The Roundabout – What To Do and Try In Manila This Holiday Season

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  • I’ve heard quite a few friends describe Manila as frantic and traffic ridden on an average day. But come Christmas time, traffic is at a standstill and chaotic with a liberal dose of Christmas carols wafting from the side by side malls. All things considered though, there is nothing like Manila during the holidays…fun, chaotic, alive, reverent and charming.

    roundabout-2The season started ( for me at least) officially two weeks ago with more than a few European embassies celebrating their National Days…Spain at the Marriot, Belgium at the Shangri-la Makati, followed by two more that am sorry I didn’t get to. Then the hotels got their holiday spirits on and lit up Christmas trees around the city… our current favorites being the décor at the Conrad Hotel ( one of the newest hotels in the city), the Diamond Hotel along the bay, Sofitel’s Christmassy lobby dominated by swathes of red poinsettia and the classic Manila Peninsula.

    roundabout-3Just last week, we double booked one night but managed to get through both events unscathed. First was the launch of Via Mare’s Memoirs @ 40 at the Ayala Museum. Led by Filipino food advocate and culinary icon Glenda Barretto, Via Mare in 40 years, changed the restaurant landscape of the Philippines by garnering wide acceptance for local dishes. Glenda’s elevated local cuisine wowed foreign dignitaries in Malacanang at countless state dinners. She has remained Manila’s go-to caterer for lavish banquets and gargantuan feasts. The old fashioned tome would make a pretty present this Christmas for a food lover. The book can be purchased through National Bookstore.

    Another event on the same night was the launch of  Sabores / Flavours That Sailed Across The Seas at the National Museum in Manila. Very well curated and researched , the exhibit traces the ingredients that found their way to the Philippines during the galleon trade in the 1600 and 1700s. The exhibit is certainly worth a visit . It runs until February 5, 2017.

    Speaking of which, for our readers planning to visit Manila soon, I’ve got more than a few suggestions of places to try and things to do while in the country.

    roundabout-4The Philippines is fast becoming a vibrant food capital, what with all the new restaurants opening up every couple of weeks. One of my staples is Pablo, located at the modern hotel , Picasso Boutique Serviced Residences on Leviste St., Salcedo Village, Makati. Chef Amado Garcia churns out tasty modern renditions of Spanish tapas. Recently chef Amado and Barcino ( one of the very first wine distributors in Manila) hosted a lovely food and wine paring cocktail with wines from Gonzales Byass winery. We particularly enjoyed the Villarnau Brut Rose Cava paired with Scallop Confit and Citrus Guacamole on Parmesan Biscuit, and the Beronia Mazuelo Reserva 2010 paired with Lamb Shanks ( cooked for 36 hours) Vegetable Couscous and Spicy Apple Compote.

    Adding more zing to the local food scene is Agos by chef Myke Tatung Sarthou. Agos is a restaurant that traces our roots through the galleon trade. It opened at the ground floor of Mall of Asia last October to rave reviews. Chef Tatung also penned a bestselling cookbook Heart to Platter, a well thought out compendium of classic Filipino dishes and why our food is the way it is. Kudos to chef Tatung!

    roundabout-5Purple Yam in Malate, is a more laid back dining choice that serves vibrant Pinoy food with organic, locally sourced ingredients. Owner Amy Besa is a US balikbayan , where she and her husband Romy Dorotan run the acclaimed Purple Yam New York. The restaurant in Malate is Amy’s ancestral home. Dining is limited to 24 people at a time so reservations are a must, but the food and the atmosphere makes one want to take up residence there.

    For more casual dining, try Sweet Ecstacy. They have 3 locations so far… Katipunan, Jupiter St., Makati and UpTown Parade at the Fort. All the burgers on their menu are absolutely delicious and worth every calorie. Our favorites are the double cheeseburger ( love it that its priced below Php300) and their  fried dill pickles. They’re a good break from the hams, callos and other Christmas food.

    roundabout-6After all that good food, Walk This Way with Carlos Celdran over at Intramuros. His tours are entertaining and informative, plus its an excellent way to get in some exercise and see the sights. Clang Garcia’s Jeepney Tours around the metro is an option for the more aerobically challenged. A veteran in the tourism industry, Clang had a custom –made jeepney  souped-up and airconditioned for the ride of a lifetime. Most tours last three hours and include food and karaoke on board. She also released Food Holidays, a complete guide to food tours and holidays around the Philippines.

    And so the holiday season begins dear readers ! There’s so much to do , see and eat this season! And so little stomach space!

    I wish you all a Blessed Christmas! Send me an email at sandeesm@yahoo.com or follow me on Instagram @lemonadeideas. Would love to hear from you.

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