See the things you don’t see in Manila

See the things you don’t see in Manila

If you think a cemetery tour is macabre, don’t. Ivan Man Dy, who reintroduces Manila’s older districts, explains why, and talks of lotsa interesting things to learn about the city that never sleeps.

Meet Ivan. He’s the guy that “turned” Manila’s old districts (Intramuros, Binondo, and the area around Malacañang) into a big, open-air museum. Photo by Andrew Del Rosario

I worked in a museum in Intramuros for 10 years. I basically took the experience of being in a museum and turned it into a tour of Manila. I’m born, raised, and still live in Manila, and have enjoyed the city’s history ever since. I’ve also done volunteer cultural heritage work since forever.

We created different thematic tours that told the history of the city. There are city tours for Manila, but they’re a bit generic. All they do is they tell you “this is the place, here’s when it was built, and here’s who built it.” None of them explored the different facets of Manila’s history.

They’ve also done this: disguised a wedding proposal… as a tour of Binondo.

Manila is more than just Intramuros. There’s Binondo, which is very close to my heart (because I grew up there) and Quiapo na hindi nadi-discuss (never talked about). For me, Old Manila Walks is a way of explaining the significance of these neighborhoods and its buildings to the public. We wanted to tell the narratives behind these districts so people would understand their value and the reason why we want to preserve their structures.

We’re in old Manila, hence the name. We do tours in Intramuros and Chinatown, and “walks” are lakad lang. We’re not telling the history of the Philippines; we’re focusing on the history of the City of Manila itself. You’ll notice in our tours that we do not talk about Dr. Jose Rizal or Andrew Bonifacio. My hope is that when they (people who join our tours) leave, they understand a bit more of the history of the city.

Binondo Trip
A typical day in Binondo. Photo by Krista Garcia

Manila’s old districts are similar yet they are different. Take Binondo. It has marks of Spanish colonial history, but there are Chinese elements to the district. That story is part of Manila’s history—one that’s not taught in school. It’s why people are not aware of the history and heritage of these districts. For us, it’s [the thematic tours] one way of telling the narrative of these places based on the communities that live there.

One of the more unique places that Ivan Man Dy takes people to: the Manila Chinese Cemetery. Photo by Wayne Grazio from flickr.

I like doing all the tours. The Chinese Cemetery tour is more of a quiet tour that tells history through architecture. I love architecture. The Chinoy (Chinese-Filipino) element in the tour is basically immigrant history.

Ivan leads a group of Chinese tourists through a tour of The Walled City. Photo by Andrew Del Rosario

Our Intramuros tour is a primer of sorts, because if you come to Manila, this is your first stop. It’s like a general history of Manila. Binondo is different because it has a mix of Chinese immigrant history. Our San Miguel – Malacañang Tour, on the other hand, talks more about political history.

I like the old neighborhoods. If I want peace and quiet, I go to the walls of Intramuros. Fort Santiago has been renovated and now looks good at night. I like the modern stuff, too.

Manila is great, but it’s a hard place to like, especially when you look at transportation.

– Ivan Man Dy on the city of Manila

Santa Ana district is quite interesting, even if no one has done a tour of it. They have a church and several old houses. Quiapo is another place that people should consider visiting. There’s already a tour for Quiapo that includes the San Sebastian Church, the only church in the country made of steel. Quiapo has a different flavor compared to other districts. It has a mix of religion because of the Black Nazarene, the traditional Tagalog culture, and a touch of Mindanao from the Muslim Quarter.

I’ve been to a lot of provinces in the country, and I like these places in particular: Bacolod. I have friends there and I like the city’s architecture; Dumaguete, and Laguna, especially the towns that look like quaint villages. I like cold place like Tagaytay and Baguio. I’m also very familiar with the Ilocos Region because I’ve been there many times for work.

I like walking in big cities around the world. Cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Bangkok, Singapore, Saigon, Georgetown in Penang, and Kuala Lumpur pique my interest. I like European cities like Vienna. I think people like them because they’re walkable, have their culture intact, and have a rich heritage that’s better preserved compared to ours. Manila is great, but it’s a hard place to like, especially when you look at transportation.

That’s not Ivan, but it is one of the things he likes doing everywhere he goes—even in Batanes. Photo by Ferdz Decena

Batanes is beautiful. I’ve been there four times and I like going back for its serenity and the beauty of the place. When I was in Batanes, I liked our stay at Fundacion Pacita. I guess you can say I also like rustic landscapes because when I go abroad, I often join tours that go to the countryside. I’m not much of a beach person; I prefer mountain scenery, freshwater, and cold places.

