Written by BratinelangKikay on 01 Apr, 2011
When I watched the episode of Fear Factor where contestants were made to eat Balut, I laughed like a loony. It was hilarious seeing the horror and disgust on those poor people's faces upon seeing the egg that is considered a delicacy in the Philippines.…Read More
When I watched the episode of Fear Factor where contestants were made to eat Balut, I laughed like a loony. It was hilarious seeing the horror and disgust on those poor people's faces upon seeing the egg that is considered a delicacy in the Philippines. I told The Hubby if one of the contestants was Filipino, he would probably ask for more!Balut is boiled unhatched duck egg that has been allowed to develop for about 15 to 17 days. The nearly developed embryo is what most people, especially foreigners, abhor as it does seem cruel to cook and eat them. Okay, it's abortion, if you really want to be blunt. But if it offers some consolation, balut is mass produced artificially by an incubator so we can stop imaging eggs were forcefully taken from the mother ducks while they were sitting on them.Foreigner friends who visit are oftentimes challenged into eating this notoriously popular Filipino delicacy, much to their dismay (and our delight). We often say "You've never really been to Philippines unless you eat balut'. How mischievous!Before we invite any Tom, Dick or Harry to try Balut, I think it's only but proper to orient them on how to eat it. Do you agree?HOW TO EAT BALUT (Don't continue if you were a duck in your past life):1. Crack a small opening on one end of the egg. Take a peek. Oops, no duck yet! Are you excited?2. Sip the small pool of broth inside and savor the delicious taste of duck's amniotic fluid. 3. Remove more shells around the crack to reveal more of the egg's contents. Some prefer to start eating whatever is exposed from the shell, be it the yolk or the duckling. Don't forget to sprinkle with salt (or pour a little vinegar).4. Others prefer to remove all the shells and expose the entire egg. This way, the eater can see all the 'components' and probably avoid the duck (why don't you just eat hard boiled egg?). Without the shell , the entire balut is naked and exposed. The duck fetus is almost always noticeable, and depending on its size, all the usual body parts are visible. Sometimes you can trace the runny texture of the feathers in your tongue or feel the crunch of the beak between your teeth.5. For the adventurous but wise balut-munchers, the only way to eat it is cover their eyes and pop the entire thing into their mouth (minus the white hard part or bato). Yum!Trivia: Balut is rich in protein but also high in cholesterol. It is believed to be an aphrodisiac and is sold at night. Close
Written by Opcon LLC on 06 Aug, 2007
This past June my wife and I traveled to the Philippines for a much needed vacation to unwind from the hustle & bustle of daily urban life. We visited Manila, Palawan, and Boracay during our three-week trip. My first experience with the Philippines was back…Read More
This past June my wife and I traveled to the Philippines for a much needed vacation to unwind from the hustle & bustle of daily urban life. We visited Manila, Palawan, and Boracay during our three-week trip. My first experience with the Philippines was back in 1990 after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in which I traveled to Luzon to provide much needed disaster relief. Over the next fifteen years I traveled there while in the military working with the Filipino armed forces. Although I have spent my fair share of time in the Philippines, I never actually spent any leisure time there and never visited the resort islands of Boracay or Palawan. First I want to preface my article with a disclaimer: Neither my wife nor I are in anyway affiliated with the travel/vacation industry. Okay, with that said, this is how it went…My wife and I hit Manila three times during the nearly month-long vacation; arrival in the Philippines, transit between Palawan and Boracay and finally departure from the Philippines. My advise…spend as little time here as possible. Every-single person we came into contact with tried (some succeeded) to rip us off in some fashion or another. I have been traveling around the world for the past twenty years (mostly to places that are very inhospitable) and consider myself pretty savvy, but the scam artist here are truly first-rate. Be very, very careful when talking to anyone on the crowded streets of this city. In my experience, Manila is one of the most violent cities in the world.
Upon our arrival we stayed at the Holiday Inn Manila for $143 a night. It is touted as a 4.5-star hotel but in my humble opinion, it barely makes three. Although the staff were very friendly, the room smelled foul (we moved twice), was old and the decor was dark and seemed stuck in the 1970s. For the price we paid I definitely do not believe we received our money’s worth.
