Manila Travels: Intramuros


D and I are starting to get to know the Philippines more, so we have been driving and exploring nearby cities and towns since last year. One of the places that’s so close to home yet we most often overlook is Manila City. See, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Manila: I’ve seen the best, and sadly the not so pleasant parts. When I think Manila, the first image that comes to mind is the city hall and the historic walled city of Intramuros. I remember going there on field trips when I was in grade school, and occasionally in the early 2000s with my in-laws.

Sky Deck
view from the Sky Deck on Bayleaf Hotel

When we decided to rekindle our relationship with Intramuros, D and I booked a room at the Bayleaf Hotel. We had dinner and breakfast at the Sky Deck restaurant at the Bayleaf, which offered a great view of the Manila city skyline. My favorite view was at sunset – it was quite busy on that Saturday night and it was a good thing we made reservations instead of just walking in. They had buffer dinner but we opted to order ala carte. Food was awesome, and the service was great.

San Agustin Church

On Sunday morning, D and I went to the San Agustin church for mass. San Agustin Church is one of the baroque Catholic churches in the Philippines (the other 2 that we visited within the Philippines are the Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte, and the Miag-ao Church in Iloilo).

San Agustin is a historical landmark, having been built by Augustinian friars in 1571, when the Philippines was still a colony of Spain. It had withstood various events like fire and war throughout the centuries so needless to say there had been several ‘rebuilding’ phases. A museum was built next to the church, showcasing relics and paintings. The only downside of San Agustin is that cleanliness needed to be improved. Sadly there was a bit of litter inside the church and in its parking area.

Casa Manila

Right across San Agustin Church is Casa Manila, an old house built also during the Spanish Colonization era. It was later on converted into a museum.

D and I spent an hour exploring the house/museum. We were not allowed to take photos, and visitors were asked to walk only within the ‘red carpet’. The house was well preserved, and gave us a glimpse of how it was to live as an upper class in the olden days. We were amazed at how people back then imported ice and stored them at home. Another interesting discovery is there were 2 toilet seats in the bathrooms.

Casa Manila
Casa Manila at Intramuros


Other landmarks

D and I were able to walk around the cobbled streets of Intramuros, and we saw several tour groups doing either the walking tours or the bike tours.

The Silahis Arts and Artifacts is a go-to place for tourists. They are located in a museum-like building with several floors of local and cultural merchandise good for souvenirs or home decors.

Close to the Casa Manila is the Manila Cathedral, another grand church built during the Spanish era, also in 1571. They are called ‘The Mother of all Churches, Cathedrals and Basilicas of the Philippines. I remember attending a couple of weddings there when I was a pre-teen.

For restaurants, some of the famous ones in Intramuros are Ilustrado, and the Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant. They have beautiful exteriors as well, and offer fine Filipino dishes.cathedralIlustrado

A weekend is not enough to explore Intramuros. It truly is a historical heritage gem of Manila. I’m planning to go back to walk along the Fort Santiago, I reckon we will need at least a couple of hours to do this. My sister-in-law recommends we also check out the Rajah Sulayman theatre. I can’t wait!


Lulu, in Search of a Fur-Ever Home


She looks at me and I attempt to see what her eyes are trying to say

Does she trust me at all, I wonder, is she silently asking me to stay?

You see, I’ve never gotten close to a cat before, so this is all so new to me

All I know is she’s sweet and gentle, and she’d give her love for free.

My earnest wish for Lulu this Christmas, is that she won’t have to roam

For a kind-hearted soul to take her in, and give her a forever home.

Lulu is an adult indoor-only cat. She is about 5 years old, spayed, vaccinated and litter-trained.

I met Lulu at PETA, and she is the first cat who has ever warmed up to me (and vice versa). She is very sweet and loves sitting (or napping) next to us in the office, as we work all day on our computers. I like how observant she is. At least once a day, when she thinks I need to get up and stretch, she would ceremoniously march on top of my keyboard, which I find very adorable.

If you are interested in adopting Lulu, please contact, or call +63-2-8175292. Or contact +63-999-888-7382.

Little Acts of Kindness

Project Smile

“In the eyes of a child there is joy, there is laughter. There is hope; there is trust, a chance to shape the future. For the lessons of life, there is no better teacher than the look in the eyes of a child.” – Air Supply

I connected to this song when I listened to the stories of the children who participated in last month’s Little Acts of Kindness  at Museo Pambata in Manila.

My friend, Aura Lim started Project Smile in 2010, with the aim of promoting empowerment and wellbeing for children in different communities. I had always admired her advocacy of giving back and she does this consistently every year, encouraging friends and family to join. This year Project Smile had its 11th activity, in coordination with Child Hope Philippines, a nonprofit organization advocating for street children.  I had the honor of joining Aura and her team for 3 hours of games, activities, feeding and sharing of gifts for 35 street children of Manila.

Child Hope Philippines conducts street education program. They have a classroom at Museo Pambata dedicated for this, and they allowed us to use the facility for the event. The street children who participated were beneficiary students of Child Hope Philippines.

We started with a prayer and everyone introduced themselves. After an ice breaker, the children were divided into 5 groups. Within their groups, they were given sketch pads, pencils and coloring materials for them to draw pictures describing who they, and what they want to be when they grow up. It was heartwarming listening to the kids speak about their dreams, seeing hope in their eyes.  Most of the participants in my group wanted to become policemen and soldiers. There was a boy, who I remember had been the most participative, and he shared that he wanted to become a seaman. He wanted to travel different places and see the world when he grows up.

Afterwards we read them stories and ran a contest for each group to present the different Filipino values through singing, acting or dancing. We gave out prizes to each team and it was quite touching to see some of the children share their prizes with their friends.

During the feeding time, I noticed most of the children did not finish their food. Our partner from Child Hope Philippines said that most of the children do this because they bring home the rest of the food to share with their siblings or other relatives. I was moved when I learned this.

The core team’s photo taken after the event

Seeing the children’s hope, generosity, and selflessness was quite an experience, and something I will always be thankful for. I was reminded that every act of kindness, no matter how little, goes a long way.