Location: Binondo, District of Manila, National Capital Region, Philippines
My husband and I were already in Metro Manila1 and decided to go to Binondo early for a quick and early visit since we haven’t been there for more than two decades.
Binondo is the Chinatown of the Philippines, considered the oldest in the world, established in 1594 by the Spaniards as a settlement for Catholic Chinese. It is a district in Manila and a hub of Chinese commerce.
I saw the familiar Welcome Arch and prayed we could get a parking slot.
Binondo still looks so busy especially during this time of the year.
Memories of our past visits with loved ones and friends crossed my mind while we passed through the last arch.
Parking was full but we were able to find one accessible to the places we wanted to go to. We first ate breakfast in Ling Nam Noodle House. We then went to shop a bit then ordered a couple of siopaos² at Shanghai Fried Siopao for takeout. Before we left for lunch elsewhere, we didn’t miss the chance to eat maki³ at Ongpin Mañosa Restaurant. Click below for the related post – Revisiting Binondo’s 3 Favorite Quick Treats.
Finally, we wouldn’t leave this place without buying yummy, freshly roasted castañas (chestnuts). Then off we went for an important errand.
Did you find this post informative? Do you often go to Binondo? Do you also crave for castañas come the holiday season? I would like to hear from you. Simply scroll to the upper right part of this post and click “Leave a comment”. Thank you!
¹Metro Manila is the official and administrative urban area in the southwestern portion of Luzon surrounding Manila, established in 1975; it is the center of culture, economy, education and government of the Philippines. It is officially called the National Capital Region (NCR), composed of 16 cities (Caloocan, Las Piñas, Malabon, Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Novotas, Parañaque, Pasay, Pasig, Quezon City, San Juan, Taguig, Valenzuela) and the municipality of Pateros.
²Siopao is the Filipino version of the Cantonese steamed bun called cha siu bao, served hot as a popular snack item in the Philippines.
³Maki is a Chinese soup with a brown, thick, starchy broth, usually with chunks of tender pork. It is also called gawgaw in the Philippines because of cornstarch, the thickener used, and it is colored brown because of the soy sauce added, along with other seasonings.
In our fourth day in the picturesque town of El Nido in the province of Palawan, my husband and I felt that we gained weight after three days here especially with Sea Cocoon’s yummy buffet breakfast, Hello El Nido’s finger-licking grilled buffet lunch during our island hopping, and the seafood dinners we had along the beach! This is paradise, but is not-so-good for our waistlines! But what can I say! When on vacation, NO DIET! Or, we have a SEE-FOOD DIET, i.e., when we see food, we eat! Right?!
Anyway, our third tour called TOUR B – WHITE SAND GALORE: ISLANDS AND CAVES, costs 1,300 per person. Just like the first 2 trips, I packed my hard-plastic beach bag with my needs for the day: sun block, bottles of mineral water, comb, towels, sunglasses, cell phone and power bank, snacks, cash, etc. After breakfast, we all met at the lobby, trooped again to the beach and boarded our big “banca” (boat) for the day.
The first stop was SNAKE ISLAND. I enjoyed this unique island because it had a natural S-shaped sandbar visible during low tide. And guess what, it was low tide today, lucky us! My husband and I walked the whole sandbar and we wished we had a drone to video our walk. We finally reached the end of the sandbar which was a mangrove. We stopped a bit and headed back to the starting point where we were ushered to head up and hike to a small gazebo with a spectacular view of the sandbar and the clear water! The bottled water came in handy to hydrate us going up and down this trail. Take your time, dearest Seniors, it is worth the effort!
Next was ENTALULA BEACH, reputed to be the best beach in Bacuit Bay. It can also be reserved for an intimate lunch/dinner.
The CUDUGNON CAVE was the next stop and cash was handy to enjoy fresh buko juice/cold soft drinks. This site was believed to be the burial site during the Neolithic period.