That said, I loved it when we stayed at Club Paradise in Coron. I’ve also stayed at Sulyap Gallery Café, Boutique Hotels, and Restaurant in San Pablo, Laguna.

These five things never leave my travel case:

  • Contact lenses and glasses
  • Mobile phone
  • Wallet
  • Small umbrella. I use them rain or shine, and I don’t like wearing hats.
  • Snacks like small packs of peanuts. I’m the type of person who might skip a meal because I’m absorbed in seeing the city.

Who is Ivan Man Dy?

A true blue Manilan, Ivan is the man behind Old Manila Walks and has over two decades of experience working in the cultural field, which includes being a heritage activist, museum docent, school instructor, features writer, television personality, researcher, expert speaker, tour operator and book author. He has a master’s degree from the University of Santo Tomas, and has received the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan award from the municipal government of Manila.

Date night ideas for V-Day and any other day in 2020

Date night ideas for V-Day and any other day in 2020

These spots from bag designer Lally Dizon and her businessman husband Chris are sure to heighten the romance in your night out.

Great food, good wine, a romantic ambience, and impeccable service. These are the things that luxury bag designer Lally Dizon (@lallydizon_mla) and her husband, Chris, look for whenever they go out on a date.

What Lally does is this: “I actually research first to check the new restaurants we can try for our next date night.” She often checks spots in BGC and Poblacion in Makati City for unique concepts that she and her husband can explore.

Taste art at degustacion restos

Degustacion restaurants or menus are basically tasting menus, except that the chef takes over the whole process of creating it: from the theme down to deciding on which dishes get served. Servings will be tiny, but think of it this way: it’s the chef showing you how good he is in the kitchen.

For places like this, Lally recommends:

Gallery by Chele

From esteemed chef Chele Gonzales, Gallery by Chele was once the hit degustacion-only Gallery VASK. It’s been revamped to include a casual dining set-up, but get a spot in their DINING ROOM and you can enjoy their tasting menus.

Gallery by Chele is located at 5F Clipp Center, 11th Ave corner 39th St, Bonifacio Global City. For reservations, visit gallerybychele.com or call +63 917 5461673.

Mecha Uma

Omakase is a practice usually seen in Japanese restaurants: you let the chef decide what he wants to serve you. That’s basically a degustacion menu, if you ask us, and Chef Bruce Rickett’s Mecha Uma falls into the category of “one of the best places” to get it.

Mecha Uma is at GF, RCBC Savings Bank Corporate Center, 25th and 26th Street, Bonifacio Global City. For reservations, call 02 8801 2770.

12/10

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One of the best ways to enjoy how good the food is at 12/10 in Saguijo is to get their omakase or prix fixe menu. It gives you a full experience of what their chefs AND mixologists are capable of, as 12/10 is, after all, a non-traditional izakaya. <insert what prix fixe menu. readers need to understand.>

12/10 is at 7635 Guijo Street, San Antonio Village, Makati City. For reservations, call +63 915 6632823 or email [email protected]

Telenovela feels in Spanish restos

This would be more of a preference that anything, but Spanish restaurants are practically made for good date nights. Wine? Check. Food? Check. Ambiance? Check. Service? Check.

In that vein, here are some of Lally and Chris’s picks:

La Picara

They serve food that plays around with traditional flavors of Spanish cuisine, throwing in a bit of Asian flair and panache. Dining here feels like you’re in one of those family restaurants in Barcelona. Try the xx.

Head for the 2F of One Bonifacio High Street Mall to experience a very playful Spanish meal at La Picara.

Rambla

Nothing says Spanish quite like a pan of paella and a glass of Sangria, and you get all of that (plus more) at Rambla.

Rambla has spots in Rockwell and Salcedo Village. For reservations, visit bit.ly/ramblaph

Las Flores

It’s been called “an institution” by its patrons, and it’s not hard to see why: Las Flores serves a mean paella negra next to their seafood paella. There’s also the idea of drinking sangria in a mason jar, which some people find odd.

Las Flores is at One McKinley Place in BGC and The Podium in Ortigas, Pasig City.

Donosti

It’s no secret why Donosti made it to Philippine Tatler’s 20 Best Restaurants of 2019. They tick off all the checkboxes of what a Spanish restaurant ought to be with their mix of on-point flavors from San Sebastian (probably the best place to eat in Spain for Basque cooking) and creative interpretations of classic Spanish dishes. Must try: xx

Donosti is located at NAC Tower, 32nd Ave, Bonifacio Global City. For reservations, call 02 8856 0206.

