The Balikbayan Guide: 10 Interesting Itineraries in Metro Manila

Map out your day and make the most out of the metro.

Wondering where to bring your balikbayan friends and family this time of the year? Or are you a balikbayan yourself? Here, gives you 10 entertaining itineraries to explore the metro.

Carlos Celdran. Click for more photos.

1. Walk the famous "walled city" with Carlos Celdran, see the Spoliarium at the National Museum, indulge in frozen Brazo de Mercedes at Ilustrado


Activist, performance artist, and tour guide extraordinaire Carlos Celdran may best be described as the supercool history teacher you never had. Brush up on local history while his antics entertain you in "If these walls could talk! Tour of Intramuros," and be sure to stop for photos in between. Make the  National Museum next on your agenda and behold Pinoy painter Juan Luna's award-winning, super-sized masterpiece, the Spoliarium. For dessert, get ready to try one of the best delicacies in town-frozen brazo de Mercedes at famed Intramuros restaurant Ilustrado.



The Pasig River Ferry. Click for more photos.

2. Take a ferry ride to Quiapo, stop by the old Binondo Church, food-trip in Chinatown

Take the Pasig River Ferry at Guadalupe and alight at Quiapo, where you can visit the historic Quiapo Church and Plaza Miranda in all its glory. Hordes of Philippine-made handicrafts are up for grabs for cheap under the Quiapo bridge, including relatively inexpensive jewelry (read: engagement and wedding rings) at the entrance of Ongpin Street. Make your way to the Carriedo LRT Station and continue to Manila Chinatown. Cramped, colorful, and exciting, the best way to enjoy this part of the metro is through a food tour via a street map made by the Chinatown gurus, Ivan Man Dy (click here to view his list of must-visit food streets in Binondo) and Anson Yu, at these locations. End your day with a visit to the old Binondo Church.


Get IUD’d at UP. Click for more photos.

3. Enjoy a myriad outdoor activities for cheap at La Mesa Eco-Park, stop by the University of the Philippines for a crash course on Pinoy street food

La Mesa Eco Park is one of those places where you can spend an entire day and not run out of things to do. Located at the outskirts of Quezon City in East Fairview, this serene nature enclave features horseback riding, boating, swimming, paintball, and butterfly-watching activities, plus picturesque picnic areas where you can literally watch the day go by. Before heading home, stop by the University of the Philippines for classic Pinoy merienda on a budget: isaw, fishballs, and a "dirty" ice cream sandwich for dessert. Check out’s street food guide here.


The Malate Church. Click for more photos.

4. Say a prayer at Malate church, pig out on Pinoy-style BBQ at Aristocrat, head to the Hobbit House for a round (or four) of San Miguel Beer.

Like Rome and most Catholic nations with a rich religious history, no itinerary is complete without visiting an old church. Hungry? Rekindle your love affair with Pinoy-style barbecue at one of Manila's oldest restaurants and feast on classic local fare. If you're looking for something out of the ordinary, head to the Hobbit House--opened in 1977 by Irishman Jim Turner and a JRR Tolkien fan, this non-PC hangout is run by little people and is an institution in the local music scene.


Sunset-gaze at the White Moon Bar. Click for more photos.

5. Marvel at marine life at an oceanarium, meet "fish doctors" at the Fish Spa, get a bay-side buzz at the WhiteMoon Bar at sundown

Manila Ocean Park is home to the largest underwater viewing tunnel at its 25-meter long oceanarium. Gawk all you can at sea creatures, then treat your feet to au naturel pampering at the Fish Spa where "fish doctors" nibble at your feet. When the sun sets, mosey on over to the WhiteMoon Bar for happy hour served with spectacular views of sun down by the bay.


The Ayala Museum at Greenbelt 4.  Click for more photos.