Cool guy tip#1: Never take a private car from the airport to your hotel, only metered taxies. We paid way too much getting to the hotel.
Our second time to Manila was far better. While in Palawan I was determined to find better accommodations on the Internet and invested some serious time researching hotels near the airport. I came up with the Pan Pacific Hotel which turned out to be a huge blessing. It is rated as a 5-star hotel and earns every bit of that distinction. Immediately upon arrival I noticed a tremendous difference in the staff. They dispatched with speed and alacrity to handle our luggage, were very professional, extremely courteous and knowledgeable. It seemed as though they clouded do enough for us and not once did any of the staff pressure us for a tip. My personal philosophy on tipping is that if you expect it, forget it. If you don’t and do a decent job, I’ll "hook a brother up." The reality is, nearly everyone will put the screws to you to extract some kind of tip. In one instance a taxi driver unsheathed a barong (very big curved knife) and demanded that we pay him a tip on top of the meter because he had to drive us in rush-hour traffic.
Anyway, the Pan Pacific Hotel was fabulous. Upon checking in the staff advised me of a cheaper rate that I was qualified for and also credited my sky miles for me. The room was spacious, extremely clean, new and already had all the amenities that you might require (iron/ironing board, Internet, shaving kit, hair dryer, etc.). You have your own private butler assigned to your room that can even bring a pot of hot coffee to you with your morning wake-up call. The best part aside from the experience was that it cost $120 per night.
Cool guy tip#2: Be absolutely clear when negotiating lodging that you understand whether the charges are per person or per room. On numerous occasions we were quoted prices that seemed great until we discovered that it was per person. Fortunately we never fell for that scam, but definitely came close ($350 a night at a beach resort sounded great until we found out that it was going to cost my wife and I $350 times two which equals $700 plus that 10% service charge and 12% government tax and 8% credit card convenience fee and oh yeah, the 1% tax to save the environment. So 31% times $7000 equals an affordable nightly rate of $917. See the importance of knowing what you are REALLY paying for?).
Cool guy tip #3: Make sure you know the exchange rate and how to convert currency. Carry a small calculator or mobile phone with one on it. A lot of creative accounting can go on at some of the venders or establishments you visit. It may not sound like much, but don’t forget to add in the mandatory 10% service charge for every meal/purchase, 12% government tax and 5 to10% convenience fee if you use your plastic. All those fees and taxes REALLY add up over the course of a week or more.
In general, I would advise you not to spend too much time on the streets around the hotel complex because you will be incessantly hounded by beggars, scam artists, drug dealers, phony money exchangers and ladies (and men) of ill repute. I don’t know if there are any good streets in Manila, but this area certainly doesn’t have them. The only good thing I can bring to your attention is that there is a Muslim Laundromat just outside the hotel’s main entrance that is worth its weight in gold. They washed several pounds of our clothes, pressed and folded it for a surprisingly reasonable price. We were impressed with the service and happy to finally have some clean clothes after a week in Palawan with no electricity to wash or dry our basic garments.
There is a large shopping mall (Robinson’s) less that three hundred meters away from the hotel but I would avoid it unless there is absolutely something you need that you can’t live without. Prices were comparable to those in the States and Europe. The mall is old, filthy and over-crowded with packs of young teenagers hanging out with apparently nothing else to do (not a good indicator). The Fridays restaurant there, I have to say, was good but that’s all I can say about Robinsons. A better option would be to get a metered cab and have him/her drive you to the Mall of Asia which is about 10 minutes from the Pan Pacific Hotel. Same high prices but at least it was a first-rate experience shopping in a modern clean environment.
