Manila!, Travel Tips

Love in the Time of No Pera (Or dating with barely a money in your pocket)

When the Hub and I were just dating both of us were just struggling fresh college grads that were either bumming around (him) or struggling to survive in their first writing job (me). Most of the time, we were broke and barely getting by. However, the strict (to non-existent) budget did not hamper us to spending a day together, discovering new sights and basically slowly getting to know each other’s quirks. The challenge then was to find ways to enjoys ourselves without putting more dent in our pockets.

For this post, I will teach you how to have a fun date with your loved one for less than PHP1,000 bucks. Let’s use the old City of Manila as our destination for this “cheapo date”.

Some more cheap ideas

Some more cheap ideas

I. Transportation
Don’t be afraid of taking the public transportation together.Who knows, it can strengthen your bond since if you are guy, you’ll have the opportunity to protect your girlfriend; and if you are a girl, you can show her that you’re not high maintenance and can kick it with him for spontaneous stuff.

When the hub and I started dating, we used to take public transpo all the time going to our Manila haunt. I would recommend though that you wear comfy clothes and footwear since you’ll be walking all the time. Don’t forget to bring a cap or a bandanna to shield yourself from the sun.

A budget of around P40 per person for a return trip from Makati to Manila is good already. Our first destination for the day is in Intramuros and its environs. To go to Intramuros from Makati (JP Rizal), take the jeepney headed for Taft Avenue (Jeepneys with “Bukid” or “L Guinto” on the signboard all end up in Taft). Fare is about PHP8.50. At Taft Avenue, ride the jeep marked “City Hall”, “SM Manila”, “Divisoria” or “Quiapo” — all of these are passing by Intramuros.

credit goes to owner

credit goes to owner

You will alight at the jeepney stop in front of the Manila City Hall. Take the underpass going to Intramuros and walk straight to the entrance along Victoria Street.

credit to owner

credit to owner

II. A little bit of history and sightseeing
While in Intramuros, you can spend time looking at the ruins of the former walled city. There’s a lot to be learned about the cracked nooks and crannies of the former glorious Walled City. Intramuros (or “Within the Walls”) was the former capital and Seat of Power of the City of Manila during the Spanish Empire. If your other half is a history buff (like me!) they’ll get a kick out of reading the many plaques scattered along the walls telling the story behind the now-crumbling walls. For those who always slept during history class, the walls served as an amazing background to your selfies and “emo” shots which–of course–would look great in your Facebook walls.

From Muralla Street, walk left going to General Luna Street pass the Manila Bulletin building and the Department of Labor building; turn right to General Luna and you will be on your way to San Agustin Church and the San Agustin Church Museum.

The San Agustin Church was one of four Philippine churches constructed during the Spanish colonial period to be designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and is now considered as a National Historical Landmark. (SOURCE)

credit to owner

credit to owner

Inside, take time to say your prayers and be amazed at the unique Baroque architecture of the church. While you’re at it, try searching for the resting place of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, a Spanish navigator who founded the City of Cebu and was named the first Governor-General of the Spanish East Indies (which includes the Philippines, Guam and Marianas Islands). When Lopez de Legazpi died of heart failure in Manila in 1572, he was laid to rest inside the church.

But the best part is yet to come. Inside the San Agustin Church complex is the San Agustin Museum which shouldn’t be missed. Entrance fee is PHP100 per person but I guarantee you that it will be worth it. The opportunity to see artifacts and collections from hundreds of years ago. There is no time limit and you can take as long as you like admiring paintings, scupltures and the architecture of the church. Who knows, you might have a newly-found appreciation to our history. Flash photography is not allowed on the upper floors.

The hub and I went here a few years before, out on a whim. While the tall religious structures terrified me at first, there is a surreal feeling of walking along these century-old halls. You can’t help but wonder if you’ll be passing by Jose Rizal as he ponders the fate of the nation in the church’s many halls — for the record, if that happens, you have the option of running away, fast.

