It IS More Fun in the Philippines! (Manila)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 – 8:45AM: Manila

Good Morning from Manila! After 25 hours of travel time, we made it! I won’t say the flight was cake but finally touching down in the Philippines was. And before now, Jeepney’s have been the unicorn of vehicles in my mind – until last night. Pretty surreal to see them driving on the street full of people even at 2AM. Expect lots images of those to come..

We’re blessed to know people here, one of them being our friend Josh who we met in Brooklyn. He welcomed us with open arms, his sanctuary of an apartment, his own bed, and a glass of Don Papa. We’re slowing waking to the sounds (Beep Beep!) of the streets and sipping on another glass of Don Papa – when in the Philippines!

While on the last leg of our flight last night, I asked Tomas to remember back to our first date and now look where we are – lots of love, time, dedication, curiosity, and interest went into making this trip happen. Excited to explore this adventure together.

I’ll be keeping a running travel diary of our escapades here – check back if you’re interested in keeping up. Until then, cheers!

Thursday, October 24, 2013 – 10:01AMManila

Well, day 1 was a success. We kept to our area of Manila to get our bearings, work through jet lag and to get a taste for the local cuisine.

Tomas and I met up with Brooklyn/Cali/Japan/Manila-bred artist, designer and all around culture hustler, Dee Jae Pa’este who happily showed us around his Manila including seeing a few of his favorite artists’ murals and filled us in on the draw Manila has on him creatively, professionally and personally.

Dee Jae also let us in on his go-to lunch spot, Mamou, where I dined on lamb tapa, truffled duck scrambled eggs and red rice – masarap!

After a much-needed disco nap, we met back up with Dee Jae & Co. at his NY-esque restaurant, Premio (complete with his partner who was the prior chef of Momofuku, Cheska Carino) to help him ring in his birthday, finally taste a cronut (or bronut as he called it), sip on awesome cocktails and meet his close circle of creative comrades – both expats and Philippines-born. We were in the company of some pretty incredible talent – you could just feel the energy in the room. Refreshing…

Last stop was for nightcap at Niner Ichi Nana for some of the most ingenious cocktails I’ve ever had. These blew NY out of the water – I’m talking infusions like popcorn butterscotch whiskey, bacon chili chutney whiskey and lemon ginger wasabi vodka. So much care and craftsmanship went into each concoction, they we’re their own liquid laboratory art project – I’ll be dreaming of these for a while.. and making sure we go one more time before skipping town.

We’re day tripping to Quezon City to see what we can get into, taste and see. Until then..

Saturday, October 26, 2013 – 8:33AMManila

The last two days have been quite the much-needed change of pace.

While I’m grateful for where we’ve stayed in Manila (the Fort) since we arrived, we escaped “the bubble” and ventured out to Quezon City, Intramuros and Malate – this is the part of Manila I wanted/needed to experience; more raw, more authentic, more history, more to observe.  Just blocks outside of the fort’s perimeter and you’re smacked in the face with the contrasting sections of Manila. My immediate thought was of gratitude; for shoes, for fresh water, for food, and for the ability to hop in a cab.

We were able to catch up with a friend over dinner who we met in Brooklyn but lives in the Philippines, Sheron Dayoc. Sheron is deep in the Filipino film scene; directing, writing, producing, acting, and more. It’s been incredible to reunite with some familiar faces and check into all of the cultural initiatives they’re moving the needle with.

One of the key qualities Tomas and I share is our ability to travel well together. We ebb and flow and know to just play it by ear as much as possible. This again became apparent when we stepped out of our comfort zone yesterday, jet lag aside, and threw ourselves into what has been the most informational and thought-provoking excursion yet.

Our dear friend Josh had been praising one man in particular since the day we arrived – Carlos Celdran. We had to meet him, take his tour, listen to him speak and experience his love/activism for Filipino culture and history. Carlos is a walking encyclopedia/performance artist/celebrity/renaissance man – and one of the nicest people we’ll ever have had the pleasure of meeting. He led about 60 of us (both tourists and Filipinos included) on a walking tour in and around Intramuros entitled, Walk this Way.  In a very voyeuristic way, we followed him and hung on his every theatrical word – at times feeling like dirt for being American (the infamous US bombing on Manila/Intramuros that massacred 100,000+ civilians) while sharing laughs and stimulating cultural history over the course of 2 1/2 hours.

Due to a Christian prayer festival that was taking place in Intramuros, we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon after the tour due to the traffic. Being the kind of welcoming, guiding man he is, Carlos invited us to his house to “chill, take a shower if you want, grab a bite”.  Without second thought, we hopped in his car and we’re stepping foot into his beautiful, spacious apartment (that made us Brooklynites wimper with envy) shortly after. Over a bottle of wine and dinner, we became friends. The best part is that we’ll see him in New York next month – stayed tuned for something going down while he’s in town.

We’re taking off momentarily to reunite with Tomas’s family in the Zambales Province – this is what I’ve been looking forward to. We get slow down, no internet/wi-fi availability and finally, finally – BEACHES.

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