Touristing in the City: Places in Manila I went to

I went to the city of Manila recently and took the LRT to get there more than a year since I last time. With COVID cases in NCR falling, I'm slowly finding the courage to step out of my bubble area to explore places in the city. I used one of the days of my mental health break leaves at the office to visit Intramuros with my cousin. I don't mind touristing in the city. In fact, I actually missed doing this. That's the beauty of living in the Metro - there's so many places waiting to be discovered. After all, there's so many places around Metro Manila that would be nice to visit!     


It was a Wednesday, a workday, when we went to Intramuros, Manila and rode the train. I felt glad to be riding the LRT again, something I used to do on a regular basis when I went to the gym in Manila. It's a semblance of normalcy. Since it has been more than a year, my beep card value card already expired. It's a suspicion I was able to confirm when I tried to load up my value card on the machine and it said beep card expired. I bought the one-way ride card instead which was around Php20 going to Central Station. 

Belfry Cafe   

Our first stop when we got to Intramuros was Belfry Cafe located beside Manila Cathedral church. I wrote about this being one of the places in the city I want to visit earlier this year. I'm glad I was finally able to go. 


We went in the morning so we were thrilled to have the place to ourselves. I was actually surprised to see that it was a small cafe. The photos I've seen online had given me a different impression. Not that it matters in the bigger picture of things really. It's still a nice cafe to visit in Manila. 

 

My cousin and I split this chicken and mushroom pasta. It's good pasta. And I had the iced vanilla coffee.


When in Belfry Cafe, a photo dining under the bell (or near it in this case) is a must! That's the eye-catching detail in this cafe. 



Baluarte de San Diego

While my agenda for playing tourist in Intramuros is Belfry Cafe, my cousin's was to visit Baluarte de San Diego. While also in Intramuros, this is far from where the cafe is. If you don't want to walk, you can take the trike going to Baluarte. But we didn't mind walking. I particularly like to walk. I remember doing a walking tour in Intramuros with Carlos Celdran a few years back. 

Remember to bring your vaccination card (if you're already fully vaccinated) guys when you visit so you won't have to fill out a contact tracing form. Entrance to Baluarte de San Diego is Php75 for adults. 


 
Baluarte de San Diego is an open space tourist spot. Made me feel at ease because at least there's good air circulation. Also there weren't a lot of people in Baluarte. This garden area is one of the first sights you'd see when you enter the site. 



This looks like some kind of canon from the old days. Well, Baluarte de San Diego, also known as Torre de Nuestra Senora de Guia, is one of the oldest stone fort in Manila. Its design followed that of a Jesuit architect Antonio SedeƱo, 1586-1587 and integrated with the wall of Intramuros, 1593. 


  

Reinforced by a spade-shaped bulwark and known as the Baluarte de San Diego, 1663. It was breached by the British army during the Seven Years War, 1762 and destroyed by an earthquake in 1863. Ruins of the tower that remained filled-in with earth during the occupation of United States, 1905. The tower was excavated and restored, 1979-1980. Baluarte de San Diego forms part of the fortifications of Intramuros, which were declared as a National Historical Monument, 1951; then as a National Cultural Treasure, 2014. 


Under the new normal, these signs were all around Baluarte de San Diego, a reminder to visitors to practice minimum safety protocols while visiting. 

  

 


Blocleaf Cafe

We ended our Manila trip at another cafe in Malate. It wasn't originally part of our agenda but we felt it was still early to call it a day and we still had energy to explore. Found Blocleaf with a quick Google search of Manila cafes. 




  

Blocleaf Cafe is a Kinfolk-inspired cafe. Its interiors are very nice with its white walls, big glass windows and wooden furniture. It's tucked away in Malate, beside a Hop Inn hotel, it's the perfect spot to hang out when you want to be secluded from the crowd. It's quiet in the cafe too. You could read in this cafe. 



We ordered iced mocha and split this ube cheesecake for snack. Not too crazy about our order though. Well, neither of us are fans of ube but it was the only available snack in the cafe that we felt could go nicely with our coffee. The other only available food was noodles. The iced coffee was okay though I thought for its price, the glass is too small. Oh well. We chucked it up to experience. 


So that's where we ended our touristing in the city of Manila. It was a hot day mostly though it drizzled a bit during our day out. I actually got sunburn on my upper back! Note to self: apply sunblock even on your back next time if you intend to walk on a hot day! I was exhausted from all the walking we did but definitely happy about our trip. It was definitely a good way to spend a rest day; a nice change from being in the house a lot these days. 

