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Only in Manila

Rediscovering the city, one beautiful sight at a time

A three-day weekend! What could we do? What haven’t we done? I booked an overnight stay at Manila Hotel. We stayed at The Grande Dame two years ago and the kids thoroughly enjoyed the amenities of the hotel. And they loved the food at Café Ilang-Ilang!

This time I wanted to explore the surrounding sites. My kids have never set foot in Luneta Park, can you believe that? I wonder how many other kids have never walked or played in the park that most of the people in my era knew so well. I, however, have not gone back in decades. So I thought it would be fun to take them there and maybe even try riding the calesa.

MANILA TIME. Clockwise from top left: Manila Hotel's grand lobby; Sitting on the GOT room; crocodile watching   (both in Manila Ocean Park);enjoying sweet treats from the Manila Hotel's bakeshop. (Manila Bulletin)

MANILA TIME. Clockwise from top left: Manila Hotel’s grand lobby; Sitting on the GOT room; Crocodile watching (both in Manila Ocean Park); Enjoying sweet treats from the Manila Hotel’s bakeshop. (Manila Bulletin)

“Mom, a pony, look!” my five-year-old daughter said excitedly as we reached the last stoplight before our hotel destination. ”We rode that when I was in Grade 4, in Intramuros, during the Carlos Celdran tour,” my teen son chimed in. “She’ll like the ride but I’m not sure about the smell,” he finished with a laugh.

Soon, we were at the Sunset Suite (facing Manila Bay) and loving the “old feel” but comfortable surroundings of our home for the weekend. After freshening up, we headed to nearby Harbour View for a late lunch. It’s the only remaining floating restaurant in the area. The waiters say more people visit at night. While we enjoyed our order of crispy pata, buttered salmon, and sugpo sa taba ng talangka, we saw a group of boys by the breakwater. Splash! One by one they jumped, unmindful of the dirty water. Happy faces. Boys taking a breather from the hot sun. Only in Manila.

Boys swimming in the bay (Manila Bulletin)

Boys swimming in the bay (Manila Bulletin)

A five-minute commute took us to S Maison the yet unfinished swanky mall right next to Conrad Manila Hotel. We caught Sully at the Director’s Club.  The boys and I enjoyed the movie but no more than my daughter did the La-Z Boy where she fell asleep in. Later, we decided to take a drive around the area and chanced upon a row of dining places located in the CCP Complex called Harbour Square.

What a wonderful surprise to discover yachts and boats docked along the far end of the place! The view of the bay and the sunset is nothing short of marvelous. We took in the scenery, tried to take selfies until a kind woman offered to take our photo. The picture, I think, speaks of the beauty I’m unable to put into words.

Back in the hotel, we were greeted by a basket of sweet treats. The ube ensyamada and French macarons are my all-time favorites and I recommend it for all to try. We ended the night by watching fireworks right outside our window while munching on our choice of macaron flavors.

Sunday started with an early breakfast, an hour of swimming at the hotel pool, and then we were off to our last stop. Manila Ocean Park is a place that you can skip. Unfortunately we had already purchased the most expensive tickets (R990 a piece for the Marine Voyage package) before we discovered that the place had fallen into a pitiful state. It was so hot inside! The AC units could not handle the throng of people and the attractions needed much upkeep. We did enjoy the Aviary, the Sea Lion show, and Oceanarium. The Symphony Evening Show (laser and water fountain attraction), which was touted as the main event (and which we lined up for for almost 30 minutes) turned out to be a major dud. It was a mishmash of random projected visuals which made us grunt and wince.  Compared to three years ago where the light show featured an under-the-sea story accompanied by singing and dancing actors in costumes, the current one is a forgettable distraction that’s quite painful to watch.

 It was a fun weekend, nonetheless.  We did not quite make it to Luneta Park or get to ride a calesa. That adventure is still to be made in our next visit to Manila.

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