Written by Pinoy Traveler on 06 Jul, 2006
In this complex city, getting from Luneta to Cubao or Zapote, Las Pinas to Santa Cruz, Manila can be a grand odyssey in itself. Manila's more privileged residents get to negotiate traffic from the comfort (or discomfort) of their own cars. Those who are vehicle…Read More
In this complex city, getting from Luneta to Cubao or Zapote, Las Pinas to Santa Cruz, Manila can be a grand odyssey in itself. Manila's more privileged residents get to negotiate traffic from the comfort (or discomfort) of their own cars. Those who are vehicle deficient yet can afford to part with just over pesos 7.50 per short trip might opt for one of those large Japanese reconditioned buses plying the long stretch of EDSA. The rest of the herds have to settle for being squashed, sardine-like, in a jeepney or the MRT during rush hours along the EDSA route.
The jeepney, tricycle, or lately the pajak, is widely considered the bane of Manila’s roads, its colorful buntings and in some instances speaker accessories, make it seem jeepney’s obnoxious little brother. The faults attributed to it are as numerous as Imelda’s famous shoe collection: there’s the general unpleasantness of the buses themselves, all infested with pickpockets, holdupers, and snatchers, spewing thick exhaust; the incessant and unnecessary stopping to pick up and drop off passengers wherever they please, hardly ever halting at actual bus stops and the conducturas, cramming in as many people as possible, always insisting there’s "still plenty more space".
But people have places to go and so they give in even if it means hanging on for dear life from the always- open doorframe. The way our fellow Filipino drivers weave through traffic would surely give Michael Schumacher a coronary. I guess it’s all about accumulating fares—the faster they go, the more fares they can rack up in a day for their operators! On the flip side, they won't even budge until the bus or train is overloaded, holding up traffic along the way. And beware, if it’s nighttime and your bus ride is suddenly quite empty; odds are you’ll get shunted onto another bus, just a kilometer or two, short of your destination, while your previous transport heads back to its depot.
Then there’s the credibility of the bus drivers themselves. Occasionally, a bus will stop somewhere that doesn’t even remotely resemble a terminal, and the driver will climb off only to be replaced by some dubious-looking fellow. Since more often than not, they don’t wear any uniforms; your well-being is now in the hands of someone who for all you know hasn’t even mastered the tricycle.
And then there are the usual incidents, like being hijacked by running protesters in Recto’s Mendiola, or being bled dry by friendly neighborhood pickpockets along Espana or Quirino Avenue. Keeping a low profile is therefore crucial when riding in public. All things considered, cattle—class train can seem like first class transportation by comparison. At least you avoid traffic!
Written by RaquelKato on 10 Feb, 2007
Housed in one of the restored historic Hispanic houses in Manila, Sanctuario Spa is really a destination for locals and tourists who crave relaxation or simply would want to try something refreshing. My husband treated me here as part of his birthday gift to me…Read More
Housed in one of the restored historic Hispanic houses in Manila, Sanctuario Spa is really a destination for locals and tourists who crave relaxation or simply would want to try something refreshing. My husband treated me here as part of his birthday gift to me (apart from a pampering overnight stay in a suite at Pan Pacific Manila!) He booked us both for a Xiamen Foot Reflexology. For 660 pesos (per person), this 1-hour treatment was really worth it. When we got there, we were directed by an attendant into the "house" and then out to the garden. As soon as I saw this spacious gazebo made of wood, adorned with white voile drapes, and furnished with lounging chairs, I was so excited because I knew that we were going to have our massage here. To add to the already perfect ambience, on one side was a waterfall that only made it more relaxing and made me forget that I was still in Manila. The expertise of the therapists, which was a given, made this a total experience for us. Their strokes were just right and consistently balanced—the right hand pressure was never heavier than the left or vice versa. It was, indeed, one of the best birthday gifts I have received in my entire life! After our treatment, I got hold of their brochure and I find some of their treatments priced a couple hundred pesos higher than the other stand-alone spas, but I think the charm of the place and the excellent service compensate for it. Sanctuario also offers the Filipino remedial massage that we call hilot. They also have acupuncture and other alternative treatments. But what I would like to come back for are their chocolate or coffee body scrub, their wading pool, and Turkish bath. They do offer a whole lot of other rejuvenating services that are worth the visit. Sanctuario Spa is located at 1829 Jorge Bocobo St., Malate, Manila, and may be contacted at +63 2 450 1127. Close
Written by writeonthespot on 09 Aug, 2006
The tour guide told us a story wherein two Filipinos bagged the first and second prize at a Madrid painting competition. Giving a toast for the winners, the national hero, Jose Rizal, said that if Filipinos can win over its colonizers through arts, then…Read More
The tour guide told us a story wherein two Filipinos bagged the first and second prize at a Madrid painting competition. Giving a toast for the winners, the national hero, Jose Rizal, said that if Filipinos can win over its colonizers through arts, then they can definitely do the same in politics. Such statement was so controversial it sparked the Filipino movement in the 19th century that led to a revolt that gave birth to the Philippine Republic.
