Manila 101

It’s a shame indeed that I am a Filipino by blood and have resided no other than the Philippines since my birth year of 1988 and yet, I barely know my own country.

I have been brought to Manila City by my parents way back when I was still a toddler, but I can’t really remember the exact details of what Manila is and/or how it looks like. Growing up, I didn’t really bothered to check the city out on my own. The only chance I’d have to set foot on the city was during educational trips which are mandatory and during the time I was applying for college. Other than that, I went on a different direction.

Manila City has been famous, to me at least, as one of the cities in the Philippines with 1. Worst traffic phenomenon, 2. The most number of universities, 3. High crime rates, 4. Consistent flood situation, and 5. I don’t really have a number five.

My lack of knowledge about this city may have been brought about by my deprivation to go out from my comfort zone while I was still studying as I was imprisoned in Las Pinas from pre-school all the way to my college years. Or, I may not just be that adventurous back then. But whatever the reason was, I’m glad to announce that I FINALLY had my chance to explore Manila and I’m giddy to write about it! *does my weird ‘I’m-so-happy’ dance moves*

Manila Ocean Park

Manila Ocean Park was established few years back which I have no idea when the exact date was. It is situated behind the Quirino Grandstand (and yes, I now know where this grandstand actually is!). I’m not sure if this was the first marine theme park in Manila since the other (and only, prior to going to Manila Ocean Park) marine theme park I’ve been to here in the Philippines was Ocean Adventure in Subic, during an educational trip back in high school.

MOP offers a number of attractions and amenities that their guests may avail of. They have several packages that you may opt to take or you may go for the individual attractions, whichever will suit your budget well.

My boyfriend and I decided to get the Sea Breeze Express package. The inclusions of which I will write about as we go on.

The Sea Breeze Express package costs PHP 750.00 per head. There is no particular order of availing the attractions so guests are free to check each one out at their own convenience. There are a number of shows though that have limited time slots which the guests would need to take note of. All attractions have their respective closing times as well indicated on the small piece of paper that the registration attendant will be providing.

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1.  Oceanarium

The first attraction we went to was the Oceanarium. I’m not really into fishes but seeing different kinds and sizes of fishes and other sea creatures amazed me big time. Based on MOP’s site, the Oceanarium is home to 14,000 marine creatures from around 277 species, all indigenous to the Philippines and Southeast Asia.

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P7138247I was in awe of the sea creatures I see all around me; from the littlest of fishes to the huge ones that I only see and read about on the internet and those I didn’t even know existed. At one part though I kind of freaked out since some eels looked like snakes and, well, yeah. My anxiety level shot up to severe immediately. However, the large eels looked differently already so I felt comfortable looking at them swim all around the place.

2.  All-Star Bird Show

By the heading itself, you already know what’s it about. It’s a simple bird show where several types of pretty birds were trained to play basketball, rings and letter blocks, promote recycling and do math. Apparently, the “star” of the show named Sunshine went missing (scripted, of course) and the hosts found it “hiding” inside a stair step. And yes, it’s a freaking snake which I have no intents of knowing what kind it was. I’m already having goosebumps just by merely talking about it.

3.  Birds of Prey Kingdom

For this part, if you’re not interested to see a bunch of Brahminy Kites (Lawin, in tagalog), don’t bother entering. We literally just looked at them while they were peacefully hanging out on their places. Besides, no one was there to assist us or at least tell us something about Lawins so yeah. I won’t blame you if you wanna skip this part.

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4.  3D Penguin Talk Show

This interactive 3D talk show was incredibly enjoyable! Well, if you’d let yourself indulge in the “talk show” itself and participate, it’d really be fun. We can’t stop laughing during this show. The topic of the talk show is obviously enguins. The talk show is really informative, for all ages I believe, and the humor was patronized by the adults. Not to mention the fact that the voice over sounded like Papa Jack. Swear!

5. Back of the House

This is where the water pumps and filters are. Small laboratories are also located here. It would be an educational tour for those who have interests in marine science.