Go full fancy at a steakhouse

Nothing says a fancy date like having wine with a delicious piece of steak. There’s a lot of steakhouses to choose from in Metro Manila, but here are the ones Lally and Chris like:

Raging Bull Chophouse & Bar

Shangri-La at The Fort’s in-house steakhouse serves a hefty-yet-delicious Tomahawk Wagyu from Jack’s Creek in New South Wales that deserves to be shared between two people, though you might want to dial it back to The Chopping Block if a tomahawk is a bit too big.

Raging Bull is at L3, Shangri-La at the Fort, Manila 30th Street corner 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City.

Wolfgang’s Steakhouse

Wolfgang’s is a New York staple for steaks. They only have 21 branches worldwide, and we’re lucky to have three of them: one in Resorts World Manila, one at The Podium, and another at One Bonifacio High Street. Doesn’t get any fancier than that, really.

For reservations, call 02 8511 7009 (Resorts World Manila), 02 7586 4892 (BGC), and 02 7505 6272 (Ortigas).

Ruby Jack’s Steakhouse and Bar

When people talk about steaks and City of Dreams Manila, they’re usually talking about Ruby Jack’s Steakhouse and Bar. The steaks taste great; they have a good selection of wines and spirits; but it’s the ambiance really takes the cake.

Ruby Jack’s is at UGF, City of Dreams, Aseana Ave corner Roxas Blvd, Parañaque City.

I Am Angus Steakhouse

This spot is a bit under the radar as far as steak lovers are concerned, but it is genuinely a good place to get steak. Tucked away at Dining at Yakal, a row of specialty restaurants next to Santi’s Delicatessen, they give you about as bare of a steakhouse experience as can be: good meat, good wine, and a quiet place to enjoy it all.

I Am Angus Steakhouse is at 7431 Yakal Street, San Antonio Village, Makati. For reservations, call 02 8892 5852 or +63956 135 4213.

Who are Lally and Chris Dizon

Photo from Lally Dizon

Lally Cruz-Dizon is the creative mind behind luxury brand LD, and creative director of Vintage Restore, the country’s pioneer in repair and restoration of luxury leather goods. She is happily married to businessman Chris Dizon, a partner of The Brewery and Draft.

Featured photo created by prostooleh – www.freepik.com

Learn all about holistic wellness from Nikki Torres

Learn all about holistic wellness from Nikki Torres

“Holistic wellness is more than food and exercise. It’s when you connect emotional and mental health to your diet and exercise.”

I found a magazine back in college with a couple of yoga poses, and I started to copy those at home. I enrolled for classes at Bikram Yoga in 2010. This was the time when I realized I really liked yoga. I would set aside a part of my entry-level salary for it, skipping shopping, eating out, and hanging out with my friends. After four years in advertising, I left my job and pursued teaching yoga full-time.

Holistic wellness is more than just food and exercise. It’s when you start to involve the connection between your emotional health, mental health, and your environment to your diet and exercise. It’s being able to decide if you’re still going to go to a CrossFit class or have a gentle massage after a long tiring day.

Before you try a trend on wellness and fitness, research—it’s what most people don’t do. Before you enrol in a class, you have to find out if it works for you. Find out what it’s about and if the coaches in that class you’re taking are qualified to safely guide you through the workout. Feel it out when you try it.

NT Sweat is a fusion of bodyweight circuit training, mobility and cardio dance. It’s a 60 minute workout rooted in all my movement practices, the pace set to Hiphop R&B and Dance music. I always have a DJ with me when I lead mass workouts and events to add to the party vibe.

I train on my own using a program I designed for myself. I also like to join group classes so I get to learn from other coaches in my field as well.

Those may not be bone conduction earphones on Nikki, but if you’re looking to workout they’ll do just fine.

My workout essentials are… Aftershokz Trekz Air Bone Conduction wireless earphones, my iPhone, and a water bottle. I make sure I bring a pair of white Adidas sneakers.

I became a vegetarian first in 2011. I’ve always been sensitive when it comes to animals. It’s not for health.

Lifestyle brands I support: DermAid from Healthy Options for personal care. I support local vegan brands like Zero Basics (@zerobasicsph on IG). For food, there’s Go Vegan in BGC and Green Bar in Makati. There’s also the Good Food Market at the Mandala Park Sunday Market where all of the merchants serve all-vegan food.