The paintings and sculptures of Filipino National Artists gave life to the simple living of its natives as well as the struggles and sufferings it endured under foreign rule. The room that housed the Filipino paintings and sculptures is well-lighted and provides a majestic view of the Rizal Park. Through the window, Filipino hero Lapu-Lapu stands tall and proud in the center of the park. The Tourism building looms from behind. If you visit the National Museum of the Filipino People, never miss out on this section because the colorful stuffs are found here.
Written by Seaotter71 on 21 Jan, 2006
I admit to being a Christmas nut. And boy, did I find my tribe in the Philippines. To say that Filipinos are aggressive holiday decorators is an understatement. Anything that stands still for more than 5 minutes will be strung with enough Christmas lights to warm…Read More
I admit to being a Christmas nut. And boy, did I find my tribe in the Philippines.
To say that Filipinos are aggressive holiday decorators is an understatement. Anything that stands still for more than 5 minutes will be strung with enough Christmas lights to warm the hearts of GE executives everywhere. And speaking of capitalism, we once saw an enterprising young man selling street food outside a beautifully overdone house that drew numerous nightly visitors.
The homegrown decoration that will grace every Philippine home is the parol. In its most traditional form, the parol is an internally lit star within a circle with streamers hanging from the bottom two points. They are traditionally made from capiz shells. Capiz shells are the exterior shell of a marine mollusk and are also referred to as windowpane oysters. They are only found in the shallow coastal waters of the Philippines and Indonesia. Capiz decorations in the form of angels, stars, stockings, and numerous other Christmas motifs will decorate the lampposts of even the most humble of towns.
Of course, the heart of Christmas is not about pretty decorations but the celebration of Christ’s birth. And Filipinos are among the most devout people I have met. For the 9 days leading up to Christmas, churches hold Simbangabi, masses held at dawn (4 and 5am). In spite of the incredibly early hour, churches are filled to standing room-only levels with families, couples, and even groups of young boys on their way to school. One particularly memorable part of the ceremony was when the congregation processed up the aisle, each person holding a blade of straw and each person contributing to the manger where the Santo Nino (Baby Jesus) would be laid upon at midnight on December 24th.
Filipinos the world over return home for the holidays--good luck trying to find a reasonably priced air ticket. The returning sons and daughters are called balikbayan (as are the boxes used to send goods back to the Philippines) and are greeted with Balikbayan parties. These parties overflow with delicious food, spirited conversations, karaoke, and dancing.
Dancing brings up an interesting story. After the meal and as the music got going, a small group of young men joined the party. They were all smartly dressed in long-sleeve “party” shirts and slacks. Cousins, thought I. As the music progressed, these young men started asking the aunties and some less-than-thrilled younger cousins to dance. Turns out they were dance instructors, also known as DIs, hired for the party. Apparently in the more affluent circles, it is not uncommon for ladies with dance-reluctant husbands to take up dancing under the tutelage of said DIs and for them to be hired for parties. It is with no uncertain pride, and with an injury too stupid to believe, that I tell you that my wife did not require the services of the DIs.
Christmas Eve, of course, means Midnight Mass. Be sure to dress appropriately, as some things considered acceptable in the US will not go over well in the religiously conservative Philippines. Prior to mass, my wife was getting some rather un-Christian looks from a nun. All became clear when I saw the sign denouncing in words AND drawings inappropriate church wear. Plunging neckline. Check. Above the knee. Check. See-through… Does clingy count? Good thing she couldn’t see the spaghetti straps underneath my wife’s shawl. Thankfully my wife was so self-conscious in her "spice girl wear," as the sign called it, that she opted not to take communion, a good thing since we were later told that the prior year, the priest stopped communion as he scolded an inappropriately dressed girl and shook the host over her head in admonishment. After Mass, we gathered at one of the auntie’s for another round of delicious food and the opening of presents.