6. Peruse Pinoy art at the Ayala Museum, shop for luxury brands at the Greenbelt Mall, lunch at the Ayala Triangle Gardens, gorge on halo-halo at The Peninsula Manila Lobby

Discover the not-so-hidden gems of the Makati Business District and fill your day with art, shopping, and first class food haunts situated within a five-mile radius. Start your day with a lazy morning at the Ayala Museum and spend an hour or two walking through the art galleries. Swing by the neighboring Greenbelt Mall where you’ll find familiar international designer brands like Michael Kors, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton  interspersed with boutiques by local fashion designers like Jun Escario, Amina Aranaz, and Randy Ortiz. For lunch, work out an appetite by walking in any of the underpasses traversing Ayala Avenue and leading to the lush Ayala Triangle Gardens and stake out a spot in one of the many restaurants with al fresco dining (Wee Nam Kee, Kanin Club, Banapple, Chef Laudico’s Bfast, among others) and people-watch as you eat. Cross Makati Avenue to The Peninsula Manila Lobby for a taste of their TIME magazine-famous Halo-Halo Harana for dessert or merienda, a tempting bowl of the cool Pinoy delicacy. Check out’s Top 10 Halo-Halo.



The Follies de Mwah. Click for more photos.

7. Watch a drag show extravaganza at Club Mwah

Club Mwah first opened its doors five years ago and it has since earned a reputation for being the must-see show in Manila. The part-Vegas, part-Broadway musical act changes every three months and has been recognized as "The Most Entertaining Club in Asia" by The Asia Pacific Award Council. It's gay, glamorous and worth your while.  Show days are Thursdays to Saturdays, at 9pm. Tickets cost P750 but just for December, the club is offering it at P600 with a free welcome drink. Club Mwah is located at 652 Boni Avenue, Mandaluyong City. For inquiries, call 532-2826, 535-7943.



B-Side at The Collective. Click for more photos.


8. See the design and art hubs of Makati: gallery-hop and shop for furniture and decor at LRI Plaza on Reposo St.,  feel the urban cool vibe The Collective, and get tipsy at B-Side

Find your way to  LRI Plaza on Reposo st. one late afternoon and stumble upon the furniture stores and quirky art galleries that make up the space. Cross over to The Collective on Malugay st. for Makati’s version of Cubao Expo--a melting pot of novelty stores, hole-in-the-wall food haunts (try the Wabi-Sabi noodle house), and cooler-than-thou fashion boutiques for the non-conformist dresser. The go-to drinking spot in this side of town is B-Side, where you can while away the night watching skateboarders tear up the floor just outside the corner bar, or listening to the night’s musical act indoors.



Mercato Centrale at Bonifacio Global City. Click for more photos.

9. Shop for homegrown finds at Mercato Centrale, feast on kakanin and go pasalubong shopping at Market! Market!, take a long walk at the picture-pretty American Cemetery

If you’re a foodie, put Mercato Centrale on your morning agenda. Start your day with brunch at the newest foodie hub to join Manila’s growing list of weekend markets if you happen to find yourself up early on a Saturday or Sunday (they’re open only from 6 a.m. to 12 noon). Squeeze in some more shopping at Market! Market! and take home edible and fashionable goodies sourced from different corners of the country without ever having to leave Manila. While you’re in the area, drop by the picturesque American Cemetery, among the prettiest, most serene cemeteries in the city with beautiful white headstones. Spanning 152 acres, this oasis memorializes the lives of among 17,202 departed American soldiers who fought in World War II.


Zipline at Zoom. Click for more photos.

10. Sight-see the city via zipline at Zoom Tree Top Adventure at Cirkulo Verde, shop your Pinoy heart out at Tiendesitas

Enjoy awesome aerial views of the city on a motorized zipline and see the city like never before. Try Zoom Tree Top Adventure’s Superman ride (P400) where you "fly" on your stomach, do the Silver Surfer ride (P300) at night and watch Manila’s cityscape twinkle before your eyes, or try the new parachute ride with a partner (P200) for something slower and a little more romantic. Fill up on Pinoy food at the neighboring Tiendesitas shopping complex where over hundreds of food, shopping, art, and furniture stalls are at your disposal.



Additional reporting by Karla Rey. Photos from,,, Facebook  (WhiteMoon Bar),,,,, and

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