I’m a big fan of salads; SaladStop is a favorite. SaladStop can customize your food and they are aware of vegans. In BGC, it’s Go Vegan at The Fort Strip. It’s fairly new and they serve vegan comfort food like burgers and palabok made with chickpeas.

Nikki in La Union.

US-based Filipina who runs ASTIG Vegan (Astigvegan.com) is one of the OGs in vegan cooking. She is religious in posting recipes. She would have the Filipinos in mind and come up with a vegan version of Filipino dishes like adobo. Another one I follow is BOSH! (Bosh.tv).

Among my favorite vegan chefs is Lakapati Basa of The Real Happy Cow (@TheRealHappyCowPH), which you’ll catch at Mandala Park on Sundays. She comes up with everything on the menu, including a vegan version of chicken nuggets.

I love a good lymphatic drainage massage. It’s not the usual massage for muscle soreness that I love but the detoxification. It’s light strokes all over your body that passes through your lymphatic system, boosting your immunity and detoxifying your body. I also like Swedish massage, hilot or deep tissue massage, and Abhyanga, an ancient Indian oil massage where the therapist pours two buckets of chosen herbal oils on you, massages the oil until it’s absorbed, and then you rinse.

My go to spa salons: Massage MNL mobile spa or Zennya app for the lymphatic drainage massage, Swedish, and hilot; Arogya Manila for Abhyanga.

My travel essentials: Adidas activewear, my Adidas UB19 running shoes, and my Macbook Pro not because I want to work while I’m on vacation but because it’s the best place for inspiration to strike.

The best mindfully-operated tour I know of is MAD Travel (Madtravel.org). I appreciate their travel-for-a-cause concept.

Nikki in Siargao

My most memorable holiday has to be my first visit to Siargao in 2015. There wasn’t much happening there yet and there weren’t a lot of vegan food options available. I loved how free I was to ride my bike around. The small community of locals were very warm and welcoming and it felt like home to me.

My favorite beach is anything with white sand, is exclusive or away from the crowds. It’s pretty old school, but San Juan before La Union was developed is one of them. Baler was one I used to go to a lot before it was developed. We would stay at a friend’s farm, about five- to 10-minutes’ drive away from the beach. I still like Boracay because of its beauty and accessibility to restaurants and shops. I also like islands like Siargao’s Naked Island.

Nikki at Atmosphere Resort.

Atmosphere Resort in Dauin, Dumaguete is a boutique resort that I really like going back to. They have a spa called The Sanctuary with a massage area that’s like a secret garden. They built their own weather-proof outdoor gym, have a pro athlete as a guide for a 20-kilometer bike tour, a restaurant with plenty of vegan options, and diving operated by certified diving instructors. They even have a tree-top yoga deck that looks out into the ocean!

Who is Nikki Torres?

Nikki created NT sweat, a choreographed toning + cardio fitness class that focuses on muscle toning and building cardiovascular endurance while moving to the beat of the hottest HipHop-R&B and dance tracks. She’s also a yoga teacher, an ambassador for Adidas Philippines, and the blogger behind Pretty Darn Fit (prettydarnfit.com), one of the top Health & Fitness blogs in the country.

All photos courtesy of Nikki Torrres

Sweet delicious Pampanga, according Chef Jam

Sweet delicious Pampanga, according Chef Jam

Chef Jam Melchor takes us on a gastronomic journey around the province he’s from, Pampanga, hailed food capital about an hour’s drive north from Manila.

As a full-blooded Kapampangan and chef, there aren’t that many people who can better guide us through Pampanga than Jam Melchor. Pampanga is a big place, but it can be made smaller with the help of Chef Jam. Here are some of his picks.

Where he’d go to eat

“You won’t find the best chefs in Pampanga hanging out in restaurants; they’re found at homes.”

Kabigting’s is that much of a staple that, yes, it has made its way into the city.
  • Kabigting’s Halo-Halo and Cool Spot in Angeles City for halo-halo. Kabigting’s, in particular, uses carabao’s milk and pastillas to make their creamy and milky halo-halo, which he likes.
  • Aling Lucing’s and Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy for sisig. “If you want a sisig that’s moist and has more of a char-grilled texture, go to Aling Lucing’s. For the modern version, go to Mila’s.”