The next morning we attended mass with my wife’s grandmother and I came across one of those scenes that summed up the trip for me. To the left of the altar was the church’s nativity set. You could have found this nativity set in any Christian country, except here, the manger was strung with red Chinese lanterns.
Written by CasualTraveler on 23 Apr, 2006
Last December, I got treated to one of my best movie experiences. Mind you, by that I don’t mean that the movie was fantastic (the King Kong re-make – all hype and no substance, but that’s another review), but the Globe Platinum Cinema was.It’s located…Read More
Last December, I got treated to one of my best movie experiences. Mind you, by that I don’t mean that the movie was fantastic (the King Kong re-make – all hype and no substance, but that’s another review), but the Globe Platinum Cinema was.It’s located at the Gateway Mall, a new mall at the Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City. Now they do have the normal movie theatres that are crammed wall-to-wall with those "snug" seats that immediately introduce you to your seatmates (whether or not you actually want to know them). But we went to the premier Platinum Cinema and it was amazing! There’s a small lobby at the front where you can wait comfortably until the movie starts. Popcorn and drinks are furnished just before the show, and you can replenish your stock to your heart’s desire. Unfortunately, the popcorn is a bit tasteless and flat, but that was a small glitch to the whole package.Going inside was a refreshing view. Lush brown leather La-Z-Boy reclining seats are generously spaced, maybe about a meter from all sides so much so that the whole theatre probably housed only 60 people! You can recline your chair to the fullest extent without touching a hair of the person in front of you. Also, a small side table is conveniently placed adjacent to your seat for your popcorn, drinks, belongings and what-have-you. Now with all this space it’s a bit difficult to communicate with friends, but on the same note, you don’t have to overhear snippets of conversations you could hardly care about.The Platinum Cinema seems well maintained – carpeting looked fresh and litter-free, and the recliners have that soft and buttery leather smell and glow. But it’s not all cosmetic. The cinema also boasts of Dolby Digital Ex Ultra Sound, and an extra-wide screen.All these comforts truly do enhance the whole viewing experience and make people positively receptive to whatever lies in store for them. Take King Kong for example. I can imagine that with any other movie house, I would have been cursing myself, sorely regretting spending a single cent on such a long-drawn movie. At the Platinum Cinema, I could just close my eyes and doze off a bit on those excruciating "love scenes" between Naomi and the King.Talk about watching a movie in style! The ticket fee is a bit pricier than the usual movie ticket in Manila, but at PHP300 (about $6) it’s definitely not prohibitively expensive. But be aware that with the restricted capacity, along with the relatively affordable price, seats may be hard to come by. Try to book at their site 2 weeks in advance (http://www.gatewaycineplex10.com/), and you may just get lucky. Close
Written by Close to Home on 10 Jan, 2001
On my first day in Manila, I ate lunch in the company cafeteria even though I had been amply warned from colleagues who had been to Manila previously about the poor quality of the food. I didnt' want to offend my Manila counterparts on…Read More
On my first day in Manila, I ate lunch in the company cafeteria even though I had been amply warned from colleagues who had been to Manila previously about the poor quality of the food. I didnt' want to offend my Manila counterparts on the first day though, so I cheerily agreed to dine in the lunchroom. The trouble was, I had been forewarned of rice timbales littered with bugs and of all kinds of unmentionable meat products, so I suppose I was a bit predisposed to finding the food ineditable. I'm usually pretty good about adventurous eating, but I have to admit, I was eyeing up those rice timbales pretty closely. And sadly, I probably shouldn't have looked so thoroughly b/c there were definite unidentifiable items lurking among the grains. Coupled with that, the rice was served with three different items, none of which were identifiable as anything I'd ever eaten. I tried all three, two strange vegetable dishes, one ominous- looking meat chunk dish, and then basically stuck to the paltry banana that was also included with the meal (sigh).
