Inside the walled city, Manila…

Downtown Manila boasts of a historically and architecturally significant built environment, from colonial wood/stone and art nouveau houses, to art deco buildings and the later (70s? 80s?) brutalist structures. Many of these structures, however, especially those outside of Intramuros, have been left to rot and are currently inhabited by the homeless. If we had such a thing as a heritage conservation officer - and that were me - I would be “listing” (in UK fashion) many of the houses and buildings in Manila. Thank goodness for our religious tradition, though. At least the 17th century churches have been spared from dereliction. 

Hurrah for houses and family living spaces converted to restaurants, especially those with loads of green! Here’s another one in Marikina City :)

The relaxed, suburban, tree-lined setting of The Red Crab in Clark, Pampanga makes for a very pleasant dining experience. Good food, relative privacy, and unassuming company. 

A number of similarly situated restaurants in provinces have shot to fame because of these qualities. And fame often leads to branches in Metro Manila. Unfortunately, in opening up in capital cities, these places lose much of their charm.  

Now this is a restaurant that can be hailed for the food and the service afforded by the wait staff. In Oliva Bistro Cafe's two branches - Visayas Avenue and [newly-opened] Marcos Highway - we were greeted and served by friendly personnel who could anticipate our needs. Proves that sometimes, the best dining experiences are found, not in those popular areas, but off the beaten over-blogged track.     

I love gardens and am always thrilled to discover that green spaces still exist in the city. Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens and Spa in Antipolo combines the two things I need most in these hectic times - nature and relaxation. The massage pools, spa services, healthy meals, and fresh air will definitely give you an energy boost for rest of the week. 

We prefer Ilog Maria soaps to mass-produced ones, and we usually buy these at the Echo Store. When we can, we hoard at the Ilog Maria Honeybee Farm in Tagaytay.

Spend a morning at the farm for some natural indulgence. 

Weekend in Tagaytay Highlands. Really nice place, but the apartment units are poorly maintained. The shower floor had thick mold on all sides; the shower head had mold; a dirty bathroom mat was hanging from the towel rack; and there was no hot water. We tried looking for a security guard to help us out with the switch but none were around - at night!

Members pay so much in monthly fees, so it isn’t too much to ask management to have the units regularly cleaned (and thoroughly at that), and to provide members/guests with those miniature soap blocks and shampoo bottles found in hotels. Otherwise, a membership in Tagaytay Highland is not worth it.   

A house full of Santas for those nursing a Christmas hangover. Or if you simply cannot get enough of St. Nick. Casa Santa is open all year round.  

A balmy weekend of sand and surf at Camayan Resort, Subic. 

Bellini’s reopened in Marikina, on a side street a few meters from Blue Wave mall. Now, the minestrone, orange cake, and sweet wine are just around the bend!  

Bellini’s reopened in Marikina, on a side street a few meters from Blue Wave mall. Now, the minestrone, orange cake, and sweet wine are just around the bend!