Let’s say you started the date at 9AM, by this time — you’ll be starving. If you’ll walk further along General Luna, you will find the Manila Cathedral and in front of it are the many fast food restaurants where you can have your lunch. But if you want to stay classy (you are on a date, after all) you can also try Ristorante Delle Mitre which is owned by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and is directly in front of the Manila Cathedral. Their rice toppings go for PHP118 per order while there are other more expensive items on the menu. There are also pastries, coffee, iced tea being offered so it all depends on your budget. (Their Facebook page here)

By the time you finish lunch, it’ll be mid noon and the sun will be shining at its brightest. You can head out and trace your steps going back to Muralla and then to City Hall and then to the airconed confines of SM Manila if you like. By then, you would have spent about PHP600 for the museum tour and the lunch, plus enough for round trip fares. You can either pass time window shopping or at the game arcade located at the mall’s 5th floor.

Or if you want from San Agustin Church you can ride the jeep going to Rizal Park where you can pass time on the park’s many gardens. Entrance for the Japanese Garden is very minimal and the strong shade of many trees can protect you from the stifling heat.

The point of this post is that if we want to spend time with our loved ones, money shouldn’t really be a concern. There are a lot of free attractions within the city and everything is pretty much accessible–horrendous traffic be damned. What’s important is we discover new things and share new experiences together. After all, that’s the point of being in a relationship?

PS: I will try to look for our old photos inside the San Agustin Museum and update this post with the pics. It’s been a long time that I am now tempted to return to San Augustin and make new memories.

Manila!, Philippines

Posh Bargain Shopping – if ever there is one

If you’re the type who likes bargain hunting but does not want to risk being mugged or trampled upon by snot-nosed kids or pushy elders, I recommend you skip Divisoria (Manila’s shopping mecca) and head to Greenhills.

Located in Ortigas Avenue in the City of San Juan, Greenhills Shopping Center is considered one of the country’s premiere shopping havens with more than 2,000 shops crammed in a tiny space. Stuff sold here is not as cheap compared to Divisoria and 168 but Greenhills is easily more accessible and considered a tad more posh compared to Divi.

Anyway, following massive renovations a few years ago, Greenhills Shopping Center has become more interesting and offered a lot more goods to consumers. The complex has a lot of malls within the vicinity, including V-Mall (formerly called VirraMall), Shoppesville, the best place to scout toy collectibles and those massive 10-foot Superman and Batman replicas, as well as bazaar shops in between.

While we were there, we heard mass at the Chapel of the Holy Family, one of those churches located inside malls — giving an opportunity to shoppers to hear mass before or after their retail fix. It was pure pleasure hearing mass here as the chapel is quiet and does not have usual noise distraction associated with chapels within malls. The masses are quick but the homilies are very enlightening and heartfelt.

Chapel of the Holy Family, Greenhills

Mass Schedule, Greenhills

After fulfilling our spiritual obligations, Dear Hubby (DH) and I went around Greenhills. We have a plan in mind: buy if we really want it, otherwise save it for another day. Here are some of the stuffs you’ll see in Greenhills:

role playing board games for the hubby

toy collectible

Articulated Superman action figure (looked like Christopher Reeve)

Now, I’ve been salivating and pining away with the Superman articulated figure above that I can’t get my mind away from it every time I see it. A shop here in Makati is selling the figure for PHP13,000 while it retails in Greenhills for PHP11,000. A shop owner even approached DH and told him that he’s willing to sell this same toy for PHP8,000 (that’s like buying a new cellphone!) These toys were also the reason why we ended up in Greenhills since DH was looking for one particular model.

You can also buy clothes (haggling is encouraged), fake branded bags (please don’t buy fake even if you can’t afford a genuine Louis Vuitton), accessories, home decor, gadgets and even pearls and other precious stones. There’s also plenty of fast foods and restaurants in the area.

The Greenhills Shopping Center is accessible via private and public transportation and is just 20 minutes away from Makati.