62. Good Things

from “Echoes”, Will Young, 2011.

Another museum to visit and this time it was the Yuchengco Museum in Makati located not too far from where we are staying. This museum was created to house the collected art and other objects that belonged to Alfonso T. Yuchengco, and was opened to the public in September 2005. With its stated goal to foster a greater appreciation Filipino and Filipino-Chinese visual arts and creativity we thought this would be a great place to visit.

Outside the entrance to the museum is a statue commemorating the EDSA I and EDSA II Revolutions that both took place within recent Philippine history. The statue, called The Spirit of EDSA, was sponsored by the Yuchengco group.

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The Spirit of EDSA – the commemorative statue to the two EDSA Revolutions.

The first EDSA Revolution culminated in February 1986 when President Ferdinand Marcos was toppled from power after alleged cheating in the presidential election. The second EDSA Revolution occurred in January 2001 when President Joseph Estrada was also toppled after an aborted impeachment trial.

Although a paid-entry museum where the entrance fee is normally 100 pesos, we were told that as a couple of the smaller galleries were being updated with works that the admission price would be 50 pesos each. Not ones to argue with a reduced price, we handed over our money and headed in.

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Yuchengco Museum – arriving at the top floor to start our visit.

The Yuchengco Museum is predominantly housed within a conical building that is part of the RCBC Plaza complex, and the best way to tour it is to take the lift to the top floor and then work your way down each level via the circular stairway, all the while enjoying the exhibits of art as you go.

And so we did, and here are some of the collected items and artworks that we enjoyed the most.

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This was a great little museum to tour; big enough to keep us interested yet small enough that it was not overwhelming given that a lot of the works are a personal collection. Definitely worth a visit and we are glad we did.

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61. Same Old Scene

from “Flesh and Blood”, Roxy Music, 1980.

Always keen to tour a good museum, especially when it features displays that provide insight into the history and culture of the country we’re visiting, we were happy to take a look at the Ayala Museum located in Greenbelt not far from our accommodation.

The Ayala Museum is set over several floors and has both permanent and temporary exhibitions with the main permanent exhibit being The Diorama Experience. This features sixty handcrafted dioramas – or 3D modelled scenes – that chronicle Philippine history, highlighting major events and themes from prehistoric times, through conquest by the Spanish Empire, and to the recognition of Philippine independence in 1946.

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The dioramas were a great way to explore the historical timeline of the Philippines, and certainly one we’ve not encountered before. It was very quiet during our visit – as the photos show – and this meant we could really appreciate the historic scenes and the Filipino story they told.

In the same hall as the dioramas there were also several large models of the different vessels that sailed the seas around the Philippines and contributed to the development of its maritime trade and the Spanish colonial economy.

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There were several other exhibitions on at the Ayala Museum, some of which you could not take pictures in unfortunately. The most impressive of the these was the Gold of Ancestors exhibition featuring more than one thousand gold objects from Filipino culture prior to colonisation by Spain in the 16th century. Gold of Ancestors featured many adornments worn by the powerful and elite of ancient times and included a dazzling array of golden sashes, necklaces, earrings and many other artefacts. It included as the centrepiece a whopper of a gold sash that weighs almost 4kg!

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Gold of Ancestors – the huge gold sash centrepiece (image copied from the internet).

There was also an exhibition on Fernando Zobel, a pioneer in Philippine modern art, which featured several pictures we wouldn’t mind having on the walls of our apartment in Bangkok 🙂

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Finally there was a small temporary exhibit on the meaning of colours and their use in Filipino culture. One of the most interesting aspects of this exhibit was the display of different regional Filipino words for colours along with the patterns and shapes often used in those regions as part of their art and culture.

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The Ayala Museum is a great place for anyone touring the city and is certainly a wonderful introduction to the history of the Philippines. Definitely one of the highlights of our time in Manila.

60. Enjoy

from “Post”, Björk, 1995.

Our stay at Raffles Makati was part of Philip’s 57th birthday celebrations and while there we learned that Raffles hosted a tour of the artworks that grace the hotel. We were therefore very pleased to accept Raffles Makati’s invitation to enjoy the Raffles Concierge Art Tour. As it turned out the tour ended up taking place over two separate visits as all the artwork and the historic and cultural information exchange did not quite fit into a single session, mainly due to a lot of talking by all concerned. This was good! Without doubt both halves of the tour made for a highly enjoyable whole and we came away afterwards both wiser and enlightened.

So we are very pleased to include here a small sample of the artworks that we particularly enjoyed seeing at Raffles Makati.