As the week progressed, the food improved slightly, mostly due to the fact that they ordered my lunch every day so I successfully avoided a repeat trip to the cafeteria. One evening they took me and an American colleague to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I was pleasantly surprised with the food, even though it included shrimp with their heads (and although I know they're supposed to be better that way and that you're supposed to pull the head off and then suck on it,I couldn't bring myself to do it), some strange seaweed, and several vegetables I didn't recognize. They also have a local fish called lapu-lapu that was served whole and which was pretty good. Anway, I was chomping away, happily enjoying the food, when my colleague abruptly stopped eating. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but upon our return to the hotel, he informed me that when the waiter moved our carved pineapple full of fried rice from the serving tray to the table, an army of ants scooted out from it and proceeded to scoot into the other food on the table!!!! So i am fairly sure I've ingested more than a few bugs so far this week! Close
Written by Quan on 08 Jan, 2001
I don't remember going to many restaurants in the three days we spent in Manila--instead, I reveled in eating at the stalls or cafeterias where you just point to a selection of dishes on display. Compared to the food of other parts of Southeast…Read More
I don't remember going to many restaurants in the three days we spent in Manila--instead, I reveled in eating at the stalls or cafeterias where you just point to a selection of dishes on display. Compared to the food of other parts of Southeast Asia--such as Thai, Malay and Indian--I think it is usual to call Filipino food boring, though that may be a bit unfair. One thing distinct about Filipino cooking is its ability to combine major ingredients together, such as pork and fish, chicken and shrimp. While growing up Chinese in Vietnam, I have eaten many roast suckling pig, but nowhere did it come with a sauce made predominantly of shrimp paste, strange at first, but addictive.
While in Manila, you may want to go to one of the upscale restaurants that serve Filipino food, though there are not many. A popular one is Kamayan, where patrons eat native-style with their hands, though forks and knives are available. I especially liked the steamed fish in bamboo leaves. Kamayan also features traditional entertainment. Musicians play, there is some dancing, and patrons are also invited up to the stage to do some dancing. This is a great opportunity to push your co-workers on stage--they can get fairly silly, and you can snap pictures for future blackmail (I am just kidding, though they are great to show around the office when you get back) opportunities.
Written by Kontesssa on 02 Sep, 2000
Manila's shopping mall culture rules. I always suspect this is because aside from malls, there is pretty much nothing to do during the day in Manila. The government does not make an effort to curb air pollution, thus making parks and promenades unhospitable to pedestrians.…Read More
Manila's shopping mall culture rules. I always suspect this is because aside from malls, there is pretty much nothing to do during the day in Manila. The government does not make an effort to curb air pollution, thus making parks and promenades unhospitable to pedestrians. The national park, Luneta, has long since fallen into despondent disrepair. So the Malls have taken over, and boy, have they taken over in a big way.
When it's hot out, people seek shelter inside the malls' airconditioned glory. When it's raining out, they seek shelter in the climate-controlled interior of SM, Robinson's, and Glorietta. Manila malls are HUMONGOUS. The biggest chain is SM, scattered in five or six branches across the city. It's the mall for the masses. People come here to stroll, linger, meet their friends - malls here are NEVER dead. They're always packed.
Robinson's has two malls - one of them, called Robinson's Galleria, is a good one. I particularly like the layout and store choice. And the food court too. Food courts are important. For the rich and wealthy, the Shangri-la is the one for you. It's fairly elite, thus escaping the mobs on the weekends. It's the most cultural of all the malls, providing European film festivals and jazz concerts free of charge in its spacious atrium. The Philippine Repertory theatre is also located there. Finally, the Glorietta mall in the financial district of Makati has long reigned as the 'in' mall. It's hip, with a good selection of expensive stores and moderately-priced ones. The mall is surrounded by five star hotels and numerous clubs and bars. At night, most of Manila's youth congregate in this area.
Parking is always a nightmare. If you're driving, come early or be resigned to circling around dark, suffocating underground parking for at least half an hour. Many a parking brawls have broken out over empty parking slots.