We made it to Manila, our last stop in Philippines!
We have already been to Manila in the beginning of our trip, however, that was just the airport. Now, we finally had time to explore this huge city. We didn’t need to look for any accommodation, or better, we decided not to look for any. We had super early morning flight to Beijing (5:50), so we thought we’ll sleep at the airport or on the plain. We left our baggage at the airport for and left to explore Manila.
Through Couchsurfing we got in touch with a great guy Maroon. He truly knows Manila! It was cool to spend a day with such knowledgeable and positive man. He told us a lot about history of Manila and Philippines in general. And of course, he showed us the best stuff Manila can offer within the limits of a single day. Another cool thing was that Maroon studied at the Oviedo University in Spain, so we had a lot in common.
No scooter this time, just old-school walking and using public transportation from which we probably tried every single option. Partly, it was because of Maroon who wanted us to have the fullest experience possible. Throughout the day we tried used probably every single mean of transport in Manila – from typical tricycle and jeepneys, we also tried one modern jeepney with air condition, bus and even metro, it was a lot of fun. All that was filled with Maroon´s enthusiasm about history.
Maroon told us how Philippines are on sort of crossroad between the native, Spanish, and American culture and Manila proofed him right. You can clearly see what culture influenced the given part of Manila.
Let’s start from the beginning. Maroon first took us to Chinatown for lunch. We were craving for something different and Chinatown gave us exactly what we wanted. For the first time in our lives, we tried frog meat. It’s basically a super skinny chicken and tasty too. Try it if you get a chance, you won’t regret it if you’re into Chinese food. The lunch gave us enough energy for the following site seeing. First, we arrived in Fort Santiago.
In front of the Fort Santigo with amazing Maroon!
Fort Santiago is a fortress built by Spanish navigator and governor Miguel López de Legazpi for the new established city of Manila in the Philippines and was built in 1593. The fortress is located in Intramuros, the walled inner city of Manila. There is a small entrance fee, but it’s not like 30 pounds entrance into the Tower of London.
From Fort Santiago we walked to the number one spot in Manila – José Rizal Memorial. José Rizal was a Filipino nationalist during the end of the Spanish colonial period of the Philippines. He is considered a national hero who was executed by the Spanish colonial government for the crime of rebellion after the Philippine Revolution, inspired in part by his writings, broke out. Though he was not actively involved in its planning or conduct, his death ultimately led to Philippine independence. The exact same Memorial can be found in Madrid too, but we haven’t got to Madrid to see it yet.
José Rizal Memorial which exact copy can be found in Madrid.
The memorial is connected to a huge José Rizal Park which popular place for leisure among locals, which you can clearly see in our video from Manila. The day we spent in Manila was a Christmas day, so many people were out picnicking and simply having some quality time with their loved ones.
By walking further, we reached the Relief Map of the Philippine Islands, which is really cool representation of the whole country and it was cool to find all the other island we visited in the weeks prior to that day in Manila.
Relief map of was a great way to think back about our month in Philippines.
After that, we refreshed ourselves in a Filipino fast-food restaurant serving Halo Halo icecream, immensely popular dessert in Philippines. Halo-halo is Filipino word for "mixture" and is made up of crushed ice, evaporated milk or condensed milk, and various ingredients including, ube, sweetened beans, coconut strips, sago, gulaman (agar), pinipig rice, boiled taro or soft yams in cubes, fruit slices, flan, and topped with a scoop of ube ice cream. Great stuff!
The two things missing for us to have a complete experience in Philippines were eating Balut and buy our final magnet to put on our fridge. Magnets are basically the only touristy thing we always buy, and our collection is steadily growing. Buying magnet ended up being more challenging than we thought. Maroon told us we have to go back to Chinatown, but after getting there, all the shops were closed. It was already late evening and also a Christmas Eve, so we can’t blame people to close their shops early.
Colourful and tasty Halo Halo icecream.
Anyway, it was about time for us to catch the last bus to the airport and in the main bus station we finally had the Filipino delicacy called Balut. Balut is a fertilized developing egg embryo that is boiled and eaten from the shell. It’s not for everyone for sure! We wanted to try it again because of Survivor. Sometimes, there is a challenge involving eating various “delicacies” from the countries the show is filmed in and balut was part of several of these challenges.
It basically tasted like chicken soup. To sort of kill the original taste, you can put as much salt, vinegar, and soy sauce as you want, which is what Míša did. I actually enjoyed it. This has been the weirdest Christmas meal we both ever had, but a cool finish to our adventures in Philippines. You can also check it out on youtube here.
With Maroon’s help we hopped on the last bus to the airport. Some people told us that there is no option other than taxi, but Maroon found a better way for us. He actually spent few more hours at the airport. We got there around 22:00, so we had a lot of time to kill. Maroon knew about a nonstop shopping mall in front of the airport, so we went there. Unfortunately, the nonstop part was a bit posh and required at least long pants and some kind of blazer. Well, basically had only our shorts and t-shirts, so they didn’t let us in. We took this time to make few videocalls home to use the rest of our internet data from Filipino SIM cards we bought at the beginning of this trip.
In front of the one of many cathedrals in Manila.
We parted with Maroon around midnight and picked up our bags. Then, we had to change the terminals. We saw a group of ladies offering taxi rides between the terminals, so I went the to ask about the price. To my surprise they asked 1500 PHP! I laughed loudly and went back to Míša. In the end, we used a shuttle bus for a cost of only 90 PHP! Being careful and put more effort into investigating the possibilities is always worth it when travelling!
So, we finally got to our gate, sat there, and waited, all that without any sleep. It was our goal to get as tired as possible because we always have troubles falling asleep in plain. And it worked, we slept basically the whole flight to Beijing, which was truly needed as we planned to spend the whole day exploring Beijing, but about that in the next blog.
I hope you enjoyed this journey through Philippines, and you found the tips useful!
Summary of expenses:
Tricycles: 60 PHP
Shuttle bus: 90 PHP
Metro: 200 PHP
Jeepney: 100 PHP
Taxi: 260 PHP
Bags storage at the airport: 600 PHP (300 PHP per bag per day)
Activities and places, we visited:
- Fort Santiago
- Jose Rizal statue
Food: 1340 PHP
Result: 2650 PHP = 45 euros*
*We spent bit more on other stuff like cigarettes, but that is different for everyone, we just wanted to show the basic expenses, so you have something to start with when planning trip to Philippines
TOTAL SPENDINGS IN PHILIPPINES: 98 018 PHP = 1655 EUR
Barcelona-Manila-Barcelona: 915 EUR
Manila-Puerto Princesa: 94 EUR
Puerto Princesa-Cebu: 65 EUR
Cebu-Siargao: 160 EUR
Siargao-Cebu-Legazpi: 117 EUR
Legazpi-Manila: 85 EUR
Insurance: 20 EUR
TOTAL: 3111 EUR
FULL VIDEO OF OUR MONTH IN PHILIPPINES: