Philippines, Baby.

Philippines, Baby.

Mabuhay from the Philippines!!! I’ve been incredibly lazy about the blog while here BECAUSE my unemployed self hasn’t been this busy since leaving NY. Between eating and seeing friends and family and more eating and of course karaoke (we’re still in Asia) and more eating, plus I believe we take 4 showers a day to battle the humidity and heat — there’s really little time for anything else. However, my public is demanding a new post (hi Mom and Tita Kathy) and I must oblige. We arrived in Manila almost three weeks ago and met my parents at the airport, a feat in itself. The Manila airport is a mess – 4 different terminals scattered over a few miles, yet they all share the same runways. My parents had just flown in 20 minutes after us and by the time we reached them, already marinating outside in the heat and airport traffic, it looked like a scene from the fall of Saigon minus the chopper hovering above: “PLEASE JUST GET US OUT OF HERE. DON’T LEAVE US BEHIND.” The four of us made it and arrived in my uncle’s beautiful apartment in the muy fancy business district of Makati, our home for the next month while he’s away. We met the two girls staying with us to help with (do all of) the cleaning and cooking, had dinner, and said good night. The next day we set out to explore. My mom was born and raised here, leaving the Philippines for the US when she was 19. Her siblings moved too, but their parents stayed behind and we would visit as often as we could. I’ve been coming to the Philippines my whole life – I was 13 months old on my first visit – and grew up visiting my Lolo, who was my mom’s dad, and my older sister, Tricie, who has lived most of her life in Manila. My parents would pull us out of school for weeks at a time, driving our teachers crazy but promising that we would do every single homework assignment while away, which we did, and we would fly 15+ hours to visit our family and friends (seriously, my parents are the coolest). I loved it as a kid. As an adult we continued our trips, visiting every 3-4 years, only now visiting my grandparents’ graves instead of their house, and at night heading out to the bars and restaurants with my sisters. This, however, was Anthony’s first visit and he had alot to catch up on. First off, Manila is HOT. HUMID and HOT, ALL THE TIME, but especially now, during typhoon season. My sister’s boys had a typhoon day last week, when school was canceled due to expected heavy rains. Like a snow day in the States, except it’s rain. And if the rain doesn’t get you, you will certainly melt from the heat. Manila is also PACKED WITH TRAFFIC and people. 12 million inhabit the city. Cars and buses and jeepneys are everywhere all the time, usually sitting at a standstill. Stop signs are optional, as seen in one of the videos below. Tagalog is the first language, but most people in the cities speak English, or at least Taglish, which is literally Tagalog with English. I speak only a few words and even that’s pushing it. The Philippines was a commonwealth of the US until 1946 – before that it was ruled by Spain for nearly 4 centuries, which is why my mother and grandparents and their parents grew up speaking Spanish first, before even Tagalog. My older sister was somewhere on the border, and now my nephews speak English first, then Tagalog, with nary an ¡olé! in sight. It’s interesting to see the change. We flew south to Cebu for a few days at the beach with my parents, sister Tricie, her man Tono and her oldest son, Rafael. His little brother decided to stay behind and play video games while we were away — I totally understood. We snorkeled, mini-golfed, rode motorcycles in the arcade, Anthony played in a par 3 golf tournament, we played a bastardized version of petanque (when you bring two Italian men to play a french game, it somehow becomes bocce) and of course, ate our faces off. Filipino food is my ideal — sour, salty, lots of fish and pork and vegetables. Soy and vinegar and garlic, oh my. And RICE. Everything is served with white rice. If you want to veer, you can have garlic fried rice. Growing up, we had rice with EVERYTHING at home except pancakes and pasta. Those were the only two exceptions. We would eat in restaurants and my mother would whip out her tupperware of white rice and ask the waiter if he could please heat it up for her. At one point we made her self-conscious about it I think because the next time she warmed the rice up at home and brought it to the restaurant ready to eat. But to us it made sense, because that is just what you do. She still eats rice with everything, though often it’s now brown rice, a trend which thank you God has still not made it to the Philippines, and I always tell her she is a bad Filipino for straying from the tried and true. But I digress. Anthony and my dad made dinner for 11 people one night last week — lasagna, meatballs, breaded eggplant — and it was phenomenal; otherwise though it’s all pinoy food all the time and I’m in heaven. And the only exercise I’m getting is a walk to the dinner table and the occasional morning yoga class a block away. What else. Oh THIS IS THE MOST CATHOLIC NATION IN THE WORLD. I don’t care about stats and that some countries might have more Catholics. I am saying that until you have heard mass in the Philippines, you don’t know from Catholic. (If you must know, it’s the only Catholic country in Asia, except for East Timor, which I don’t believe is even a real place, and the 5th largest Catholic country in the world. But I’m not talking about numbers here.) The people sing and pray in every single mass with a happiness and gusto usually reserved for musical productions in Disney World. Our preferred church is within walking distance from our apartment, an outside affair (hence why Filipinos never go anywhere without a fan – thankfully our cousins own a hipster fan company here), featuring 10 showtimes on Sunday and 5 the rest of the week, and every single mass is not only packed but spilling over outside. Also this church is in a courtyard in the middle of 7 malls because Filipinos love their malls. LOVE THEIR MALLS. I hate malls. HATE MALLS. But in Manila, if you want to be social, eat dinner out, have a late night drink, find the latest speakeasy bar that no one knows about, listen to live music, attend mass or a national museum, or get a massage, your suitcase fixed or your dress hemmed, you are going to the mall. When in Manila. Last night we even went to this mystery/escape room thing for an hour (of my life that I’ll never get back) – it’s supposed to be the latest craze in Asia — the latest crasia, you’re welcome — and of course it was in THE MALL.

We still have another week here and it is SO NICE to get to spend so much time with the folks. This is their first vacation since our deck accident last year, and while my mom isn’t dancing yet, she is at least HERE. That’s all any of us can ask for really. So without further ado, pics and a few videos of our Filipino Fun so far. My husband is the tall white one in the photos.


Where we stayed in Cebu:

Shangri-La Mactan Resort & Spa


Where we ate & loved in Cebu:

Zubuchon (world’s best lechon)


Where we are staying in Manila:

My tito Mari’s condo, Legazpi Village, Makati 


Where we eat, drink & like:

Abe (great pinoy food)

Locavore (the sizzling sinigang is one of my top meals of our entire trip)

Your Local (great food, super cute place)

Yardstick Coffee (next to Your Local – great ice coffee & coffee-infused beers)

Mandalay Whisky & Cigars (speakeasy bar – enter through the coat closet in back of Belle & Dragon)

Curator Coffee & Cocktails (speakeasy bar – behind Cyrano Wine Bar)

Blind Pig (speakeasy bar)

Prohibition Liquor Lounge (speakeasy behind Dillinger’s 1903 in Greenbelt 3)

















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This is my grandmother, Dr. Nora Diokno Casas, on your far left in the painting below. In addition to being an obstetrician and owning a hospital in Manila with my grandfather, she also started a fan-making company, Casa Mercedes, with her two sisters back in 1951. Her sister’s family took it over and has been running it ever since. Today it’s the oldest fan maker in the Philippines and is getting a ton of attention from the fashion (and hipster) world. This painting hangs in the office. Who knew being hot could be so cool? (They should really hire me to come up with these little slogans)