A brief stop at the CATHEDRAL CAVE followed but we did not stay long because the water was a bit rough. However, each passenger was given a chance to have pictures taken with the cave as backdrop.
The PINAGBUYUTAN ISLAND was the last stop. It is a powdered white sand island ideal for snorkeling, laying at the beach, or swimming with loved ones.
This last packaged tour is good but not as good as the first two … anyway, the sandbar was more than enough to make this a memorable trip! Thanks again, Gani Ricarte of Hello El Nido! Just search for his website: www.helloelnido.com
My final words re El Nido: This town is indeed a paradise and a precious treasure for all Filipinos and foreign visitors to visit and experience for generations to come! I pray it will not suffer the same fate as Boracay if they just continue to consistently and strictly implement the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA). I hope the local government will be able to continue to plan and successfully implement programs against the threats of high human activities and the booming tourism industry in the these towns such as: pollution from waste and sewage disposal; beach erosion; damage to coral reefs due to snorkeling, diving and illegal collection; and, disturbance of bird nesting and marine sites.
I would love to hear from you, dear Seniors! Did you find this post informative? Have you gone to El Nido? What are your observations of the tourism impact to the environment? Just post your comment/s below. Thank you!
Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is an 18th-century heritage park and open-air museum located along Umagol River, in Barangay Pag-asa, in the town of Bagac, province of Bataan, Philippines. It was created in 2003 by Jose “Gerry” Acuzar, owner of New San Jose Builders, and opened it to the public in 2010. It is managed by Genesis Hotels and Resorts Corporation.
It presents a 400-hectare sprawling settlement of 27 Spanish colonial-heritage houses from various cities and provinces of the Philippines (e.g., Biñan, Bulacan, Cagayan, Ilocos, La Union, Manila, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, and Quezon City). Each house or “casa” was dismantled in situ (in its original place), brick by brick, numbered, transported to this site, where they were reassembled and restored. The houses are often made with a stone foundation on the ground level and made of wood on the upper floor. If parts are missing, bricks and woodwork were replaced to resemble the original structure.
If you have arthritis, no worries, dear Seniors, the property offers the following transportation facilities to take you around:
Jeepney – pick-up starts in front of Casa Mexico and drops off at Casa New Manila
Kalesa – a horse-drawn carriage; reserve at the Concierge and meet Makisig, the horse, used for this traditional mode of transportation good for 2 to 4 persons;
Bicycle – reserve, for a fee, per hour;
Golf Cart – reserve at Casa Mexico for a fee per hour, whether self-driven (maximum 4 persons) or tour guide-driven (maximum 3 persons); and,
Tram – a vehicle which goes around the property along a metal railway or track.
For Seniors who can afford and who have an architectural, cultural and/or historical interest, this place is for you! You will also have lots of “muni-muni” (reflection) time while strolling from one house to another along the brick pavements or cobblestone streets, or while riding any of the above vehicles and feeling the gentle to strong (depending on the weather/season) wind from the Beach Area, direct from the West Philippine Sea. If you love taking selfies or unique Spanish architecture, more reason to go, just apply lots of sunscreen! If you enjoy spending time walking/strolling with family or “balikbayan friends”, enjoying freshly-baked pandesal from La Panaderia or native delicacies for “merienda” (snacks) at La Parilla/Pica Pica, indulging in local fruity-flavored “sorbetes” (ice cream) peddled by a roving “sorbetero” (ice cream vendor) wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat, swimming, sunbathing and appreciating the beautiful sunset while sipping beer/cocktails by the beach, and without the “noisy” nightlife of the city even for just one night, then check this destination out!
Stay at least overnight to enjoy this unique resort and savor its beauty on a leisurely pace, preferably on a weekend, to witness traditional native activities (listed below). I visited this nostalgic property on February 2017, along with my high school buddies as part of our 45th jubilee. There are 217 rooms to choose from; check-in is 2 pm and check-out is 12 noon.