Places to go in Pampanga

If you’re on tour in Pampanga and Chef Jam is leading the pack, these are the places you’ll visit:

A beautiful shot of the Holy Rosary Parish Church, or Pisambang Maragul (Big Church) to locals. Photo by Carmelo Bayarcal
  • Churches. Pampanga has a lot of beautiful and historic churches, so make sure not to miss them.
  • Abe’s Farm for lunch or dinner. Their flavors have been consistent for years.
  • Sisig places like Aling Lucing’s and Mila’s.
  • Gill’s Buko Sherbet & Ice Cream in Angeles City.
  • Atching Lilian Borromeo in Mexico, Pampanga for San Nicholas cookies.
  • Susie’s Cuisine for their tibok-tibok (carabao milk pudding with glutinous rice).

Pasalubong (treats to take back home) from Pampanga

It’s not really a trip to Pampanga without bringing back some grub. Open up some space in your bag and make sure you take at least one of each of these home with you:

It’ll be hard to leave Pampanga without buying a box of this. Or longganisa. Or tocino.
  • Tocino del cielo. It’s a rare and labor-intensive dessert that looks very similar to leche flan. It’s made a whole lot sweeter by taking out the milk and only sticking to butter and simple syrup.
  • Marzipan. A chewy ball of sweetness that’s made from cashew nuts, milk, and eggs.
  • Tocino. There are a lot of recipes using all kinds of meat like pork or even carabao.
  • Longganisa. A trip to Pampanga won’t be complete without taking home a bunch of these local sausages.
  • Buro. A local way of pickling things like mangoes. It’s an acquired taste to love the buro. It goes really well with anything grilled or fried.

Curious how hunk dad Dingdong Dantes does his and family’s travels?

Curious how hunk dad Dingdong Dantes does his and family’s travels?

This man doesn’t let even his busy schedule take away from what matters: family time.

He’s an actor, commercial model, and film producer—but above all, he is a husband to Marian Rivera-Dantes and a dad to their daughter Zia. Photo by Paulo Navarro

How often do you go on holidays?

Ding Dong Dantes and Marian Rivera try to find time to be together, despite their ridiculously busy schedules. A happy couple indeed. Photo from Ding Dong Dantes

Because both our [his and wife Marian Rivera’s] work schedules are unpredictable, we have to wait for our respective shows to go on a break before we plan anything. That’s why we almost always book at the last minute— a habit that is not highly recommended; haha! The key holidays are also the basic ones like Christmas, Holy Week and, of course, our birthdays in August and November.

What’s your secret to fnding time for vacations despite your crazy busy work schedules?

When your schedules are just as hectic as your ravishing spouse’s (and Marian Rivera IS ravishing), you WILL need help. Photo from Ding Dong Dantes.

The moment we find a window, we immediately grab it, may it be a couple of days to a whole week. With our work, it is impossible for us to be away for more than two weeks. How do you plan your family getaways? We have friends who help us, like Access Travel of Angely Dub.

Most of the time, I find it more convenient for someone to help me in the planning since both of us are always preoccupied with other things. Of course, we already know what we want—it’s really just a matter of organizing the logistics. Given that we stay at least two days in a new place, my basic policy is 20 percent planned itinerary, and 80 percent kung ano ang matripan (on what we feel like doing).

What is your favorite Philippine destination?

Yes, Zia. That is a good-looking beach.
Photo from Ding Dong Dantes

I like any place that is peaceful, green, sustainable and clean. A place where my kids can safely run around while we enjoy a cup of cofee, or a mug of beer. It does not matter if it is on a mountain, by the beach, in my friend’s backyard, or even a protected area in any place within the chaotic Metro Manila for as long as we are with the right people. Pero siyempre, dapat panalo rin ang pagkain. (But of course, the food has to be a winner too.)

What are the most memorable holidays you’ve had in the Philippines as a family?

Sunsets are often the happiest when you see them with the right people. In Dong’s case, it’s with Marian and Zia. Photo from Ding Dong Dantes

We really love the beautiful islands here in our country. Palawan will always have a special place in our hearts. Amanpulo is on the top of our list. Our recent trip to Siargao via SkyJet Airlines is also one for the books. Book a SkyJet flight, direct from Manila to Coron, Palawan; Batanes; and Camiguin.

Your favorite beach and why this beach?

Hard to say. We love so many and each has its own charm.

Things you love to do when on a holiday?

Eat. Sleep. Play. Plan. Repeat.

Your travel essentials aside from IDs and cash?

Cameras to document memories.

Where do you wanna holiday next?

We want to visit Cebu next.

Who is Dingdong Dantes?
Dingdong Dantes is a well-loved Filipino actor, commercial model, film producer, and film studio AgostoDos Pictures owner. He’s married to Filipino actor Marian Rivera with whom he has a daughter with.

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