    




My Very Tea-ta Afternoon: Afternoon Tea Experience at The Peninsula Manila


If asked to choose between coffee or tea, I choose coffee. But over the years, I've learned to appreciate drinking tea as well. Western people might consider drinking tea a very English thing to do but here in the Philippines, it's a very tita thing to do. So that's what I had - a tea-ta weekend when a friend invited me for an afternoon tea experience at Peninsula Manila. 

We made a reservation and had our vaccination cards ready for presentation when we went. After all, indoor dine-ins are only allowed for vaccinated people. We encountered a glitch however when we got to the hotel as they couldn't find our reservation.  I supposed it wasn't much of a surprise when that happened. We assumed our reservation was confirmed as no one from their team came back to us when my friend contacted them via Facebook. I was ready to drop the plan and go somewhere else if we weren't going to be allowed in. About fifteen minutes later though, someone from their team came to fetch us and finally we were seated. 

The Peninsula Manila is one of the oldest hotels in the country located in the business district of Makati City. It's a five-star hotel and as soon as you step foot inside, you'd see the luxury emanating from the hotel's facade.   



  
I couldn't help but admire this hotel even though it's not the first time I've stepped foot inside. It has been a while though since the last time I was here. It's the first time I went in any hotel since the pandemic began. 

The afternoon tea set at The Peninsula Manila cost Php1,200/pax or Php1,815 should you choose to have a flute of Champagne with it. It consists of sweet and savory snacks along with a pot of hot tea. 

festive afternoon tea set at The Peninsula Manila


It's been so long since I actually had an afternoon tea experience like this. The first was at TWG in Greenbelt pre-pandemic times, many years ago. I love the tea I picked out that went with my snacks, which coincidentally is also from TWG: Vanilla Bourbon. I've already got it added on to my cart at Lazada. Buy it here.  

As for the snacks, I expected I wouldn't be fulfilled. But I left Peninsula Manila on a full stomach. The afternoon tea set snacks were delicious and filling! I got my money's worth. 

Here are just some more of the food shots from my afternoon tea experience at The Peninsula Manila.  








Overall, a pleasant afternoon tea experience.  



   

Photo Walk: Makati in Pictures

I spent a day exploring some parts of Makati with a friend. This city, at least, some parts of it, is really nice to visit by foot. I love that about this city too - the fact that you can get around places just walking. It's nice to walk around. You discover interesting places you'd likely visit and you get to appreciate the architecture around too. 

Let me show you around Makati in photos. 

Greenbelt, Makati

Makati photo walk

Greenbelt Makati photo walk

Makati photo walk: Greenbelt


I love this mall because it has a wide and open area. I'm glad that when this mall was renovated to the architecture it is now, Ayala not only retained the open space, it also planted more trees and plants around. 

Ayala Avenue

Makati CBD photo walk


We walked around the central business district on a weekday. Before COVID-19 and before our endless quarantines, this part of the city was filled with people. Mostly people who work in any one of the tall buildings around Ayala Avenue. 

When I was about to join the work force, I wanted to work in any one of those high rise buildings. To have an office on a top floor, with a window with a view of the busy Ayala Avenue. When the weather is nice, the sun's rays would stream in my office, through the window, lighting up the room. 

Times have changed. People aren't milling around the Makati Central Business District these days specially at lunch or closing of business. These days most work from home in a bid to curb the rising cases of Covid-19 in the city. And I no longer dream of working in one of those tall buildings with a plush office. 





Another thing I love about Makati City? The parks! This is the Ayala Triangle Park where the Makati Stock Exchange office is as well. If and when you need a breather and want to be surrounded by nature, go to a park! You can even do outdoor exercise around this park. It's the biggest park around Makati city. Though it's not the quietest park since it is on Ayala Avenue, a busy road. Plus there's a construction going around here these days. If you want a serene park, I suggest Washington Sycip Park

Makati Avenue






In Makati Avenue, you'll find more tall buildings. It's also a busy road even in this time of pandemic if you've got a car. For a taste of Philippine history, check out the status monuments in the area. There's also the old airport in Ayala Triangle, now a restaurant. 

