As the first in a series by The Edition, we offer expats a guide to navigating Manila’s best haunts — from pilates studios and Crossfit classes to walking tours and science museums.
Manila hasn’t always been considered family-friendly. But the last few years have shown a growth in places that families can certainly visit over the weekend — no long drives necessary. From interactive science museums to a guided tour of Philippine history, here are a few fun stops in the city that both kids and parents can enjoy.
You can count in one hand the number of museums in Manila that kids will sincerely enjoy — The Mind Museum happens to be one of them. This science museum features five main galleries that focus on various natural wonders. While it boasts 5,000 square meters in space, including exhibits and interactive displays, The Mind Museum is a compact wonder. Day passes are available, but previous visitors would recommend three hours at the most.
J.Y. Campos Park, 3rd Ave, Taguig
Kids get a chance to be a grown up in Kidzania, an indoor mini metropolis. Kidzania offers over 100 role-play activities in each featured “career” sponsored by various brands with a Philippine presence. There’s a bottling plant by Coca Cola, a car dealership by Honda, and a Gas Station by Shell. Minimum age for all roles are four years old, while the oldest is 14 years old. No word yet if they’d ever let adults play without the guise of supervising kids.
Park Triangle North, 11th Ave, Taguig
While the Ayala Museum’s walls pay host to excellent visual work, it also offers great one-day classes for anyone keen on some out-of-school learning: from writing workshops to short talks on Philippine history. Perhaps our favorite time to visit the Ayala Museum is over Halloween, where they do Midnight Museum, in which they either turn the museum into a haunted house or a crime scene that visitors will have to solve under time pressure. No word yet on what it’ll be this year, but trust that it’ll be its own brand of spine-tingling.
Makati Avenue cor. De La Rosa Street, Greenbelt Park, Makati
Walk this Way Tour
A visit to Old Manila is a must for anyone on their first visit to the capital, but seeing the walled city of Intramuros sans context can be a bit boring. Consider the Walk This Way tour by performance artist Carlos Celdran, who offers a guided tour of Intramuros with signature panache. The tour is done in English and offers humorous notes on Philippine history, unbeknownst even to most locals.
Fort Santiago, Sta. Clara St., Intramuros Manila
Spending the weekday with young children is a challenge in occupying them without the aid of an iPad. At Gymboree, parents get a chance to bond with their children as well as engage them in educational fun. Kids as young as 0 to 5 years old can immerse in play and learn sessions steeped in music and art. For families with multiple children, classes are also offered for those who want all their kids in one session. Classes tend to involve parents and guardians as well, so a good workout on Gymboree days might actually be superfluous.
Greenbelt 5, Basement Level, Ayala Center, Makati
The streets of Metro Manila can go from sprawling concrete jungle to impassable bazaar in the span of a few meters. Either way, moving here can be a bit of a challenge if you’re accustomed to stretching your legs in big open spaces. To help you along, here’s a run-down of places you can go to stay active short of leaving the city to trek up our mountains.
Plana Forma is the kind of workout a lesser man might scoff at, with its cute little weights and minute thigh presses. That is until they take the class for themselves and can’t make it to the end for all their muscle tremors. A starter tip: when the instructor tells you they’re there to “work your muscles to the point of exhaustion,” they’re not kidding.
The Frabella 1 Bldg., 109 Rada St., Legazpi Village, Makati
The website specifically tells you that “our bootcamp classes are for anyone,” but let us assure you, their bootcamp classes are not for everyone. Though it saves you from the heavy lifting, loud weight dropping, and awkward exertion grunts of a regular Crossfit class, in no way is it a casual stroll towards fitness. Pairing the competitiveness that seems to be innate to every Crossfit box with kettlebells, medicine balls, gymnastic movements, and plyometrics puts Bootcamp in a league of its own.
Philippine Army Gymnasium, Lawton Avenue corner Bayani Road, Taguig
Flyweight is the latest entrant to Manila’s coterie of boutique fitness studios. An attempt at marrying the styles of indoor cycling and regular boxing, it brings together the group dynamic of the former and the no-nonsense style of the latter. Class difficulty levels range from contender, challenger, and champion (easy, medium, and difficult, respectively), making it easy to jump in regardless of your fitness level.
8 Forbestown Rd, Taguig, Metro Manila
So much about Pilates is intimidating, from the inexplicable equipment to the extent the regulars can bend themselves. But Options Studio gets full points for its commitment to easing you in, with private sessions and introductory classes to go along with their athletic conditioning. With a considerably slower place from the rest of the options of this list, pilates’ leg-up is that it works on muscles you didn’t even know you had, but always at a pace you can achieve.
G/F Nobel Plaza, 110 Valero Street, Salcedo Village, Makati
Art by Maine Manalansan