumber on a comfortable seat, styled like a chaise lounge and reclined at fifteen degrees, and I gather my senses to look at everything around me: the seat back-mounted, nine-inch television screen is still playing the same movie it did when I fell asleep, the touch-screen gaming console still has some remnants of my delicious meal after I accidentally dropped it onto my plate of rice, and an assortment of candy wrappers, half-eaten chocolate, and a bag of chips surround me, along with the two books I bought from a local bookstore in Melbourne.
Using the plane’s hi-speed inflight Wi-Fi, I start to tidy up while I listen to my OPM playlist. Philippine Airlines has always been my top choice for travel whenever I feel the need to go out and explore countries aside from my own. With flights to over 32 countries and 43 destinations around the globe, they also offer top of the line amenities, facilities, and undeniably great in-flight services; making it easy to travel back and forth anytime, anywhere. As the country’s flag carrier since 1941, Philippine Airlines continues to be the nation’s leading airline with over a hundred aircrafts; all made through ingenious design and craftsmanship.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Local time is 1050. And the temperature…”
Considered one of the two largest airports in the Philippines to cater to regional and international flights, Ninoy Aquino International Airport, simply known as NAIA, was named in honor of former senator Benigno Aquino Jr. who died in 1983 and has four terminals and two long runways located between Parañaque and Pasay City.
After a month of traveling from one country to another, I can’t help but feel excited at the idea of spending a few weeks in my hometown with my family.
“Erika, anak, over here!” I craned my neck over the throngs of people inside the terminal and saw my family smiling and waving their hands at me in welcome.
We’ve already planned out a week’s worth of itinerary in Manila starting right after I touchdown at the airport.
First stop: Lunch. As a traditional Filipino family, food has always been the center of our get-togethers. We love indulging in delicious Filipino dishes partnered with refreshing drinks and amazing desserts. Our go-to place in Manila has always been Aristocrat Restaurant along San Andres Street in Malate. Open since 1928, their branch in Malate (as well as Makati) is open 24/7 for all diners to visit. Their menu offers a variety of Filipino food, and I strongly suggest you order their Crispy Pata, Kare-kare, and Bulalo.
After lunch, we took a short trip to Manila Bay. Measuring 48 kilometers in width, the city’s famous coastline stretches along Roxas Boulevard, the famous promenade that has laid witness to many historical events in the Philippines like the Battles of La Naval de Manila and the Battle of Manila Bay. Now a perfect spot for relaxing, Manila Bay offers recreational activities like biking along the promenade and has established itself as a perfect date spot for its great view of the sunset.
After a relaxing stroll, we attended mass at the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros. Hailed as the mother of all churches in the Philippines, the cathedral was initially built as an archdiocese of Mexico in 1571 then later became a Catholic church. On April of 1981, Manila Cathedral was raised as a minor basilica through the issuance of Pope John Paul II’s papal bull. Its main patroness is the Immaculate Concepcion, with Saint Potenciana and Saint Rose of Lima as secondary saints.
We roamed around the basilica and took in its exceptional beauty inside and out. Its noticeable features include a hanging red galero hat worn by the cathedral’s first appointed Filipino Cardinal located in the middle of the octagonal dome, over a hundred stained glass windows designed by Galo Ocampo, the marble floors and columns installed during the last reconstruction process, the intricately carved statues of several saints, a marble altar with a gilded statue of the Immaculate Conception under a baldachin, and lastly, the crypt where the bodies of Cardinal Jaime L. Sin, Corazon C. Aquino, Cardinal Rufino J. Santos, and Carlos P. Garcia lie.
While in Intramuros, we didn’t miss the chance to ride a kalesa to roam around the walled city. Favorite spots include Fort Santiago, the oldest stone fortress that serves as the entrance, Baluarte de San Diego, a circular bastion once used during the Spanish conquest, and museums Bahay Tsinoy, Casa Manila, and the Rizaliana Furniture Exhibit. Don’t forget to pay a visit to Rizal Shrine, a museum dedicated to the life and works of Jose P. Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero.
Finally, our last stop for the day: the oldest Chinatown in the world, Binondo! Go on a food crawl along Binondo’s famous streets Yuchengco and Ongpin. First, we dove into fried frog legs and Soup No. 5 (whose main ingredient is bull testes) at the Estero Food Alley in Ongpin. At the corner of Yuchengco and Ongpin lies Eng Bee Tin, where we bought delicious custard and ube hopia. If you go further down Yuchengco street, you’ll find Dong Bei Dumpling and get a taste of their famous kuchay and pork dumplings as well as their fried chicken sinjang. As we circled back to Ongpin, we took the chance to pass by Binondo Church and offered some prayers before we went home.
The morning of my second day back home, I decided to take a trip around Makati’s Ayala Avenue and once again acquaint myself to its street full of high-rise buildings. Ayala Avenue was hailed as the ‘Wall Street of the Philippines,” and is home to Ayala Tower One & Exchange Plaza, the tallest skyscraper in the country, the Filipinas Heritage Library housing thousands of historicals manuscripts, maps, and photos, and the Ayala Triangle Gardens, an estimated 20,000 square kilometer open public space situated within the heart of Makati’s Central Business District.
While walking between the trees and on the pathways of Ayala Triangle, I took the opportunity to take photos of the garden’s public art display with pieces like Tribal Series # 6, the Fernando Zobel-inspired abstract art in red, and the Gerardo Rueda sculpture series #1, #10, #9. A few other must-sees include the monuments of Sultan Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat and Gabriela Silang, delicately carved and designed by Jose M. Mendoza, as well as the bronze sculpture of Ninoy Aquino made by Peter de Guzman.
Ending up at Kanin Club, another authentic Filipino Restaurant around the area, while waiting for my friends to come, I now end my article with a question; what is your favorite memory of Manila?