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10. Walking Tour of Baler
This article was written last September when I took my students around a historical walking tour of Baler to learn about the effects of population and migration. More than those highly conceptual things, the tour took was a rich educational experience of a 400 year old town. The highlight was the Baler Museum with some interesting artifacts and a lot of paintings made by local artists. Apart from just going to Baler for the surf, sand and the beach, a little history and culture wouldn't hurt.
9. Cafe Noriter
I was really surprised the first time I saw this cafe in Taft. I never knew a beautiful Korean-inspired cafe existed and I had been passing by it for quite some time! The thing that makes Noriter cute and exciting is its design: rustic but at the same time artistic. Handwritten scribbles, beautifully drawn cups and little knickknacks here and there all scream for attention. It also helps that their honey bread with a generous amount of whip cream soothes and nourishes tired brains.
8. Tintin Store in Fullybooked
An absolute delight when I heard that Tintin was coming to the Philippines in the first official Tintin Store! A huge space devoted solely to my childhood hero. I was on geek-mode browsing the shelves filled with comics, figurines and model sets from different iconic scenes from the comic. I was in love and happy that Tintin was finally getting some attention in the country. Since then I periodically come back to buy Tricia a Tintin comic for her own collection.
7. Johnny Air Forwarding
6. Carlos Celdran Walking Tour: Escolta-Quiapo
After joining one afternoon of Carlos Celdran's famous walking tour in Intramuros, he offered this timely tour to mark the growing interest and revival in Escolta. The tour is about 3-4 hours long, punctuated by Carlos Celdran's own take of history and his perspective on Philippine development from the past to the present. Though tiring, the walk highlights the beauty of American-inspired architecture in our country, with access to the old Citibank building and its wonderful panorama of old Manila. A plus on this tour was the experience of riding in kalesas along the streets of Manila while being serenaded by a local troubadour group.
5. 8065 Bagnet
The place to be to get your fix of the north's famous bagnet. Hefty, generous and packing all the goodness of perfectly fried pork. So far the best is always the classic, nothing can beat its flavor, plus the bagoong served alongside perfectly balances out the saltiness of the meal. Best time to go? Around February and early March when you can dine al fresco and enjoy the sights and sounds or people watch in Manila.
4. Exile on Main St.
The place where I celebrated my 25th birthday, plus the first restaurant to actually invite me to cover their anniversary. Named after the famous Rolling Stones song, Exile is all about character and serving really out of this world food. Personal favorites? The Baboy O'Riley with balsamic vinegar dip and the Torn and Frayed, two pork dishes that leave you begging for more. For those with a sweet tooth, their ice cream isn't so bad and I've heard that their brownies are worth spending for a second serving.
3. Silahis Center
A furniture shop and a Filipiniana bookstore, this could be the next SM with its signature slogan. The center is just another stopover to visit while in the walled city. Inside you'll find wooden furniture, from the cheapest palo chinos to the most expensive and heavy narras. Throw in some ethnic crafts and your house will look like an antique shop. The second floor gets a little more interesting with Filipiniana books plus a few western fiction ones as well. Don't forget to look out for the old typewriter in the bookstore.
2. Papier Tole Shop
Besides the Silahis Center and just across San Agustin Church is one of the best souvenir shops I've ever been to. Inside you'll find all sorts of bric-a-brac to take home. Wooden puppets, tin robots, and some pretty cool stationary items with artsy drawings of old Manila. Papier Tole wouldn't be called by its name without the eponymous handicrafts being sold or displayed, wonderfully done the works are great giveaways for any occasion. This is where Tricia gave me her Valentines Day gift, a paper jeepney. I believe the store also has paper tole workshops but I have yet to try it.