Tag Archives: Manila

#353 Christmas Trees on Roxas Boulevard

Christmas tree maker on Roxas Boulevard (Philippine Star Photo)

Segments of Roxas Boulevard in Pasay and Manila are transformed every year to a virtual Christmas wonderland with vendors selling handmade Christmas trees of all colors and shapes.

Mostly made of wooden twigs (from the ‘kulasi’ plant) painstakingly nailed and shape to form Christmas trees, Roxas Boulevard attracts flocks of shoppers looking for their ideal Christmas tree. White, pink and the classic green-colored trees are on offer, and haggling is de rigeur. Motorists on Roxas Boulevard are treated to the sight of these trees that signal the merry and hectic Pinoy Christmas season.

Long live handmade Christmas trees!

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#309 GAMABA Museum

The GAMABA Museum, located on the fourth floor of Tesoro’s Handicraft Shop on A. Mabini in Ermita, Manilla, is not a formal museum in the strict sense of the word but a one-room display that honors the life and achievements of the National Living Artists Awardees of the Philippines (Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan or Gamaba). 

Visitors to the GAMABA information hall can learn the life and art  of traditional artists such as master blacksmith Eduardo Mutuc and Bagobo master weavers Lang Dulay, Salinta Monon and Haja Amina Appi. The display also provides information on the history of T’boli tinalak, or Hanunuo Mangyan script – including the ambahan poetry by apprentices of the late Ginaw Bilog while reading about authentic use of Maguindanaon kutyapi lutes and Yakan gongs by musical geniuses Samaon Sulaiman and Uwang Ahadas. 

The Tesoros shop sells tribal handicraft downstairs with the proceeds going directly to apprentice a new generation of traditional artists. The GAMABA Museum is open on Mondays to Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tesoro Building is located at 1325 A. Mabini Street, Ermita, Manila (Excerpted from: CeldranTours Blogspots).

Long live native Philippine craftsmen!

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#285 Divisoria

Divisoria is a district in Manila and is without a doubt the city’s premier place for bargain hunters. The wholesale/retail market of Divisoria is crowded with shops selling clothes, fabrics, toys, kitchen ware, home décor and almost everything else.

A point of interest is the Tutuban Centre Mall in the heart of Divisoria. The former train station was converted into a commercial mall with the original wrought-iron columns and lattice work, and red brick masonry, giving the place a unique and nostalgic feel of late 19th century life in Old Manila.

Bargain hunters should not miss Divisoria’s textile shops where one gets value for money. There is a colorful night market where one can find anything from fruits to toys.  Haggling is a sport in this shopping district and visitors are well advised to first scout for the most attractive price before making a final purchase.

Long live Divisioria!


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#261 National Museum

The National Museum of the Philippines is the official repository established in 1901 as a natural history and ethnography museum of the Philippines. It is located next to Rizal Park and near Intramuros in Manila. Its main building was designed in 1918 by American architect Daniel Burnham. Today, that building, the former home of the Congress of the Philippines, houses the National Art Gallery, natural sciences and other support divisions.

The adjacent building in the Agrifina Circle of Rizal Park, formerly housing the Department of Finance, houses the Anthropology and Archaeology Divisions and is known as the Museum of the Filipino People. At the National Art Gallery masterpieces such as Juan Luna’s Spolarium is displayed in one of the central halls. Contemporary and modern art exhibits are also regularly held at the gallery.

Burnham’s design recalls neo-classicist architecture and was part of the extensive city planning of Manila designed to renovate the capital during the early days of the US colonial era. In World War 2 the National Building and other landmark buildings in downtown Manila and Intramuros were destroyed and badly damaged during the carpet bombing of the Allied Forces in their efforts to defeat the retreating Japanese Army. Post-war reconstruction efforts of these landmarks buidlings were partly financed by both US and Japanese governments. (From: Wikipedia and other sources)

Long live the National Museum!

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#237 University of Santo Tomas

Facade of the UST's main building

The Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas or simply known as UST (or affectionately called “Ustê” by its students) among Filipinos is a private Roman Catholic university run by the Order of Preachers in Manila.

The UST was founded on April 28, 1611 by archbishop Miguel de Benavides and has the oldest extant university charter in the Philippines and in Asia. The university is also considered as one of the world’s largest Catholic universities in terms of enrolment found on one campus. The UST is also the largest university in the city of Manila and the oldest in the Philippines if not in Asia.

Mabuhay ang UST!


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#229 Kinilaw

Kinilaw (sour-cooking raw ingredients ) in Philippine cuisine takes fish and other sea creatures, meat, fruits or vegetables- all at state- of- the- art freshness – and treats them equally, “sour-cooking” them in vinegar or other souring agents, flavoring them with the proper combination of condiments.

The kinilaw moment is that instant when the raw fish (or other seafood, or meat) meets the vinegar or other souring agent, and transformation begins from the raw state. In cooking vegetables, there is a spectrum of textural change: from the hardness of the raw, to the limpness of the overcooked. The perfect moment is somewhere along the line, at the point when the vegetable, e.g. ampalaya (bitter melon) retains the crispness of the raw, but acquires the softness of the cooked without being either hard or limp.

With kinilaw, the perfect moment is marked visually by a change from translucence towards, but without reaching, opacity. Texturally, it is a moment when the fish or shrimp retains the firm softness of the raw, but reaches a new state of being that has been called niluto sa asim – “cooked”, or more accurately transformed, in sourness. (From Kinilaw: a Philippine Cuisine of Freshness’ – by Edilberto N. Alegre & Doreen G. Fernandez 1991

Bon appétit!


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#192 Manila Zoo

Visitors at the Manila Zoo

For schoolchildren in Metro Manila, visiting the Manila Zoo is almost a rite of passage, never mind if the zoo runs short of children’s expectations.

Like the Pasig River and Manila Bay, the Manila Zoo (officially named the Manila Zoological and Botanical Garden) has seen better times. And despite the deplorable state the zoo has fallen into in recent years, the zoo is fondly remembered by legions of Pinoy kids who have at least paid a visit to this popular zoo.

Located in Manila, Philippines and officially opened on July 25, 1959, it is one of the oldest zoos in Asia. The zoo is home to more than 800 animals from nearly 100 species as of 2007 (From Wikipedia).

The zoo’s most popular resident–  and contrary to urban myth it’s not the resident crocodile whose cousins in the Philippine parliament are more rapacious—  is Mali, an Asian elephant who was brought to the zoo as an orphaned calf. Other zoo residents include Philippine crocodiles (tamer creatures compared to their parliamentary equals), Bengal tigers, an orang-utan named Sisi and many more.

The Manila Zoo attracts millions of visitors every year particularly on weekends. There were reports of moves to close the zoo due to lack of funds and inadequate maintenance. But miraculously the zoo and its inhabitants have survived the jungle that is Manila.

Long live the animals in Manila Zoo!


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#172 Pasig River

The Pasig River may never win an environmental award but for historical and cultural value, the Pasig River, which cuts across Manila and ends in Manila Bay, is one of the famous and iconic rivers in the Philippines.

Once an idyllic river in 19th century Manila, the Pasig River has inspired countless romantic ballads, folklore and is a witness to countless battles and key epochs in the Philippines’s turbulent history. It is also an inspiration for writers and the Philippine national hero Jose Rizal has used the river as a setting or backdrop in many of  his novels and literary writings.

Photos from the late 19th century and the pre-war years show picturesque views of the river. Lamentably, today’s Pasig River symbolised the hard times that Manila (and the Philippines) has fallen into. Severely polluted by both urban and industrial waste, the Pasig River has become a veritable sewage canal that is bloated with the refuse of congested Manila. The historical Spanish fort in Manila, the Fort Santiago, stands along Pasig River and views of the Pasig River and Manila Bay from the fort can offer the casual visitor a wonderful sunset view (ignore the smell).

Historically, the Malacanang or Presidential Palace is bordered by the Pasig River and the river occupied a key role in the ouster of former President Joseph Estrada who was reported to have eluded an arrest order by crossing the river in a boat (fat luck, he didn’t drop into one of Pasig’s festering whirpools!).

Despite volumes of environmental reports, stacks of books and countless attempts to save the river, the Pasig has remained the tragedy that it is- a liquid scar in the face of Manila.

Long live the efforts to save the Pasig River!

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#155 Manila Metropolitan Theater


Entrance and facade of the Manila Metropolitan Theater

The Manila Metropolitan Theater, located in central Manila near the Main Post Office is one of Manila’s finest examples of Art Deco period buildings. Designed by Filipino architect Juan M. de Guzman Arellano, the faint pinkish rose-colored theatre, built with a seating capacity of 1,670 (from Wikipedia), formally opened on December 10, 1931.
The landmark building is noted for its refined sculptures on the façade which were designed by Italian sculptor Francesco Riccardo Monti, who lived in Manila from 1930 until his death in 1958. Monti worked closely with De Guzmán Arellano and created highly stylized relief carving of Philippine plants executed by artist Isabelo Tampingco. The elegant sculptures  decorated the lobby walls and interior surfaces of the building.

During the end of World War 2 in 1945, heavy bombardment by US forces seriously damaged the theatre and destroyed the colonaded northern wing, the original roofing, walls and relief sculptures. Even after post-war reconstruction funded by the US, the theatre never recovered its original grandeur and gradually fell into disuse in the 1960’s. The building was restored in the 1970s but again fell into neglect.

A bus terminal and parking building has recently been constructed at the back of the theatre by the city government to generate funds. The city of Manila, with the help of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts is planning a rehabilitation of the theatre after the public opposed plans of city officials to demolish the theatre and build a mall complex on the site.

Ownership disputes between the city administration and the Government Service Insurance System continue to the detriment of the theater’s proper use and upkeep.

Mabuhay ang Manila Metropolitan Theater!


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#105 Manila envelope

The Manila envelope (also called manila folder) is a file folder designed to contain documents. It is generally formed by folding a large sheet of stiff card in half. Though traditionally beige, sometimes other colors are used to differentiate categories of files (From: Wikipedia).

The name ‘manila envelope’ originated from manila hemp or abacá, from which manila folders were originally made. Manila, the Philippine capital, is one of the major producers of abaca and used to be the biggest exporter of abaca or Manila hemp during the American colonial period in the first half of the 20th century.

Made of thick, durable paper and sized so that full sheets of paper can fit inside without being folded, the manila folder has a mechanism on the closing flap that allows it to be opened without damaging the envelope so that the envelope can be re-used. Manila envelopes have become iconic that the name is used, as an informal noun (manila) to indicate generic types of envelopes made of brown, unbleached paper, which are popular for being inexpensive and durable.

Mabuhay ang Manila envelope!

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