I stayed with my husband in a Deluxe Room with a “retro ambiance” yet still enjoyed the comforts of air-conditioning, a queen-sized bed, television with cable, an in-room safety deposit box, a bathroom with hot and cold water and a separate bathtub and shower, and breakfast was also included.
Other types of rooms are the:
Executive Suite – located at Paseo de Escolta with a view of the plaza and gazebo; for 6 adults; with 3 queen beds with 2 extra beds;
Family Suite – located at Estero de Binondo with a view of Plaza Marcelino (river view) or beach front, for 6 adults, with 3 queen beds and 2 extra beds;
Large Superior Deluxe – located at Estero de Binondo with a view of Plaza Marcelino (river view, beach front, or plaza); for 4 adults, with 2 queen beds and 2 extra beds; and, the
Studio with Loft – located at Paseo de Escolta with a view of the plaza; for 4 adults, with 2 queen beds and 2 extra beds.
The following tours are offered (but note that schedules/prices may be changed, so inquire beforehand):
A WALKING HERITAGE TOUR held about 7 times daily (9:30 am, 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm, 3:30 pm, and 4:30 pm), subject to weather conditions, for 1,500 pesos. A trained and eloquent tour guide gives the history of each house. Experience this special one-hour tour with your “amigas” or family. The tour starts at Casa Mexico.
Here are some tips for you to maximize this tour: choose comfortable footwear that is easy to remove and wear (since you will be required to leave it at the door of each house before entry; wear socks for hygiene, if desired; wear comfortable and light clothes; during summer or hot days, apply sunblock, wear a cap or hat and even bring an umbrella; and, bring water for hydration. If it is windy, bring a shawl or something to keep you warm and, for ladies, apply a lip balm to protect your lips.
Since my husband and I stayed overnight, we availed of this tour and learned to appreciate more of our country’s rich history, architecture and culture. The tour guides were fluent in both English and Tagalog.
An ALL-DAY TOUR for a minimum of 5 persons, with 2,000 pesos nett per person, paid in advance, and cannot be combined with other promotions. There are several schedules daily, subject to weather conditions. Same tips as the previous tour.
A RIVER/BALSA TOUR for a minimum of 4 persons per ride, on an “intimate and romantic” cruise around the property using a “balsa” (raft) for 500 pesos each. You can leisurely float along the Umangol River and the glide along surrounding balconies, brick walls, verandas and arched bridges.
A HOTEL DE ORIENTE TOUR is a tour of the faithful replica of the first luxury hotel in Binondo during the Spanish colonial era of our country, for 200 pesos. It is the property’s “premier 3-floor convention center” which can accommodate functions for at least 10 persons to banquets of up to 600 persons. Its lobby boasts of wooden sculptures crafted by Betis and Paete carvers.
A WORKSHOP TOUR is an in-house workshop where woodcarvings and bricks are traditionally made. The tour starts at Casa Mexico and is held Tuesday to Thursday (9 am/3 pm) and Friday to Sunday (9 am/11 am/3 pm).
BATAAN TOUR PACKAGE – Please inquire at 09178329361 (Monday-Saturday, 8:30 am – 5:P30 pm) or visit their website mentioned above.
An ART TOUR is coming soon.
Dining outlets include: (1) The Beach Bar; (2) Café del Rio – a tapas bar at Casa Sta. Rita; (3) Café Marivent at Casa New Manila – a Filipino-Spanish restaurant at the 2nd floor of the said casa; (4) Cusina ni Nanay Maria – a Filipino restaurant located at Casa Unisan; (5) La Bella Teodora at Basa Biñan – an Italian restaurant located at Casa Biñan; and, (6) La Parilla and Pica Pica – an open Filipino “street food and beverage” outlet located at Plaza de Castro. I enjoyed their turon, bibingka, puto bumbong and salabat.
