Dream Honeymoon | Part 1 | Faces of Manila



As many of you know, 2016 was a very special year for me: after 15 years of dating, I finally married my best friend. A short, but moving courthouse ceremony, a beautiful English garden style outdoor wedding, and a classy French brunch with good friends were the perfect start to our life together, and I can’t wait to see what adventures our future has in store for us.  

While every minute of it was absolutely worth it, the event planning process and all the travel left us completely drained of energy, as well as of days off. So like many couples nowadays, we decided to wait with our honeymoon, and leave cold Chicago for a tropical getaway in February or March, right around the time we get really fed up with the long winters. We ended up booking our trip for March 8-19, and we couldn’t have timed it better! Chilling with a drink under the palm trees while it was snowing in the city was quite the experience!

We were hoping for a romantic, quiet, relaxing trip, right on the border of the authentic travel style we usually choose and the comfort a resort can provide, and that is exactly what we got. We found our perfect little island paradise on Arrecife Island in the Palawan archipelago of the Philippines. But I’m getting ahead of myself...


Metro Manila

Our first flight arrived to the capital of the Philippines, Manila. Ignoring all advice to leave the city as soon as possible, we decided to spend a coupe of days getting to know both the most modern and the most historic parts of this metropolis.

The metropolitan area of Manila is made up of sixteen cities, including the much larger Quezon City, as well as the Makati Central Business District, and is home to 1,780,148 people. Manila is also the most densely populated metropolitan area in the world, with 41,515 people per square kilometer. The city has endured earthquakes, fires and wars, but today it thrives as an Asian megacity, with skyscrapers growing out of the extreme poverty, and a traffic that can only be described as chaotic. 


Makati 

Since our first day in the city was a fairly short one, we spent it in Makati, hoping to get a glimpse into the life of the average millennial in Manila. Having the highest concentration of multinational and local corporations in the country, as well as numerous shopping malls, cafes and restaurants, Makati feels like a western metropolis. Only the occasional jeepney reminds you where you really are. 



Makati Central Business District
 
Jeepney in the Makati Central Business District


Makati Central Business District


We started out with a stroll in the beautiful tropical gardens of Greenbelt Mall, spent the hottest part of the day in the Ayala Museum - a perfect little sample of tribal and modern Philippino culture, and finished with a traditional Philippine dinner at the Venice Grand Canal Mall. While our day felt quite sheltered, and very different from the more authentic experiences we usually seek out, getting a glimpse into modern life in the Philippines was certainly fascinating.  



Greenbelt Mall

Greenbelt Mall

Ayala Museum

Greenbelt Mall

Venice Grand Canal Mall

Venice Grand Canal Mall

Venice Grand Canal Mall

Venice Grand Canal Mall


Intramuros 

We spent our second day in Manila in the historic Intramuros district, the city’s capital during the 300 years of Spanish colonization. While the Spanish names, hairstyles, and the dominance of Roman Catholicism in the Philippines are good reminders of this time period, it was fascinating to walk around in the old city center. 

We started the day at Fort Santiago and the Rizal Shrine, continued with the impressive Manila Cathedral and the beautiful reproduction of a Spanish colonial house, Manila House, then finished our day with an amazing tour of San Augustin Church. Built between 1587 and 1606, San Augustin is the oldest church in the Philippines, and the only building left intact after the destruction of Intramuros in WWII. Today it provides tourists a glimpse into hundreds of years of history, and during weekends it is a well-oiled wedding machine. 



Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago

Manila Cathedral

Manila Cathedral

Intramuros

Manila House

Manila House

Manila House

Wedding reception at Manila House

San Augustin Church

San Augustin Church

San Augustin Church


As a true art history geek, I absolutely loved walking around this historic district. The mix of Spanish and Southeast Asian influences was fascinating and breathtaking at the same time. While our day spent among Makati’s skyscrapers was fun, this is the type of exploration that truly motivates me to travel.

Two days were clearly not enough to explore every corner of this Asian megametropolis, or to experience the depths of the city’s culture. But we definitely got a taste of this tropical, contrast-laden, crazy, chaotic urban phenomenon. 


Have a memorable weekend everyone!
Ildiko


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