Manila.. a place that me and my husband call home in the southeast. Despite the chaos and troubles it bring, there is always a unique and intriguing charm that makes us want to come home. Last week while most people in Japan enjoy their Golden Week holidays, my husband and I decided to go home to see our family and friends in the Philippines. Our trip was short for we only have 6 days to spend. However, we were able to make the most out it. A bit exhausting to do a lot for less than a week’s time but it was very fruitful and memorable.
Day 1 (April 29): Arrival in Manila
We arrived in Manila around 1:30 in the afternoon. As expected, we were welcomed by the hot and sunny weather the moment we exited the plane. My dad and cousin picked us at the airport. From there, we went straight to the flower market in Dangwa to buy some materials for my Ikebana workshop the following day. Surprisingly, we did not experience the carpark-like traffic congestion. Around 5:30 pm we were already home.
After our sumptuous dinner prepared by my aunt and dad, my cousin Regie asked me to teach him how to make an Ikebana arrangement while we were preparing the materials for the workshop.
Day 2 (April 30): A Day for KIDS Club
One of the main reasons while we went home is to do some community works for KIDS Club. It a volunteer organization which we created together with our friends. The activities set were in line with the club’s first year anniversary celebration. First, we had a workshop about Foldscope, an origami optical microscope developed by Stanford University. After lunch, we had an Ikebana workshop. And from 7:00 pm until 12:00 midnight, we went for a night swim with our family and KIDS Club members. To know more about each activities, please read KIDS Club’s Celebrating Our First Year Anniversary 5 Ways.
Day 3 (May 1): Pleasure Trip to Baguio
Around 3:00 am, I was on the road again together with Christian and our friend Bang. We went to Genesis Terminal in Cubao to meet Arcie and Cj (a learner from Silid Aralan). From Cubao, the five of us rode the bus going to Baguio. Baguio is a city located at the northern part of the Philippines. We decided to do a short trip and to visit Camp 7 Elementary School. This would be the site for the Silid Aralan KIDS DREAM Hub project to be opened by end of June. It was a four-hour non-stop trip but very comfortable because it was like an airplane business class set-up: recliner chairs with blankets, free wi-fi, and snacks, and built-in toilet.
It was a Sunday so we decided to have a city tour and enjoy Baguio. After we have settled our things in our hotel, we went to Camp John Hay for some brunch at Choco-late de Batirol. It was refreshing to see the big pine trees at the camp. We had a very delicious Filipino brunch especially the Vigan sausages and freshly-made hot chocolate.
After that, we rented a taxi to tour the city.Cj and Christian were both first timers in Baguio so we decided to take them to the city’s must-see places. First, we went a little outside Baguio City to visit the strawberry farm in La Trinidad. Unlike before when farmers compete for their customers, the strawberry farm has now a very organized system. At the entrance of the farm, we were asked if we want to pick our strawberries or just take photos while inside the farm. When we told them we want to pick some strawberries, we were assigned a guide who showed us which part of the farm we can go. The plots where we went were a little far in the middle (nearly end) of the farm but it all paid off because we got fresh sweet strawberries to take home.
Still at the outskirts of Baguio, our next stop was the Tam-awan Village. It is a small colony of tradional Ifugao and Kalinga native huts seated on the hillside. The village also serves as a display hub of Filipino artists. I personally enjoyed the big ferns and wild flowers as we trekked around the village.
As we headed back to our hotel, we passed by some other tourists sites of the city like the Mansion, the Botanical Garden, Wright Park, and Teacher’s Camp. However, we just saw these places from inside the car because it started raining that day.
Fortunately the rain stopped after an hour or two. Hence, we were able to enjoy the city at night. We first had our dinner at the infamous Cafe by the Ruins in front of Baguio City Hall. After that, we made a walk going to Burnham Park. It was very interesting to see a lot of people along Harrison Road waiting for the night market to open at 9:00 pm.
Day 4 (May2): Business as Usual in Baguio
While waiting for our 10:00 am meet up with our local partners, we decided to make a short trip back to Burnham Park. The park was designed by an American architect whom the placed was named after. As they say, a Baguio trip is not complete without a boat ride at Burnham. Although it was a bit early, there were already quite a number of locals and tourists enjoying the park.
At exactly 10:00 am, we met two ladies from the University of the Cordilleras, our local partner in Baguio. They accompanied us to Camp 7 Elementary School for our site visit. At the said school, we were able to personally see the room which will be used the DREAM Hub Project as well as discuss our initial plans with the principal or headmaster. After that we went to the University of the Cordilleras where we met the President and the Vice-President for Administration. Please click here to read to the full story of our site visit.
We were supposed to go back to Manila via 7:30 pm bus. Unfortunately, me and Bang got our ticket schedule wrong. Luckily, we were able to have it corrected to leave on the same day but at a later time which is at 11:30 pm. To burn the remaining time we still have, we decided to visit some more popular places of the city – Mines View Park and Baguio Cathedral.
We then stayed at SM Baguio to have dinner and to spend the remaining hours until our departure time.
Day 5 (May 3): Manila Tour with Morgane
A few weeks before we flew to Manila, I got a short message from our friend Morgane asking for some recommendations for her Manila trip. It was a blessing in disguise that she will be there on the same time as we are. She is a French lady whom we met back in 2009. She was doing her internship at the same office where I used to work in Yokohama. At present, she is based in Vietnam. She was in Manila to visit her brother and his family. We did not have enough time left to take her to a nice beach or some places outside the city. So we spent a day with her touring around Fort Santiago and Ayala Museum. Fort Santiago is a citadel built during the Spanish colonialization and was the last place where Dr. Jose Rizal stayed before he was executed in 1896. It was located inside the walls of Intramuros. Ayala Museum, on the other hand, is located at the heart of Makati City Business District. I love this place because of their ancient gold jewelries collection and the Philippine history diaromas.
At 8:00 pm, Christian and I headed to Masinag Street near Quezon City Circle to meet some friends for dinner. While waiting for them, we burned some time inside Iscreamist enjoying its liquid nitrogen-infused desserts. We had our dinner inside one of the jeepneys at Gerry’s Jeepney restaurant. A boodle-style seafood and grilled meat dinner with lots of laughter and stories was a very good way to end a long and tiring day.
Day 6 (May 4): Last Day Before Heading Back to Tokyo
For our last day, we spent the day visiting the newly-opened SM San Mateo to buy some omiyage or pasalubong (souvenirs and sweets). My dad and aunt again prepared some of our favorite Filipino dishes for dinner. Two of my cousins from my dad’s side were also there to join us. And the highlight of the day was a serving of Jollibee spaghetti from my cousin Mark.
Day 7 (May 5): Back in Tokyo
We were still quite consistent being on the road very early in the morning event until the day we returned to Tokyo. At 4:30 am, my dad brought us to the airport for our 8:45 am flight. It was a few days before the national elections so we decided to leave the house early to have enough time in case we get trapped in traffic. We reached Tokyo around 2:00 pm. As we walked inside airport, we saw the special Siegerflieger, a Lufthansa Boeing 747 used by the German Footballers after winning the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. A good end for an amazing trip!