Other activities are (but schedules/prices/venue may be changed, so inquire beforehand):
Carabao Parade and Race – A colorful parade which starts at 4 pm at Gate 2 and extends to the Beach Area every Saturday and Sunday. A carabao race and a “palosebo” are also held at the Beach Area.
Center of Filipino Arts and Culture – An exhibit at Casa Candaba, open daily from 9 am till 5 pm.
Cockfighting – A famous Filipino pastime held every Sunday at 10am at the back of Casa Tondo.
Cultural Show/Mini Fiesta – A show of traditional Filipino dances (maglalatik, singkil and tinikling) held every Saturday at Casa Hagonoy/Paseo de Escolta at 6 pm (sundown).
Entertainment and Game Room – A room located at Casa Lubao, just a few steps away from Tulay ni Lola Basyang which offers billiards, darts and other board games free of charge, open daily, from 7 am till 7 pm. Contact a Game Coordinator for Filipino games like: patintero, piko, sipa or sungka. Casa Lubao also offers fish feeding for 50 pesos.
Fotografia de la Escolta – A professional in-house photography studio where you can schedule a photoshoot wearing the traditional baro’t saya or barong.
Music Shop – A guitar and ukulele shop located at Paseo de Escolta (beside Fotografia de la Escolta).
Napiya Spa – The in-house spa and wellness center located at Paseo de Escolta (Room 212) which offers the traditional Filipino massages like “bentosa”, “dagdagay” and “hilot”. It is open from 10 am till 9 pm.
Pocket Performance – A performance held at the Tanghalang Tasulok every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 am/11:30 am/2:30 pm/4:30 pm.
Sunday Mass – A Catholic mass held at the church called Santuario de San Jose every Sunday at 10:30 am.
Swimming Pool and Beach Area – A “batis”-inspired swimming pool open daily from 7 am till 9 pm; the Beach Area is open from 6 am till 6 pm daily.
Water Activities – Activities such as banana boat, boat ride, island hopping, jet ski, kayaking and wakeboarding, subject to weather and current conditions. Make it to Yasa Point for a zip line ride, ATV ride, mountain biking and wall climbing for the younger members of your family.
This property is part of Historic Hotels Worldwide and part of the Conde Nast Jahansens Luxury Global Collection and Peninsula Hotel’s Pencities Luxe Guide. It is also the 2017 Asia Awards of Excellence winner.
Here are a few more information that might be helpful!
Casa Luna was built in 1850 and owned by Primitivo Novicio, the uncle of the famous Luna brothers: Gen. Antonio Luna and Juan Luna. It was originally located in Namacpacan (now Luna, La Union, named after the brothers). The house is symmetrically constructed and reflects the typical Ilocano stone house, with a “cochera” (a garage for carriages and “carrozas” as well as a storeroom for farm produce) at the ground floor, an “entresuelo” (a mezzanine for the servants), the main second floor for bedrooms, toilet and bath, the grand living room, kitchen, and an “azotea” (a flat roof/platform on the top of the house) at the back.
Casa Byzantina is a 3-storey, intricately designed “floral” stone house from Binonda, Manila, built in 1890 by Don Lorenzo del Rosario, using Neo-Byzantine and Neo-Mudéjar influences with elaborate and delicate embellishments. It was demolished in 2009 and transferred to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.
Casa Mexico-Pampanga is a stone house from Mexico, Pampanga, was salvaged from a junk shop and reconstructed based on an old photograph.
Overall, this cultural escapade was memorable among my high school buddies. We had enough quality time to bond with each other amidst our leisurely strolls as well as “kalesa”/tram/jeepney rides. We had so many beautiful pictures to look back to in the years to come!
Did you find this post informative? Have you also experienced going to this destination site, either just for the day or overnight? I would like to hear from you. Do post your comment/s below. Thank you!
On our 3rd day in El Nido we had our 2nd tour, called TOUR A – BLUE LAGOONS, costing 1,200 per person. Join me as I recall this wonderful day!
