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Travel With Bender

Uncovering the best family holidays

Manila, Philippines

The Redeeming Qualities of Manila

Just when we thought there was no saving grace in Manila we came to a revelation. One day it hit me that everything I had been looking up was what to do with toddlers. When did traveling become all about them? When did I stop wanting to see things and just shower them with all the good things the world has to offer?

Don’t get me wrong we love doing that. I love seeing them smile and enjoy themselves, but surely the moneymakers should be getting something out of this as well?

Missionaries

With that in mind I started researching other things to do in Manila. It was through this period that we met with missionaries Mark & Christine Pedder.

This couple has been living in the slums of Manila for ten years and making remarkable progress. Some of the programs they have going are just amazing and I highly recommended checking out Mark’s blog to see the fruit.

As mentioned in previous posts we had decided to do a cull of our stuff here and were happy to present a large black garbage bag of shoes, clothes, books, towels & toys to them to give to those they see fit.

They shared with us stories of people lying in boxes, men working all day peeling garlic for 50 cents (that’s 15 kilos of garlic), and more. We are in awe of missionaries. They have hearts of gold and eternity is theirs.

We also learnt a lot about the Filipino culture including the official name for the many transvestites we have bumped into here – bakla. This is considered the 3rd gender in the Philippines. It is often a result of poor money, where a mother will dress the boy in his sisters clothing and so he grows up behaving like a girl, however child molestation within the Philippines is also a major contribution to this confusing sex/gender identity.

Anyhow during our conversation they mention Corregidor to us. This was a Friday and as we were running out of time we decided that night that we would be up early the next morning to head to Corregidor. I think it deserves it’s own space so check out our previous post!

Wack Wack Golf

Other things to do in Manila, not strictly kid related is golf. Josh was invited to Wack Wack Golf & Country Club. This is one of the oldest golf clubs in the Philippines. It was founded in 1930 & is an exclusive championship course, considered as one of the best golf courses in world.

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During our visit to the CCF Church we were befriended by a lovely older guy whom later text Josh inviting him to play golf. Another early morning for Josh as he set to be there by 6:30am. “I’ll be back before noon, after our game,” he said.

Famous last words. Gone at 6am, back just after 4pm, Josh found Wack Wack to hard to resist.

With his very own caddy to hand him the club, place the tee, get the ball, Josh had never been so pampered. And he had a very hard time letting someone do all this for him while the other players seemingly did not. I recall he was the only person to actually say thank you to his caddy. I’m sure we will get another blog out of this as it really struck a nerve.

At lunch their team was joined by a Congressman, Arms Dealer, US Golfer & other well known people that Josh decided to stay and play two more rounds. He thoroughly enjoyed himself and was so grateful to Raymond, the guy who invited and paid for the whole day. Great networking, loads of exercise and food.

Wineing & Dining

What else did we get up to this week? We have been connecting with a lot of people here in the Philippines. It is not the same as ringing your girlfriend and going to a movie, but it lessens the loneliness.

One evening we took one of our employees out to dinner. It was great to meet him and his wife and we had a delightful evening. We could tell that they had never been to anywhere like the place we took them and they were so grateful. They shared with us that if you do not know anyone in the Philippines then you pretty much are doomed to work in a less than wonderful job. He thanked us for giving him such a great opportunity and we thanked him for being such a great employee. What a beautiful, humble people.

Another evening we had dinner with our Landlord. They have been so generous with our stay here and we cannot thank them enough. They have done so much for us. When we moved in, there was bottled water, milk & choc milk in the fridge, as well as some coffee sachets & porridge. One morning they arrived on our doorstep with a traditional Filipino breakfast, bringing fresh bread, amazing peanut butter, garlic cream cheese & coco (coconut) jam. It was delicious. Anyway as I was saying they have been so amazing during our stay we decided to take them out to dinner.