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Finally we must of course give our most grateful thanks to Reiner and Myles who were our hosts and guides on the Raffles Concierge Art Tour, and also to front office manager Myra Bass for arranging the visit.

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Raffles Makati – Reiner (left) and Myles (right), two of Raffles Makati’s finest fellows and our delightful hosts.

Reiner’s and Myles’s commentaries and insight were both enlightening and entertaining and we are very appreciative of the time they took to tour us around the artworks at Raffles Makati. They were charming, polite, and very knowledgeable about the art and Filipino history, which gave us a wonderful introduction to the Philippines as a country new to us both. And we hope we were able to enlighten them in return with some of our own historical knowledge and cultural understanding including the Spanish – South American connection.

Once again thank you very much to all concerned at Raffles Makati for a highly enjoyable experience that we will always treasure and remember.

59. Heart Of Stone

from “The Innocents”, Erasure, 1988.

Having mainly toured within Makati so far we decided to venture further afield and visit one of Manila’s main areas and tourist attractions of Intramuros, also called the Walled City. Literally meaning “within the walls” Intramuros is the oldest district and the historic core of the Filipino capital, having been the seat of government when the Philippines was part of the Spanish Empire.

But first we had to get there. Manila does not – like many capitals we have been to – really have a comprehensive mass transit system. Essentially it is a city where the only real way around is by bus or car. The buses – or jeepneys – are certainly not an option for us as non-locals as it’s almost impossible to go from any A-to-B we would need and they are somewhat “primitive” 😛

So taxis are the only real option for use to travel around the city. However, based on the opinions and advice of some online sources it seems that the local taxis have some “problems”; you know the kind we mean especially if you are a tourist. The answer, according to most, is to the use the ride services of the likes of Uber and Grab. We’ve never used these before but in the interests of being able to travel around the city in relative ease and security we got a very cheap mobile data SIM card for our dual-SIM phone and set up the Uber app.

With just a couple of taps a nice car magically appeared and within a few minutes we were on our way to Intramuros. Manila is certainly busy with regards to road traffic but we made fair progress and around 45 minutes and 220 pesos (£4) later we arrived. All good, so it seems Uber is definitely the way to go here; a very cheap ride in a nice clean car and with a sensible driver.

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Plaza Roma – the small square outside Manila Cathedral and our first port of call in Intramuros.

We arrived near Fort Santiago and the Manila Cathedral and planned to just wander around and see what there was to see. Almost immediately upon stepping out of the car we were approached by hawkers. Carriage rides, guided tours, hats, souvenirs and more all available for immediate purchase and for “very good price” 🙂

Riiight. So ignoring the hawkers – which we find is generally better than trying to tell them “no” and revealing you understand/speak English, etc. – we headed first to Manila Cathedral. Built in 1571 and restored on a number of occasions due to earthquakes, the cathedral has also been visited by several popes during its history.

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Manila Cathedral – at the heart of the Intramuros district.

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Manila Cathedral was very quiet and peaceful, with more tourists than worshippers in the early afternoon. It was very pleasant to wander around in the relative cool of the cathedral and admire the architecture of the building. But there was no escaping the sunshine and it was time to wander the streets a little and see some of the character of Intramuros.

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Intramuros – San Augustin Church, which is both a church and also a museum.
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San Augustin Church – the main door.

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During our wandering we were slightly surprised that Intramuros was somewhat more dilapidated than we had expected. Obviously there are historic ruined sections and these are always a pleasure to view, but other parts of the district that we had hoped to be more quaint were not so – perhaps we had expected a little more surviving colonial influence. We later discovered that this was due to a lack of restoration and rebuilding after the war.

However, we only walked around a third of the area and there is still more to see so we are definitely planning to return and sample some more of this historic area.

58. 7 Seconds

from “Man”, Neneh Cherry (with Youssou N’Dour), 1994. 

After a few days of living in Makati we’ve already begun to get a feel for the way some things are done here in the Philippines, much like we did when we were first in Japan (see blog post 23. Turning Japanese). And obviously it’s not always quite what you expect or are used to back home.

Pedestrian Lights

7 seconds is approximately how long the green pedestrian crossing sign lights up for on Manila’s roads. Basically you need to step it up pronto to cross, and that’s still with cars trying to drive over the crossing while you’re using it. Be bold, be brave, but most of all be quick when crossing.

One-/Two-Way Streets

Still on the roads there are, at least in Makati, quite a lot of one-way streets. However, on the weekends and holidays, these turn into two-way streets.

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One-Way – ah but it doesn’t actually say if it becomes (a) two-way, or (b) the other way, on Sat. Sun. & Hol. does it?