We started the day with another hearty buffet breakfast at our El Nido hotel, Sea Cocoon! I packed my hard-plastic beach bag with my needs for the day: sun block, bottles of mineral water, comb, towels, sunglasses, cell phone and power bank, snacks, cash for renting kayaks and for purchasing fresh buko/cold drinks, etc. After breakfast, we all met at the lobby, trooped again to the beach, and boarded our big “banca” (boat) for the day.
The first stop was SECRET LAGOON which can only be accessed by swimming through a small window-sized cave. Again, no worries, dearest seniors, the kind boatmen will always be ready to assist us seniors, your “apos” (grandchildren), and whoever else needs assistance. Once inside, you will not regret entering this beautiful pool of clear water surrounded by limestone formation and thus, another secret no more!
Next was SMALL LAGOON, located at the cove of Miniloc Island, enclosed by rock cliffs. It is best to rent a kayak since bancas are only allowed to dock about 50 yards from its entrance. Talk about El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area! The local government is really serious about protecting the areas in the various packaged tours.
Secure your safety vest, pay the kayak rental, ask someone you trust, or even one of your boatman, to join you in the kayak because the view is unforgettable! It is so easy to maneuver the kayak, just coordinate with your companion, get your rhythm, and voila, you are on your way to a beautiful site!
Of course, if there was a Small Lagoon, a BIG LAGOON would be next. This is the iconic symbol of El Nido, with 2 cliffs guarding the entrance. Again, rent a kayak to explore this lagoon. You can also snorkel, just be conscious of sea urchins.
Photos by Ed Pingol
The SHIMIZU ISLAND came next, ideal for snorkeling, swimming and kayaking. Our delectable grilled buffet was served in this island. Again our tummies were so happy while we devoured the yummy feast before us! The boatmen were systematic in clearing the make-shift dining area and disposed of all garbage! Now, this is how it should be; leave nothing on the islands except your footprints!
The last stop was 7 COMMANDOS ISLAND, a white sand party beach named after its original 7 inhabitants. Tourists tend to stay here to sunbathe, swim, snorkel, play volleyball, swing at the long-roped rubber tires, and for the men, girl watching! Now you can spend your cash for halo-lalo, mais con yelo, beer, cocktails, shakes, other cold drinks and other treats.
Personally, I appreciate the efforts of the local government to implement the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area in terms of tourism. Other than mechanized bancas which give livelihood to the local fisherfolks, there are no visible “gas-operated” water-sports like jet-ski, para-sailing, etc. Kayaks are used to explore the various lagoons and the motorboats are not allowed to go near them, thus, the water is not polluted in these awesome lagoons!
This was another amazing tour and a beautiful sunset awaited us along the shore, fronting our chosen restaurant for the night! Thanks, Gani Ricarte of Hello El Nido, for another unforgettable day! Just search for his website: www.helloelnido.com
Did you find this post informative? Have you experienced this package tour? I would like to hear from you. Please leave your comment/s below. Thank you.
Location: (Province of Palawan, MIMAROPA Region of the Philippines)
My husband and I were invited by my high school buddies and their families to El Nido, in the province of Palawan, from February 19 to 22, 2017. It was our first time to visit this wonderful destination known for its awesome coral reefs, white-sand beaches, unique lagoons and limestone cliffs. We were likewise curious how tourism can thrive amidst the so-called El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area. We also heard so much about its beauty so we did not hesitate to join the group to discover this new destination which was part of our bucket list.
Everything was pre-arranged by my very dependable and travel-savvy friend from the US so my husband and I just paid for our share. Here is the first part of our unforgettable adventure!
Our group arrived at the Puerto Princesa Airport and two vans were waiting for us provided by Daytripper Palawan. The mini-packs of banana chips, bottled water and, of course, the professional driving skills of our drivers were very much appreciated. It was about a 6-hour trip from the airport to El Nido, and we stopped a couple of times for the “call of nature”, to stretch a bit, as well as have our lunch. Some of us appreciated the view while some slept along the way.