Poblacion, Makati

Makati Photo Walk: Poblacion, Makati

Poblacion Makati photo walk

Makati photo walk

Makati district photo walk


Poblacion used to be just a quiet residential area of Makati City. But over the years, it's grown to be known for hole in the wall restaurants and bars. Some of those small and awesome businesses have closed now, sadly affected by the prolonged quarantines. Though there are still some quaint restaurants worth visiting like the recently opened Cafe Fleur

Salcedo Village, Makati

Last stop of our photo walk was Salcedo Village, Makati. It's the upper class residential area in the city's that's not in a gated village. They live in condominiums with security manning the entrances. I want to live in one of those white and guarded condos. I'd spend my week nights at the nearby Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf store or dine al fresco at one of the restaurants that have opened shop in the past few years. On Saturdays, I'd spend my mornings visiting the Salcedo weekend market where I'd buy plants and flowers as nice decors for the house or support a small food business. 






Well, that's it for my Makati photo walk! Oh how I miss going around the city specially on a weekend morning. It's not the same these days. The streets have less people.  Though I've never been a fan of crowds, it's sad to know that we're staying home because we are in a pandemic. 

Anyway, we capped off the photo walk with a nice lunch at Fifty Nine Flower Cafe. Walking around sure can work up an appetite. 

Where to Eat in the City: Recent Places I Scoped Out

 

I've seen the phrase "quarantine body" bein thrown around since last year when we all started to stay home more. The term is being used as a new way to described gaining weight, supposedly from all the eating they do. Well, with all the recent eating I've been doing, I might just start using the phrase! 

The telltale signs have been documented on this blog of course! My last post talked about my visit to a restaurant in Poblacion, Makati, Cafe Fleur. And in today's blog post, I'm once again writing about two more places in the city where I recently ate. 

M Bakery 

First up is this dessert place I went to over the weekend. M Bakery, located in Bonifacio Global City. This isn't a newly opened shop. This popular New York bakery, more known as Magnolia Bakery, came to the Philippines in 2018. It's their first store in Southeast Asia. 

I've been to this bakery before COVID-19. And it was just as busy then as it was when I visited again. It's not hard to see why people flock to this place. A lot of Filipinos have a sweet tooth. And in this pastel and cream colored shop, there's a lot of delicious looking baked goods to choose from! 

dessert shop

 
Magnolia Bakery
 
I couldn't find a vacant spot in the shop. Not that I minded any bit. A crowd of people isn't my cup of tea especially these days when the threat of a deadly virus is still around. It's a good thing the city has tables available outside for al fresco dining. 






brownie dessert


I got myself this marble cream cheese brownie. Seriously so sweet! I couldn't finish this even when I washed it down with my house bland - I mean house blend - iced tea. Still, I would come back to M Bakery so I could try all the other available desserts in the shop. 

Fifty Nine Flower Cafe

Welcome to Fifty Nine Flower Cafe, a new and very Instagrammable place to dine in at, located at Paseo de Roxas, Makati. My friend, Dom and I dined here after spending a tiring morning of photo walk around Makati. According to this Spot article, the cafe used to be a baking studio where the owner had an unforgettable date with a man who's now her husband. Such a cute and romantic backstory! 

Instagrammable cafe


When we arrived, it wasn't packed with people yet so we were able to get a few photos of the cafe so I could show you guys just how pretty it is inside.





 
The cafe has a lot of flower decors all around. I was partly tempted to buy dried flowers from their shop. I've been meaning to add more dried flowers to my work desk' decor. But since I've been doing my best not to do impulse shopping, I decided against it. 


Just one solo photo while we waited for our food to arrive which wasn't such a long wait! 



Dom ordered the 59 House Sandwich - their version of clubhouse sandwich while I got the lasagna. Coming from the outside where it was hot, we helped ourselves to milkshakes. He got the chocolate while I got vanilla. 

In this day and age of smartphones with nice cameras and social media, having a place that looks pretty is a must! Lots of people, millennials like me and Gen Z peeps love taking photos and sharing it online. Well Fifty Nine Flower Cafe's definitely got that part down with its beautiful interiors. But this cafe's got more than its looks going for it! The food, the most important part, is also very good! 

Dom said he didn't feel stiffed at all as the sandwich had a generous amount of tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, ham, bacon and cheese. I was also satisfied with my choice dish. Soon as I took a bite out of my lasagna, I was delighted. Such a creamy lasagna! And of course those milk shakes are love! 

We capped off our lunch at Fifty Nine Flower Cafe with a shared order of New York cheesecake. Sweets overload! But this cheesecake's definitely a dessert must have! 



I would come back to this place again. I mean it's so pretty! Plus that lasagna was good! I imagine the rest of the dishes they offer are too.     





It may be raining nonstop these days but I'm glad the sun shows up even for a short period of time, allowing me to have these food adventures in the city. 



Note: Some of the photos I used for my Fifty Nine Flower Cafe post are courtesy of Dom