Unfortunately the wife & son were sick so we ended up going out with just Jason. He drove us to an amazing Japanese restaurant where I had Ramen for the first time in my life. I had been craving proper vegetables for so long it was a massive highlight for me, food wise and the company was wonderful. Jason was very open and filled us in on a lot of history and local knowledge of the area. We enjoyed the food so much we went back two nights later. 

If you are in need of accommodation in Manila, please check out their place. You will not regret it! We paid $48 per night including wifi, home phone, and water. The only extra was cleaning and electricity. We spent about $100 in 3 weeks on electricity, which is quite a lot, but we are aircon lovers and home a lot.

Museo Pambata - A must for kids in Manila

Tuesday was a public holiday in Manila and we decided to brave the road and head to the children’s museum. The roads were great, one of the better days with hardly any traffic at all. Taxi ride was less than $5.

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The museum is in a pretty popular area, next door to an aquarium and Rizal Park. Entry was 100p each. Best $10 we spent out of all the children’s attractions in Manila.

There are 6 rooms each filled with different items. The first room had a mini Manila city with a church, ship, tram, jeepney, etc. Old artefacts – telephones, typewriters, crib. Things to touch and colour. It’s not a see and look museum, it’s a touch and discover.

Other rooms consisted of a marine type room, a bug room, writers corner, human body, electricity, an amazing little shopping row with a bakery, fruit n veg stand, shoe shop, etc. for them to pretend and sell items to their little hearts out.

The kids had a blast. Mia ran everywhere, touching this, feeling that. Caius was also unstoppable. They just really enjoyed not being told not to do anything and being able to do every thing. We rated it very highly and had an enjoyable time.

After we stopped at Chow King for lunch. This is a Chinese Fast Food store, which sells fabulous noodles, chicken, etc. I am amazed there is not one of these in Australia with our Chinese population there.

Rizal Park Children's Playground

Caius fell asleep on our pram walk to Rizal Park, but Mia was beyond excited as we walked from one end to the other and she finally saw the children’s playground we had promised her.

The walk was lovely. Manicured gardens, water fountains, armed guards, groups of people practising dancing, juggling, singing. It was just so lovely and seemed so out of place to what we know and have seen of Manila. When asking a local all about the different singing and dacing groups in the park, we were told that's what Filipanos love. They love to sing and they are most likely not practising for anything just enjoying themselves. 

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The children’s playground is at the east end of the park. It is 10 pesos each for entry, Caius was free, totalling 75 cents for 3 people, bargain! This park is the most varied and dangerous park I have ever been to. There is no plastic in this park, the majority of it was wood and fibreglass. There is no safety concerns here, there are bridges over water with no rails or mesh to stop kids falling in. There is a giant hippo that you can climb into its mouth and peer out of. The mouth was above 2 metres and over water with no barrier once up there. The slides were rough and needed scooting down instead of sliding down…

And yet the kid’s had a blast. Caius slept during the majority so Josh sat down in the shade with him in the stroller asleep, while I followed Mia around. She jumped from one exhibit to the other. Climbing the hippo, visiting the dinosaurs, modelling for photos with elephant fountains, going down slides, playing on seesaws and soon she had a little shadow following her everywhere. This girl had a twin who also become part of the threesome.

Caius eventually woke up and decided his favourite spot was the slides; he spent some time climbing stairs and coming down. The endurance of children is amazing – up and down, up and down, up again just to come down again haha.

Finally we said goodbye to the park. Highly recommend a visit here. There is little picnic areas, there is a shop to purchase drinks and food, toilets, loud music is playing over loud speakers, all kids songs in English and Tagalog. And on exit the road is there to jump in a cab, take you straight home and get the kids down for their nap.

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Certainly this day alone has redeemed Manila in my eyes. It was a great day for the kid’s and excellent associated costs. Thank goodness we managed to get out there and get this done before we left, it has left a better impression of Manila on me then our previous two weeks.

