Locally born architect and designer James J.J. Acuna shares his favorite spots in the ever-evolving Philippine capital.
Tucked inside a creative complex on the edge of Makati, Toyo Eatery serves excellent Filipino fare by chefÂ Jordy Navarra, who presents local flavors and ingredients in elevated waysâhis Bahay Kubo âsaladâ combines all 18 vegetables mentioned in a popular Tagalog folk song of the same name.
Two other great spots are Grace Park for its farm-to-table comfort food by Margarita ForĂ©s, crowned Asiaâs Best Female Chef in 2016; and Hey Handsome,Â where Southeast Asian dishes are reinterpreted through the lens of chef Nicco Santos. I love theÂ lamb buah keluak and always order beetroot paneer on the side.
Aphro is Manilaâs top concept store, selling artwork and home items by mostly Filipino talents. Price points vary,Â but thereâs something for everyone looking for a one-of-a-kind gift. For Filipino fashion, stop by Rajo!âitâs the atelier-cum-showroom of one of the Philippinesâ leading designersâorÂ Tropa, which showcases local brands with a focus on modern, minimalist attire and low-impact production methods.
Explore the cityâs walled Spanish-colonial district on an Intramuros tour with performance artist Carlos Celdran, whose theatrical approach to history provides a nuanced look at why the country is the way it is today. Architecture buffs should check out the brutalistÂ National Theater at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, one of the greatest achievements of celebrated architectÂ Leandro V. Locsin; do take the guided tour to fully admire the sweeping curves of poured-in-place concrete and capiz-shell chandeliers hung from the gold-leafed ceiling. Finally, the cluster of galleries around Chino Roces AvenueâSilverlens, Bellas Artes Outpost,Â andÂ The Drawing Roomâprovides a glimpse into the cityâs burgeoningÂ contemporary art scene.
This article originally appeared in the August/September 2018 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (âMad For Manilaâ).