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MANILA: Made With Spice

Contributed with love by cousins Nina Paradies & Sofia Aboitiz – two thirds of the dynamic trio that founded FINI, an apparel line inspired by their love of their home country and born out of their desire to foster local talent, revive fading traditions, and improve business practices. Both based in Manila, Nina is surf-loving foodie, while Sofi is interior design-obsessed, mother of Antonio – her french bulldog, and between good sleep and food, she would always choose the latter.

The truest Filipino breakfast of champs –

Nina: Breakfast at Antonio’s is by far my favorite place for my first meal of the day—the only catch is that it is outside of Manila in the mountain town of Tagaytay. Roadtrip! On a good day with no traffic you’ll get there in an hour. If you have a few days to burn in Manila it is very much worth it, the food is great and the views of Taal Volcano are even better. If you don’t have much time in Manila then you can’t really go wrong at Wildflour.

Sofi: Wildflour! They have lots of savory and sweet options and are conveniently located in Legazpi, Salcedo, and BGC areas. Doesn’t look and feel Filipino – but it’s satisfying nonetheless. Order the carabao (our local water buffalo) ricotta toast or omelets. The Saturday farmer’s market in Salcedo is another awesome spot to walk about, try a something local, and a get a sense for the pace of the city. If you have wheels, Breakfast at Antonio’s is worth the drive. It’s beautifully situated and the food is I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E. Be forewarned: the traffic on the weekend is miserable. Definitely order the Filipino breakfast – eggs, rice, and meat of your choice (I personally love the beef tapa); don’t forget to dress the meat with the house vinegar!

Walking… is that even a thing in Manila?

Nina: Walking in Manila is something I don’t do too often—it’s hot and cars don’t really stop for pedestrians! Poblacion is the one of the few areas in Makati (my own neighborhood and the city’s Central Business District) where you can walk around and check out different locales. It is currently more of a nightlife area with restaurants and bars—my own bar, Polilya, opening SOON!!—but the more time I spend there the more potential I see for it becoming a daytime are with shops and galleries. For more of a glimpse into Manila’s past it’s fun to walk around Quiapo. To be honest I’ve only done this once, and with my friend Jam who knows the area well, as it isn’t the safest, cleanest part of town. But it’s filled with history and with once beautiful, now decrepit colonial homes that are for the most part inhabited by squatters. It was areas like this that made Manila the “Pearl of the Orient”—many many years ago!

Sofi: Manila is not a walkable city but there are certain pockets around town that lend themselves to such activity. Check out: Poblacion: famous for its red-light district, the up-and-coming area has the best nightlife and most interesting food scene. It’s local and grungy and fun. Also, Bonifacio Global City (aka BGC or The Fort): used to belong to the Philippine army, since it was sold, BGC has quickly become a dynamic and modern business district. That said, it’s walkable and has lots of restaurants and bars.

The gallery scene… yay or nay?

Nina: The same friend who brought me on a walking tour of Quiapo recently opened an art space called The Outpost. It’s a not-for-profit organization that aims to foster local talent and bring international artists (both established and up-and-coming) into the local art scene. She is trying to get Filipinos like me (with no knowledge of art) to develop an interest in art. 

Sofi: If its art you’re after, I suggest popping by Karrivin Plaza to check out The Drawing Room and The Outpost. Further down the road (Pasong Tamo) – you will find Silverlens – another favorite gallery that features amazing local artists.

Lunch & Dinner spots from these foodies –

Nina: Purple Yam is one of the best restaurants I’ve tried in Manila for dinner! It’s an old family home that has been converted into a restaurant, but still feels more like a home. It’s reservation only and much better for groups so that you take over the whole space, but definitely worth it. It’s in Malate, which is a cool area to check out!

Sofi: for lunch I love Lanai (solid café), Bucky’s (satisfying), Manam (Pinoy food – features the classics and their famous twists – order the watermelon sinigang).

Your afternoon caffein/booze pick-me-up

Nina: The Bay Leaf Hotel in Malate is nice for afternoon drinks because you can see the sunset on Manila Bay. Blackbird restaurant has taken over the control tower of what used to be Manila’s airport, right in the middle of Makati (Central Business District) and the design is very cool. It’s so trippy to think that one of the city’s busiest avenues used to be the airport’s runway.

Sofi: Yardstick and Toby’s Estate are my favorite coffee shops hands down.

Pop some art into my vein – 

Nina & Sofi: Our dear friend Jam Acuzar has a wonderful residency program called The Bellas Artes Project in Bagac, Bataan. It’s a long drive, but worth it. They have amazing workshops and also a stunning chapel installation by Swiss artist Not Vital that is not to be missed.

Treasure hunting like a local – 

Nina: Cubao Expo is a cool place to shop. Shopping in the Philippines usually takes place in a mall, and this is a nice departure from that. It’s more like an artsy strip-mall with home stores, record stores, little galleries, etc.

Sofi: Oh many places… although it is out of the way, Artelano 11 is F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S. Eric Paras, the creative genius behind the space, has created a seamless concept store, which showcases quirky and interesting art and home goods. Lanai and Aphro (both located in Karrivin Plaza) sell a cool mix of home goods, art, and fashion items. Located in Legazpi, TROPA is another super cool clothing/concept store that carries an amazing assortment of local brands.

What’s your absolute favorite thing about Manila?

Nina: That my giant family all live here! The people, in general, are just the best—the Philippines is known to have one of the friendliest populations in the world. Also the beach is just a drive or short flight away.

Sofi: Hands down, the best thing about our country is the people. Smiles for miles, the Filipino has a heart of gold.

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