Last day in Manila

Finally it was our last day in Manila, you could feel the excitement running through my blood. We got up early to visit Legend Villa’s for a Filipino breakfast on our last day. Mia had consistently been begging for a tricycle ride since Boracay so we decided to hop into the sidecar of a motorbike and take a ride there. It was much faster than the taxi, but also a lot hotter. $1 and we were all there. The ride back through the tunnel was not fun, exhaust fumes, heat, quite unbearable, but hey $1!

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My courage vanished when I saw the food. I just could not bring myself to eat noodles and rice and curries for breakfast. Luckily hiding around the corner was the egg & pancake guy.

Back at the apartment another of our employees flew in from Davoe. He and another employee met with Josh in the apartment for some training, lunch and to finally meet. Josh is so happy with the work ethic these guys have and we are blessed to have been given such wonderful employees. Such a busy month for Josh and all his work. He also meet with some other guys he has been working with and interviewed some new staff members too. Manila in Josh’s eyes has at least redeemed itself.

Anyhow I put Caius to bed and Mia & I went shopping leaving the boys to work hard. She found a cute little place called Dave’s House and went in to play for an hour while I made my way around the shopping centre, trying to buy Caius a new pair of shoes, since we lost one of his. Thank God I found nothing cause the shoe showed up as we were leaving the apartment.

After I picked up Mia, across from the playground, was a free educational play area. The staff sat her down and did shapes and maths with her until she was bored. It was great, she learnt so much and I was encouraged by how smart she is. 

When I returned about 3pm Josh was wrapping up his meeting. We finalised the packing, gave the keys back to our wonderful landlord and jumped into our organised taxi. While travelling around Manila we had used a van once and had organised a $75 drop off to Clark verses our $140 shuttle on the way down.

As our flight was due out of Clark at 7am I had organised a night’s stay in Clark so we only had to be up at 5am, instead of 2am. I was so nervous about the Tune Hotel. If you haven’t heard of them they are Air Asia hotels. You pay a basic price and then add on extras for aircon, TV, towels, wifi, etc. On Agoda we managed to get a room including all these things for $20 per night. Now I had heard they are small so I booked two rooms. 

The hotel is brand new and the staff were lovely organising us interconnecting rooms so we could be close to the kids. As it was Josh and I had plans to sleep in the separate rooms each with a child.

The rooms were small, but not to bad. Our luggage fit up against the door of one room and it was all fairly new. We headed next door to the Savannah hotel for dinner and then home to sleep in preparation for our early morning flight. 

The whole area of Angeles is basically filled with nightclubs and girly bars offering prostitution and sex shows. It’s not a family area and is filled with old white men wondering the streets looking for a cheap lay. Not my idea of wholesome good fun and we were glad to head back to our room.

On waking we were already to go at 5am when the safe would not open. There are no phones in the room so Josh went downstairs only to be told the “onsite” manager has the key and he was asleep at home. They woke him and it would take half an hour for him to arrive. Once he did we raced to our taxi.

Wherever you go in Clark is 350p - $8.75, which is crazy considering the ride to the airport is less than 10 minutes. There is also a terminal fee for leaving Manila. We did not have enough pesos so luckily we keep currency on us and managed to change some dosh. It was 600p per person – total $60 – wow!

The line to get through immigration is a nightmare and we were soon pushed to the front as our plane was boarding and it was time to leave Clark/Manila and journey to our next destination and high on my list Hong Kong. Come join us...

SEE ALL OUR PHOTOS for these great things to do in our photo journal. 

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"I respond to every comment by private email. So please leave me comments, I love chatting to you" -
Posted by Mary {The World Is A Book} on
Thank you for the wonderful posts and for taking me back to the "motherland". It's been almost 30 years since I left the Philippines as a child and have fading memories. Some of these (the tricycles, the zoo) I remember but we were only in Manila for a month. I'm glad you found some redeeming qualities. We're hoping to go next summer. Yours has been an interesting perspective on the Philippines. Most importantly, thank you for introducing me to Mark Pedder's blog and their mission.
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