From our experience so far this seems to be just as confusing for us as it is for everyone else. We’ve seen quite a few vehicles doing three-point turns on the one-/two-way roads and looking like they don’t really know which way they want to go, or so it seems.

As we’ve learned from Thailand, it pays to look both ways regardless of the stated direction of traffic.

Shopping Bags

Shops here in the Philippines give you paper bags for your shopping. Er, have you seen the rain this time of year and what water does to paper? Never mind the fact they don’t have handles. Oh good grief!

Park Music

We visited the the nearby Washington Sycip Park for a stroll around and discovered that there is music played from speakers hidden away in the bushes and trees. And with such classics as It’s Not Unusual by Tom Jones, and It’s A Heartache by Bonnie Tyler, there’s certainly something for discerning ears of all kinds 😉

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Washington Sycip Park – bring some wire-cutters if you want  peace and quiet.

We’ve yet to discover if the music is unique to this park or whether it’s a Filipino thing. Watch this space – but maybe with earplugs in.

Posting Mail

Unlike the Post Office and Royal Mail services in the UK – and mail in other countries we’ve visited – the Philippines seems to do things a little differently. Firstly there are no post boxes on the street so to post your mail you need to visit a post office. This is also the only place you can buy stamps. So basically you need a post office in order to be able to do anything with your mail, and there are not many post offices around that we’ve seen.

So with mail in hand, we headed off to the Makati Central Post Office, around 20 minutes walk away. The post office was somewhat archaic, with lots of counters, and no technology or self-service machines. It took a few moments to work out which was the best counter to queue for – basically the one with the most people, who were also trying to buy stamps funnily enough.

We had to queue for 30 minutes which included a fun game of “musical chairs”: you sit on the plastic seats that are tied together with string and everyone shuffles along one place when the person in Seat 1 gets called to the counter. The queue wasn’t helped by the fact that the person at the counter when we arrived had literally hundreds of letters he wanted posting – it looked like a marketing campaign and he was getting them all franked manually. Fortunately they did open another counter to allow the growing queue behind him to be served.

Philip decided he wanted to send the birthday card he was posting as registered mail so we had an additional post office adventure as we had to go to Window 106. This was located at the back of the sorting room and no one batted an eyelid as we went – as directed – behind the counters and through the sorting room in search of Window 106. We found it with no problem – resisting the temptation to help with the mail sorting as we passed through – and so the birthday card was delivered into the tender mercies of PhilPost (no pun intended).

Will it arrive OK? We’ll keep you posted 🙂

57. It Won’t Be Long

from “Singles”, Alison Moyet, 1995.

Well now lovely Alison that is where you’re just a little bit wrong. Let us explain.

We arrived in Manila, capital of the Philippines, for our first visit to the country. And, as it’s quite near Philip’s birthday, we decided to make the start of our stay a little bit special and so checked into Raffles (darling!) in the Makati district. We’ve not stayed at a Raffles hotel before though have stayed at some of the Mandarin Oriental chain so were hoping for a similarly posh experience.

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Raffles Makati – the main lobby. Swanky.
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Raffles Makati – the Writers Bar where guests can enjoy complimentary afternoon tea and evening cocktails and canapes. Classy.

The hotel is located in Makati, which is is one of the sixteen cities that make up Manila as a whole, and it is home to many of the city’s financial institutions and embassies, as well the main shopping malls and cultural venues. So all in all a good place to start the Filipino adventure.

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Raffles Makati – the rooftop pool just near our suite. Handy.

Obviously the most famous of the Raffles hotels is the one in Singapore, home to the Singapore Sling cocktail which was created in the hotel’s famous Long Bar. And as we discovered as we explored the hotel, the Raffles Makati has reproduced the Long Bar from Raffles Singapore. As such it seemed rude not to venture in, coo appreciatively at the very long bar, and partake of a Singapore Sling.

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Raffles Makati – the reproduced Long Bar from Raffles Singapore. Lengthy. Tut, blooming Pokemon GO players get everywhere.

Not only did they serve the classic Singapore Sling but there was also the Makati Singapore Sling, which was a slight variation on the original and included 24k gold flakes sprinkled on the top! And as well as copying the Long Bar, the Raffles Makati has also copied the tradition allowing patrons to throw peanut shells from the bar snacks on the floor of the Long Bar; apparently this is the only form of littering permitted in otherwise mega-clean Singapore. And again it seemed rude not to join in so we partook of a little littering ourselves.

So the Philippines is off to a classy and swanktastic start ahead of our moving to our Airbnb condominium just a few minutes down the road from the hotel. And we’re already planning to head back to Raffles Makati for dinner to celebrate Philip’s birthday in a week’s time. What ho, rather!