I work in the Finance department of a media company, and someone who dabbles in writing of any genre.
Published December 17th 2013
A mecca of shopping, entertainment, dining and more
After 10 hours of travel I finally arrived in my destination; Philippines - The Pearl of the Orient. I have not set foot on the soil of my beloved country for what seems like a very long time, hence the moment the plane descended at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Manila Philippines, the excitement that I felt was overwhelming.
The minute I left the air-conditioned comfort to get a cab to my hotel, the heat emitted from the ground, and the humidity in the air hit me with a force that I felt slightly nauseated. Nevertheless, after gaining my composure, the sheer elation that I felt superseded everything.
I am now in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. The multitudinous population will blow you away. Approximately 25 million people live in Manila alone, the overall population of the Philippines to date is a staggering "98 million" and with the seven thousand islands that littered the Philippine archipelago, you are bound to find a place or a resort that will blow your mind away.
My flight from Sydney via Darwin with Jetstar arrived early in the morning, so I was able to beat the chaotic Manila traffic. Virtually from 7am right through 8pm, cars, buses, motor bikes and every other mode of transport are in gridlock.
20 minutes later and I arrived at my hotel. I choose to stay at ParagonTower Hotel. For the last 20 odd years, this hotel has been my home away from home. This three star hotel does not have the pomposity, or the grandeur of a five star hotel. The exterior is unassuming, but the interior, affordability, cleanliness and the service easily match a five star's grandiosity.
This planned R & R (rest and recreation) trip will involve lying on the beach, savouring all those delectable dishes this country have to offer. All these are obviously better experienced when shared with someone; but if you are alone, you will enjoy it anyway.
Manila is also synonymous as a destination for affordable shopping expedition. Shops and malls are everywhere; even on the sidewalk vendors try to flog their wares. So what better way to cure the lonesome blues but to hit the shops! Yes, dear readers, let's shop till we drop!
A five minutes walk from Paragon is a favourite haunt of mine - Robinsons Place Manila - strategically located in the heart of Manila. This 7 - level shopping complex proudly boosts 240,000 sqm area of full service. It offers a wide range of merchandise and services from over a thousand local and international retails shops.
Robinsons is within a kilometre radius of community residences, government and various businesses, famous landmark, hotels, churches, universities, hospitals and night spots. It is also within walking distance to the famous Manila Bay.
Established in the 80's, it continues to evolve as an ultimate shopping destination for millions of locals and tourist alike. It is also connected to a twin residential high-rise condominium - Robinsons Place Residences and Adriatico Residences.
Upon entry, you will be greeted with Armed Security Guards, who will politely request to open your bag for inspection. Don't be alarmed, it's for your protection.
I bought this freshwater pearls in a shop located in the ground floor for $5 (P200); an earring for $20 (800) and bracelet for $2 (P80). It's not Paspaley but it is a real freshwater pearl.
I paid P600 ($15) for this amazing bag! A pair of jeans cost P400 ($10).
The Plaza also features:
Robinsons Department Store
Robinsons Movieworld – seven (7) state-of-the-art cinemas including one 3D cinema (Midtown Cinema 3)
The Handyman Hardware Store
Toys R Us and other stores for children
Entertainment outlets such as Bingo, Bowling, and Billiards Centers
Boutiques and shops (local and international brands), restaurants, cafes and various dining outlets
Scenic elevators and fountains.
Who would not forget "The Thrilla in Manila"! Contested in 1975 for the Heavyweight Championship of the world between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Its name is derived from Ali's rhyme of "Killa and a Thrilla and a Chilla, when I get that gorilla in Manila". It is allegedly ranked as one of the best bouts in sporting history.
I am now back in the comfort of my hotel room, admiring the treasures that I just bought, and also listening to my growling belly. Amidst of all the excitement, I didn't take heed to my other need. Food!
After such a gruelling day, I relaxed and watched TV while sipping a nice glass of vino. A prelude to another day of travel, heading to my hometown, at Dangay, Roxas Oriental Mindoro.
Despite the tragedies that this nation had lately experienced, the economy in this endearing nation is quite good. One Australian dollar is equivalent to P40 (pesos) . It obviously fluctuates everyday, but your dollar will still go a long way.
Unfortunately poverty is rife in this nation. But amidst of it all, the Filipinos have a happy disposition. You will always be greeted with a smile and addressed as Sir or Mam. They take pride on being polite and helpful. Of course, wherever you go, caution should still be exercised. If you flaunt your money or possessions, your are likely to loose it.
The Philippines have felt the unimaginable fury of nature. The earthquake that rocked this country, and the latest typhoon that landed on the island of Tacloban and surrounding areas, which by scale is the worst this nation and the rest of the world have ever experienced. The sufferings that they have endured is beyond what anyone can ever imagine. But for the formidable Filipinos, giving up is not in their vocabulary. In fact, the catastrophic event that occurred has been perceived as an act from God. Therefore they will shine and the day of the reckoning will begin, and life will evolve on a different phase.
Nevertheless, this God-fearing nation have come to the realisation and acceptance that life is worth living and nothing can stop them from rising from the fall.
So are you ready for another adventure? Pack your bags, but pack it lightly. You can buy everything that your heart desires in Manila.
Below are some helpful notes.
1. Australians don't need a visa to travel to the Philippines if you are intending to stay for 21 days or less. Refer to the Philippine Consulate site for more information
2. All the major airlines travel to Manila on a daily basis, so shop around for a cheap airfare. I flew with Jetstar via Darwin and paid approximately $800 for a return ticket.
3. If you are travelling beyond Manila, it might be wise to get a malaria and tetanus shots. Visit your Doctor for advice.
4. There are only two seasons in the Philippines; dry and wet. Check and manage your time, or you could end up stuck in your hotel room counting all those unspent pesos.
5. Be wise and be careful on what you eat and drink.
How to get there
The capital of the Philippines, Manila is approximately 8 to 10 hours flight. It depends on the airline. For example, Philippine Airline sometimes fly direct to Manila, and depends on the day, stop over in Melbourne (if your departing from Sydney) for an hour. Check with your travel agent.
From the airport, there are a lot of Airport recommended cabs that will take you to your hotel. Make sure you have some pesos with you before you get into the cab as the exchange rate outside the airport is generally better.