The Great Escape: Manila

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The Great Escape: Manila

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(EN) Trickie Lopa is currently Chairman of Philippine Art Events, which runs some of Manila’s biggest art events including Art Fair Philippines, Art in the Park, The Nonesuch Fair, o2oart, and most recently, MaArte at The Pen. She also serves as an adviser for the PHx Fashion Group, working with emerging fashion creatives to organize the PHx Fashion Conference 2019, the first of a series of projects that aims to equip local fashion creatives with the skills to take their brands global. From 2004 to 2011, she served on the Board of Trustees of the Museum Foundation of the Philippines, helping lead several projects to support the National Museum and its network. She continues to serve on the Advisory Board of the Museum at De La Salle University, a post she has held since 2011. Here, she shares her essential haunts and takes us on an art crawl in Manila.

What should one do/see/buy/eat if they are visiting Manila for the first time?

Manila essentially means Metro Manila, a sprawling megalopolis of 13 cities, the National Capital Region. First-time visitors, especially those who come for business, may find themselves in the financial capital of the Philippines, Makati City, or its nearest neighbor, Taguig, specifically the newly developed urban district of Bonifacio Global City (BGC).

Eat:

Milky Way Cafe for traditional Filipino dishes that serve comfort and satisfaction for Baby Boomers and their families, a multi-generational demographic. Whether you seek an introduction to Filipino food, or simply crave exceptionally-done traditional recipes, you can’t go wrong with Milky Way Café. Incidentally, the cafe’s location at the heart of Makati houses a family-run food complex where you can also find the superb Tsukiji for Japanese cuisine, and the excellent El Cirkulo, one of Manila’s best Spanish restaurants.


Blackbird. Image courtesy of the restaurant

Blackbird: the heritage structure at the edge of Ayala Triangle Gardens, one of Makati’s rare patches of green, has functioned as Manila’s first airport, housed a library, and now, a bustling base for the stylish set. The picturesque outdoor seating area provided an oasis at the height of the pandemic, and the buzz hasn’t died down.

Sala: Run by Colin Mackay, also the chef behind Blackbird, this compact restaurant always wins for a dressy night on the town.

Dr Wine: Situated at the quiet side of Poblacion, Makati’s hip, gritty enclave of clubs and bars slowly coming back to life after two years of Covid, one can enjoy Dr Wine’s drinks list and bar chow at the ground floor bistro or the private dining space on the second floor. But it is the rooftop, especially on one of the cooler evenings in the second half of the year, that elevates the venue’s creds.

Shop

You find a mall in whatever direction you turn to in Metro Manila, from the upscale Power Plant Mall or Greenbelt Center in Makati, to the ginormous Mall of Asia by Manila Bay. SM, the department store, has it all, and in every town and city too.

For more select shopping options:

The Greenhills Tiangge, noted for its section of pearl traders from the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. While not as robust and expansive as it was pre-pandemic, it still offers a selection of pearls, semi-precious stones, and accessories.

For Philippine handicrafts, there’s Kultura, a section at selected SM Department Stores or Tesoro’s, with two standalone stores in Makati and downtown Manila.

For artisanal names in Philippine fashion and design, pop-ups and bazaars bring together the best names:

Katutubo (monthly)
MaArte at The Pen, a fundraising effort by the Museum Foundation of the Philippines happens annually at The Peninsula Manila Hotel (usually July or August)
Artefino, another annual bazaar at the posh Rockwell Center (usually in August)
HABI Bazaar run by HABI the Philippine Textile Council, for a selection of traditional textiles (usually in October)
Comme Ci Bazaars serve as an extension of their Power Plant Mall outlet and puts together names in emerging Filipino fashion (varied times of the year)

Take us on a museum and gallery crawl in Manila – what would be your five must-visit places


National Museum of Natural History

If one had at least one whole day, there’s always the three National Museum branches in downtown Manila: the National Museum of the Filipino People (Anthropology), the National Museum of Natural History, and the National Museum of the Visual Arts. Visit the last one, especially to see the national treasures, two canvases, huge in both scale and importance, by National Artists Juan Luna (The Spoliarum) and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo (The Assassination of Governor General Bustamante).


Dioramas at the Ayala Museum. Images courtesy of the museum

For a quick roundup of Philippine history, the Ayala Museum in Makati is a convenient option, with its dioramas that depict important moments in our history. Also visit for a viewing of their splendid collection of pre-colonial Philippine gold

The Ateneo Art Gallery, at the campus of the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, offers a selection of stunning work by the most eminent names in Philippine modern art (and a growing collection of contemporary art).

Other university museums that put together wonderful programmes for contemporary art include the Jorge B. Vargas Museum at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, also in Quezon City, and the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD), at the De La Salle University – College of St. Benilde.


Silverlens Manila. Image courtesy of the gallery

A vibrant gallery scene mirrors Metro Manila’s contemporary art landscape, with varied offerings throughout the metropolis. Located at close proximity to each other in Makati City are the galleries in the Pasong Tamo area (aka Chino Roces Avenue). At one end, The Alley at Karrivin is an art, retail, and food complex with three galleries (1335Mabini, The Drawing Room, and Artinformal), further along the strip you find Art Cube and powerhouse Silverlens. On the same road but across EDSA, the La Fuerza compound houses Modeka, White Walls, Finale Art File, J Studio, Archivo, and Vinyl on Vinyl. Altromondo rounds off the avenue’s galleries.

For those with more time to explore, Quezon City has a surfeit of choices too: Kaida Contemporary, West Gallery, Boston Gallery, Artery, and Blanc.

It may also be worth taking a look at the auction previews of two dominant Philippine auction houses, Leon Gallery and Salcedo Auctions. Even if you don’t plan on bidding for anything, perusing the art and decorative art up for sale serves as an education.


Trickie at this year’s Art Fair Philippines

Every February and March, the annual events Art Fair Philippines and Art in the Park take place.

Where is your favorite getaway in the Philippines (can be outside Manila)?


Taal Volcano

My husband’s family owns a weekend home with views of the Nasugbu shoreline. You can access the beaches of this Batangas town after about a three-hour drive from Metro Manila with its resort complexes and private developments like Punta Fuego or Kawayan Cove. On the way to Batangas, there’s scenic Tagaytay on the rim of a volcanic lake, and the famed Antonio’s Restaurant—always a good idea.

But seriously, the Philippines doesn’t lack for getaways: Palawan, Boracay, Siargao, Cebu, and Bacolod, among others in the Visayas. There’s La Union, Baguio, and the Ilocos Region up north. The choices are endless!

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