6.  Jellies Exhibit

Now this one’s a personal favorite. As we all know, jelly fishes are scary due to their stings. I personally freak out when there are jellyfishes on the sea. But seeing several kinds of them floating inside their respective aquariums with all those colorful lights, they look incredibly beautiful. This place is really romantic and you would want to stay in this place longer than the others. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone would bend his knee and propose here. Such a beaut!

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7.  Fish Spa

The moment we decided to go to MOP, I told my boyfriend I wanted to try the Fish Spa. It was a good thing this attraction was already included in the package that we availed. We went for the Fish Spa around 4pm I think. Just when our feet were already tired of walking around the park. The moment we dipped our feet inside the small pools (whatever you call it), doctor fishes started swimming towards our direction and did their thing: to nibble on our toes and soles. Mind you, we were laughing for a little more than 5 minutes because it’s very ticklish. I’m not really sure how long the spa experience was supposed to last but the keeper records one name per group and calls out when the time is up. My boyfriend’s name was never called out so I can’t provide you the exact time of experience though we were there for at least 20 minutes if I’m not mistaken.

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Disclaimer: That’s Webb’s foot.

8.  Sea Lion Show

Two South American sea lions are the stars of this show. One male and one female. It’s a fun show actually. The two sea lions showcase their skills, characteristics and also share information regarding environmental conservation. And they give free kisses too if you’re the lucky one.

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9.  Sharks and Rays Dry Encounter

Since my fascination for rays was born inside the Oceanarium, having to touch them is indeed an experience to keep! While you can’t actually touch the sharks because they were just there at the bottom part of large aquarium, chilling like bosses, you are given a chance to touch sting rays and other types of rays in that aquarium. There are two caretakers inside the aquarium who’d gladly assist you in touching the rays. They are so cute they look like living emojis! Gaaaaaah!

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10.  Symphony Evening Show

For the price we paid, this show isn’t so bad after all. It isn’t perfect, but there were enough lights, fire, water and music of course to give you some goosebumps. It’s a good way to end your visit at the park.

Chinese Garden, Rizal Park

Since I was a first timer, I was able to convince my boyfriend to go inside the garden. Entrance fee was PHP 10/person. As simple as it is, I found the garden a nice place to go to when you want to think or read or do some art or just sit and stare at plants and flowers. We went there around 7pm already, probably also why it didn’t feel humid. I’m not sure how hot it can get during the day but I’m pretty sure the place looks better under the sun.

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I saw some students rehearsing while others are hanging out. I particularly enjoyed reading on the proverbs placed on the pillars of the temple-ish walkway.

Rizal Park, which I believe to be a home to Chinese Garden, didn’t fail to amuse me either. I think my parents were able to bring me here during my childhood but not very often. The image of the park inside my head is a park full of lovers in the dark, doing hanky-panky stuff. To my surprise, the park isn’t so bad after all! I particularly loved the dancing fountain. I’m shallow like that. The only disturbing thing, however, is the DMCI building being constructed (or is it already done?), which then becomes a major photobomber when taking a photo of Rizal’s monument. I’ve read a couple of news articles about the DMCI structure marring Rizal’s monument but I’m not sure where they’ve gotten to now.

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Intramuros

It was already dark when we reached Intramuros which means we do not have the luxury to see the beauty of the place at daylight and tour around the vicinity. The only thing left to do was to walk around and take a few snap shots. One of the things I’d like to cross out from my bucket list would be to avail a tour from Carlos Celdran, a known Filipino artist and cultural activist. You can check the available tour dates and rates here.

Binondo

If you are craving for legit Chinese food, there is nowhere else to go but in Chinatown. One of my personal favorites is Wai Ying restaurant which is open daily until 2am. YES! I am still dreaming of the day I can produce a decent blog entry about Binondo and all the must-check-out places, but until then, please do try Wai Ying!

Follow my misadventures on Instagram for daily updates: @lahainaandtheflipflops

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