Sunset at Manila Bay

Manila is the capital of the Philippines. It is actually called Metropolitan Manila or Metro Manila because it is such a big city composed of other small cities. There are roughly about twenty million people living in Manila.

During my last visit there, I was able to enjoy the holiday season in Manila. Christmas for Filipinos is a very important event. It is a very busy season. The places become lit with colorful lights and Christmas decorations. It is also important to remember that this is the season when people in Manila have loads of money to spend. There are many places to go to shop, eat, and party. I would suggest that it is one of the most exciting seasons to visit the place.

Let me describe Manila in different time frames, for you to be able to enjoy the right place at the right time.

Start your morning with a hearty breakfast at one of these restaurants. Gerry’s Grill, Café Adriatico, Aristocrat, Dad’s, and Harbor View are the one of the bests in Manila. After having breakfast, it is very important to stroll around Rizal Park. It is one of the highlights of the place, and it would be a shame if you miss visiting it. You can learn a lot about the history of the place through this park because of the displays and monuments. You can also enjoy the fresh morning air watching the fountains and the people having their exercise in the park.

When it starts to get hot, you may want to go to places that are covered to avoid sunburn and smoke from vehicles. If you are a lover of sea creatures, the Manila Ocean Park is the place to be. It is an oceanarium, with live animal shows, and souvenir boutique in one.

If you prefer to go shopping, the SM Mall of Asia, SM City North Edsa, and SM Megamall are the largest malls in Manila. Actually, these malls are included in the list of largest malls in the world. You can also have your lunch here. Local and international food are served everywhere for a very good price.

In the afternoon, it is nice to go visit Intramuros. It is a historical site. There are many old Spanish building and fortresses because it used to be a walled city. There are also old cathedrals, museums, and art galleries. There is also a park and museum here that used to be place where the Philippines’ national hero, Jose Rizal was imprisoned by the Spaniards. Overall, the place will give you the thrill of the old Manila times.

And finally, of course you wouldn’t want to miss the night life in Makati. Ayala Green Belt is packed with bars of different kinds. It all depends on your taste. Some bars require a dress code and you may want to dress in appropriate attire before going there. The bars are very high-class, the lights are amazing, and the DJs are hired from different parts of the world. The most popular and decent night spots are Café Havana, Ice Bar, Absinth, Cena, Gaudi Bar, and a lot more! I’m sure you’ll enjoy the drinks, bar chow, music, and people in these places!

If you’re not the party type of person, and still want to go around at night with nothing to do, people watching at Roxas Boulevard is the thing for you. This is a very nice and relaxing place. Many people come here to enjoy the scenery, the sunset, and the diversity of people passing by. There is also a floating restaurant in the bay, where you can take your loved ones for a romantic dinner by the sea.

So there it is, one big day in Manila for you! But I doubt if you can do all of these in one day.  You will need more time in able to enjoy every bit of it. I advise you to stick to the right place at the right time to avoid traffic, excess heat, and too much crowd. Manila is such a busy city, but don’t forget that you are in the Philippines, a place full of hospitable people, excited to welcome visitors like you.

After having my blood drawn out and being diagnosed with acute gastritis, I went to Baguio City in a moment’s notice (and at 4 am to boot!).

“Let’s go to Sagada!” I told my friends.

Sagada is a 12-hour drive from Manila, the capital of the Philippines. It is famous for its picturesque view of mountains and rice terraces as well as the Sagadians’ burial customs.

Good thing my friend JB and his friends were as crazy as me. We boarded the bus to Sagada the next day.

We were on the road for six hours – I, covered in a knitted scarf and wearing two shirts, one jacket and two pants, slept all throughout. I would occasionally wake up when it gets too bumpy and to my horror, with a view of the narrow path overlooking cliffs. Mind you, there are numerous accidents reported in the winding Benguet road.

Arriving in Sagada at 9 degrees was a delight. We arrived in time for the town fiesta and went straight to Kanip-aw Lodge where our guide Kuya Oscar was waiting for us. After having a snack at the Lemon Pie House, we headed to the caves.

Lemon Pie House boasts of a cozy interior, board games and yummy lemon tarts

I initially thought Sagada was the place to go if you’re feeling emo and just want to go to Pluto. And although, stepping into the caves did feel like I’m an alien on another planet, it left me no time to gripe since I was so busy catching my breath as I climbed with ropes and used my ass to go down on rocks. The Lumiang-Sumaguing cave connection lasted for four hours (with a lot of whining). At some point, we had to step on our guides – Kuya Oscar and Kuya Andrew’s arms/legs/shoulders in order to cross hurdles.

The residents of Lumiang Cave and their scattered bones


my favorite rock formation – the choco mocha cake


The scariest part for me – a crosshook!

Get ready to get wet!

We were exhausted and shivering from the cold, we slept right away after having our sumptuous dinner. The next day was another adventure for us – we woke up early to welcome the sunrise and did a dayhike to see the magnificent Bomok-od Falls. It was a pleasant trek along rice paddies and a lovely view of the mountainside.

the magnificent Bomok-od Falls

Next stop was Echo valley where you can see rock formations and hanging coffins. Sagadians believe that the higher a body is laid, the closer it gets to heaven. Be wary alongside the cliff though or you might just go to heaven unexpectedly.

A rockclimber’s dream indeed – spot the hanging coffins

grip tightly… i dont wanna fall!

We made a bonfire that night as our feet felt like frozen meat already. For our dinner, Kuya Andrew and Lani cooked Etag (smoked pork/Igorot ham) and Pinikpikan, a Sagada signature dish wherein a chicken is beaten and bled to death. They believe that the chicken’s blood will improve the flavour of the soup. Good thing, there was no PETA member around.

Although I’m a beach person who likes to wear swimsuits and pose in front of the camera, my trip to Sagada is one of my favorites so far. It was more than an adventure – it’s an intellectual journey. Sagadians have a strong community and they are very in the loop of current events. You can talk to most people and have a decent conversation – one thing you can’t do in Manila. I initially went there to wallow in self-pity but I went home with a stronger spirit. It truly is an adventure and I’m definitely going back.

My backpacker trip was relatively cheap. I spent only around Php2500 or USD59 for a 3-day/2-night accommodation, fare, tour guide fee, and 3 meals/day.

PS. Check this link if you are looking for Sagada tour guides and lodging: