Lately, I’ve been meeting quite a number of Manila newcomers. Familiarizing themselves to a new environment, it was expected of my new friends to ask questions like, “Where do we go for good Japanese food?” or “Where can I get my nails done?” Staying true to hospitable Filipino form, I was more than willing to share my usual haunts and favorite establishments with my expat friends, hoping to make them feel more comfortable in their new home. After all, living in a foreign place is never easy.
So with that, here is my list for my favorite places and services in Manila. This might come in handy if you yourself are a newcomer to Manila or ever plan to be on my side of the world.
RESTAURANTS and BARS
1. Mamou – Located in Fort Bonifacio, this cozy, little restaurant makes you feel like you’re dining at home. Mamou has become quite famous for it’s brunch menu , their version of a Filipino dish called sinigang and their steaks. I personally love their roast pork and chicken served with black rice and beans. Comfort food at it’s best, if you ask me.
2. Little Tokyo – I knew that the food would be good when I saw the place filled with Japanese folks. With several restaurants to choose from, this place always has something new to offer. Their seafood is always fresh and the wide variety of Japanese beer and sake helps, too.
3. Abe – If you are feeling adventurous and would like to try authentic Filipino food, this is the place to visit. Abe serves a lot of staple Filipino dishes but is most known for their Kapampangan dishes. I tell people that their balo balo (fermented rice) is just as good my mom’s, which is pretty hard to beat, and their lamb adobo is not to be missed.
4. The Collective – As the name suggests, The Collective is a small compound where artists/entrepreneurs have come to gather. Eclectic stores are open during the day time and until the early (some stay open late) evening. At night, local bands play at B-Side and The Collective turns into a big party. This is definitely a good place to start at if you want to get to know the local scene better.
5. Salon De Ning – Nicely situated inside the Peninsula Hotel, this has got to be the most interesting bar that I have been to. With several theme rooms, this is the perfect venue for a night out, dancing with friends. Cocktails as expected, are more pricey, but are delicious and worth the pretty peso.
1. Spaholics – So far, the most consistent home service massage that I have experienced. You pay a little more (500Php / $11USD for a massage), but they do bring a massage bed and give excellent massages.
2. California Nails and Day Spa – These guys have been around for ages. They have branches in Alabang, Makati, Taguig, and Pasig and their nail technicians give consistently good manicures and pedicures. The salons are now a little run down, but for the quality and price, CANNS never fails.
4. Nail Tropics – Also very consistent with their service, I love Nail Tropics because of their relaxing interior and convenient location, which is at Serendra. Their staff is also very professional and accommodating.
5. Bench Fix Salon – If all you want is a simple haircut, Bench Fix’s hairstylists are well-trained and certainly reliable. And for the price you pay (no more than $10USD), it is certainly bang for your buck!
6. The Green Grocer – Although I have never availed of their service, I have heard many good things about the quality of their produce. The Green Grocer saves you the hassle of having to run to the grocery on a busy day by delivering everything to your doorstep. They don’t just offer fruits and vegetables but some selected meats, as well.
SPECIALTY STORES and MARKETS
1. SM Department Store – Their tag line “We’ve got it all for you” still holds true. SM is yoru one-stop shop. It tends to be crowded so I suggest going on a weekday morning. You will have a remarkably better shopping experience, I promise.
2. Quiapo – Quiapo has everything that you will need – from cooking utensils to witches’ brews. But I go to Quiapo, particularly Hidalgo street, for the cameras. Hidalgo street is a haven for gadget lovers, where cameras abound, both old and new. Even if you don’t leave with a new camera or lens, sometimes just seeing what’s out there is enough.
3. Greenhills – A visit to the Philippines is not complete without a set of new pearls. From South Sea pearls to your regular cultured pearls, Greenhills is the place for it. You can also find a lot of locally manufactured furniture here and most importantly, your LV knock offs.
If you need more information on where to go in Manila, feel free to send me a message and I will try my best to lead you to the right direction. I often tell my expat friends that because of it’s chaotic nature, Manila can be quite difficult to navigate, but with the right leads, it can also be quite an exciting and fun city to live in.