For this episode of #travelingwithkubiir, my friend Asma’ and I went to Philippines. Unlike many others who traveled to Palawan, Boracay, or Cebu, we chose to visit Bagac in Bataan province as well as the capital Manila.
Before I start, let me tell you this: it’s been a few weeks since we came back but we still can’t get over the top-notch hospitality of the people there! From the crowded city of Manila to the serene Bataan, almost everyone we met really gave their best to smile at us and help us.
Now, on to the journey itself. On the first day we arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport at about 3-4 p.m. After buying a Smart SIM Card to use during our stay, we went to the Grab Car booth outside the arrival hall and went to Hop Inn Hotel Ermita, where we staying that night.
After checking in and resting a bit, we hired another Grab Car and went to SM Mall of Asia, the so-called biggest mall in Southeast Asia. Guess what, the mall is really huge we barely had time to explore what’s in it. So after having some modified Indonesian food at Martabak restaurant, we went to buy some souvenirs at Kultura and got back to the hotel. I think not spending too much time in this mall was a good decision because later on our third day, we had some free time and went to another gigantic shopping mall called Greenbelt in Makati area.
The next morning might be the most exciting part of the trip, because we didn’t even know exactly how to go from Manila to Bataan apart from some vague information we found online. Alhamdulillah, we managed to arrive safely in Balanga terminal after a 3-hour ride with Genesis Bus. From there, we randomly rode a Jeepney that had “Bagac” written on it. We were not so sure at first, but I managed to convince my friend that we were on the right track after confirming to the driver that we were going to Las Casas Filipinas the Acuzar.
The Jeepney right was fun, to say the least. Having a good internet connection (thumbs up for smart!) really helped us to be aware of where we were, even though it didn’t really help in terms of telling us where to stop (yup, Jeepney doesn’t have formal stops so anyone can just say “para, po…!” and stop anywhere, basically). We were so grateful that the driver was kind enough to tell us where we had to get off. From this point on, we continued our journey by tricycle.
Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar a.k.a “the Filipino houses of Acuzar” was built by an architect who wanted general public to know more about Filipino history through its old buildings. This architect, along with his interior-designer wife, managed to relocate and rebuild various houses across the Philippines into this resort area. I think this is a great way to let people–including foreigners like ourselves–to understand about and learn from what had happened in the past. Sure, the cost of staying there was quite high, but to me the guided heritage tour and the cultural performance provided to all guests were worth the price.
Fast forward to our last day in the Philippines, we started the day walking from Casa Bocobo hotel to Rizal Park. This park was built as a tribute to the national hero of the Philippines, Dr. Jose Rizal. Being the lazy girls that we are, we decided to ride a mini train that goes around the park. The cost of this train was pretty cheap, only 1 USD or 50 PHP per person.
We continued walking to Intramuros which is an old town similar to Jakarta’s Kota Tua. Apart from Manila Cathedral, the most iconic building in this area is Fort Santiago where Dr. Jose Rizal was imprisoned by the Spanish colonial government.
After that we went to Quiapo area which, unfortunately, became a hot topic after several bomb attacks there. This is so unfortunate knowing that the Golden Mosque, one of the very few Islamic buildings in the Catholic-majority country, was located in that area. After praying we spoke to a Filipino lady who apparently was able to speak Malay quite fluently. We also went to Landap Cafe, located just across the mosque, for lunch.
Apart from the hospitality I mentioned before, another thing I remember from the trip was how people always thought we were Filipino! In the hotels, on the street, pretty much everywhere we went to, people would always talk to us in Tagalog and we were like “ehm… excuse me but we’re foreigners…” hahaha.
Overall, we really enjoyed our time there and personally I had to agree that it is, indeed, more fun in the Philippines! 😀