The most densely populated city in the world is also the most shoppable. Manila is a direct flight away from Guam and as such, a place that’s becoming not only a frequent stopover, but a destination for food, medical, and shopping. Manila has its share of inequity, crime, and pollution, but I’ll focus on the entertainment value of its popular Makati City… I am by no means an expert on all that Manila has to offer, but below I offer my opinion about some of the best malls and restaurants I visited the last two times I was in this manic city.
Lush landscaping, high-end shops, and a great variety of restaurants makes Greenbelt my favorite mall thus far. Greenbelt is part of Ayala Malls — an interconnected stretch of shopping centers in the heart of Makati. Not for the faint of heart, but it is possible to visit several all in one day!
Hospitality in Manila is top-notch and dining options are many. Café Breton serves fresh and delicious — I recommend the lemon, butter, and sugar combo — best washed down with a cappuccino. The cafe is high on taste and low on space, but I don’t recommend dining outside unless you don’t mind cigarette smoke and smog.
For lunch, we savored Spanish tapas and red wine at Cerveseria. The decor is decidedly Miss Havisham post-breakup with it’s dark wood book cases and candle wax chandeliers, but the menu is very extensive, the wine is good, and the tapas were excellent.
SM Aura Premier
SM stands for “Shoe Mart,” and while it’s easy to mock the moniker as “S&M,” the Makati mall delivers on quality of shops, cleanliness, dining options, and yes, a rooftop view of the city. Aura Premier is my second favorite mall in Manila, if only because Greenbelt is a little larger. It is definitely the sleekest of all the malls I visited with a unique and modern exterior and shiny everything inside. It is worth noting that the more expensive the shops, the less people in the mall. Manila is the most crowded place on Earth, so personal space is an amenity in short supply. At Aura, I got a quality pedicure for $8 that included tea, cookies, and coffee for my ever-patient husband. I picked up a gorgeous Philippines-made straw hat and a be chic beaded pencil dress from River Island. I tried Absinthe for the first time and brought home a little bottle to serve to at my next dinner party. SM Aura has an excellent variety of mid-priced shops, and of course, an SM Department Store where you can buy home goods, luggage, and clothing. Don’t forget to try the Bronuts (brother of the cronut?)!
Bonifacio High Street
Bonifacio High Street is a few blocks away from St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City where we were staying for some check-ups. The outdoor shopping center is a long strip of shops and restaurants with green space running down the center. Condos and hotels jut up from behind. I picked up the perfect hand bag to use as a camera case (watch the video) and the world’s most comfortable yoga mat sandals. I liked Bonifacio High Street, but it seems more fit for browsing and dining than for hard core shopping.
Glorietta & Market! Market!
Glorietta and Market! Market! shopping centers are also part of Ayala Malls and are in the vicinity. Market! Market! is extremely crowded, pretty much at all times (as the double exclamation points would indicate). Stores vary from cheap to mid-range and the mall is filled with families and teenagers, as there are games, movies, and lots of entertainment options for the young. The best part of Market! Market! is the fresh produce and flower stands outside the mall. You can get a real slice of Manila culture there and a sample of the food locals actually eat. Step behind the mall to see all the colorful Jeepneys and their equally colorful drivers.
Glorietta is also quite crowded, but has shops like Zara so it appeals to more than just kids. There are quite a few good Italian cafes for a respite from the Manila madness.
There is so much more to see and do in the Philippines than shop. Read about that time I hiked a volcano in the world’s largest island within a lake on an island within a lake!