We finally arrived at Sea Cocoon, our hotel in El Nido, and we all checked-in. We used the remaining time to explore the town, its market and retail stalls, the beach, and savored its local and fresh seafood for dinner along a seaside restaurant. We slept early the previous night because this will be the first of our 3 day-tour that will take us around this awesome destination.
We had a good night’s rest after a hot shower and slept soundly on a comfortable bed in our air-conditioned room. We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning and the hotel’s sumptuous buffet breakfast was so good!
I am also lucky to have a well-organized friend who even provided durable hard-plastic beach bags where I could place all my (and my husband’s) needs for the day: sun block, bottles of mineral water for hydration, comb, towels, sunglasses, well-protected cell phone and power bank, snacks, cash, etc. Photos were taken after breakfast, all met at the lobby, trooped to the beach (which was just about 3 minute-walk from our hotel) and before we knew it, we were all aboard our big “banca” (boat) for the day.
My friend contracted Hello El Nido for the 3 packaged tours and may I say that my husband and I were very satisfied with the services of the management and all the boatmen/crew. Just search for his website: www.helloelnido.com
It also seemed that the local government has standardized the packaged tours of El Nido which is beneficial for us, first-time tourists. Our first tour today is called TOUR C – SECRET ISLANDS AND BEACHES, costing 1,200 pesos each.
We wore our safety vests and enjoyed the natural beauty – 360 degrees! Worried that you cannot swim? Don’t be! You can stay in the banca but I do not recommend that and I am so sure you will not because of the beauty of all the stops. All destinations are safe for all ages and all stops are worth the trip! So, listen up, it’s our first packaged tour of El Nido and I know you will be excited with me as I recall our tour.
The first stop was SECRET BEACH which can only be accessed by swimming through a small crevice in a rock wall. No worries, dearest seniors, I gained weight and still fitted LOL! Besides, the kind boatmen will always be ready to assist us: seniors, kids, and whoever else needs assistance. Once inside, you will be awed by this pristine beach and its beauty and thus, a secret no more!
Next was HIDDEN BEACH, surrounded by fantastic limestone rock formations. You can just float with your life vest or swim, just be careful not to be near sharp corals.
The STAR OF TALISAY BEACH was the next stop. It is a snorkeling site and was also our lunch stop. Now, I am sure you are curious to know about the buffet lunch. Let me tell you that all such meals for our 3 package tours were soooo good, thanks to Hello El Nido! The freshly cooked “inihaw” (grilled) pork and seafood (shrimps/fish/squids), along with fresh vegetables/seaweed salad, hot steamed rice, and fresh fruits were always a welcome feast for our group! Burp! Drinking water was also provided. Happy tummies always! My best advice is for you to bring cash for fresh buko (coconut) or cold softdrinks sold in island stops.
The MATINLOC SHRINE or the SHRINE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN, is located in an island maintained by the descendants of the original owner. Be prepared for a 100 peso-entrance fee. The shrine is serene and satisfies the religious among us seniors. The big old house seemed abandoned but you can imagine its splendor when it was new and operational. Our group went up a cemented area with steps leading to the peak where we had an unforgettable view for miles and miles!
Last was HELICOPTER ISLAND, a helicopter-shaped island when viewed from afar, ideal for snorkeling and diving.
This first packaged tour was indeed wonderful! Thanks, Gani Ricarte of Hello El Nido! Your kind boatmen returned us to our shores early so we can enjoy the majestic sunset in this picturesque island! We felt so lucky to have another dinner along the shore for us to breathe in all the good vibes while we savored the fresh seafood treats we ordered!
Did you find this post informative? Have you experienced this package tour? I would like to hear from you. Please leave your comment/s below. Thank you.
Watch out for my next post and discover the other beautiful islands of El Nido!