Thrilling in Manila
This year, thankfully just before the rainy season, I traveled with a group of artists to the Philippines for the country’s first street art festival. Manila’s ONE Festival was produced by LeBasse Projects in partnership with the Bonifacio Global City Art Foundation and Globe, and I was fortunate to be invited to make art alongside seven mega-talented painters, hosted by some of the friendliest folks in the world. Initiating a mural project in a community just warming up to the presence of street art added an excitement to the air that was as thick as the tropical humidity.
Gallerist, professional race car driver and all-around lovely person Gaby Dela Merced curated a group show while we were in town, and she kindly wrote up the following local’s tour of the freshly painted walls in Bonifacio Global City, along with many surrounding gems. Be sure to stop by her gallery, Vinyl on Vinyl, when you’re in town. Thanks to LeBasse Projects for making our time in Manila so memorable. —Kristin Farr
Murals, Galleries, Books and Squid
Gaby Dela Merced: Entering Bonifacio Global City, or BGC as many would call it, you are immediately greeted by Kristin Farr’s colorful geometric mural at the Bonifacio Technology Center. Make your way down to 26th Street and you will see Faile’s massive wall at Icon Plaza featuring a multi-tasking, stylish woman. Walk straight ahead to stumble upon Cyrcle’s giant Astronaut on the RCBC Building, and nearby, find AKACORLEONE’s fresh Metropolis mural, along with walls painted by local artists Egg Fiasco and Anjo Borlarda. Egg’s mural is a tribute to a rare, mysterious deer from his province. Your next stop is Fully Booked, a four-story book haven with independent film screenings, art workshops and signings. LeBasse Projects curated a multi-story painted book installation at the store by Mike Stilkey that is a must-see. Behind Fully Booked is the first of Nate Frizell’s four sneaky animal murals hidden around town. At the Serendra Mall across the street, have lunch at Abe and be sure to try the Sinuteng Baby Squid, Gising Gising (veggie stalks with shrimp cooked in coconut milk) and pair them with a deliciously tart green mango shake!
Party that night at the Palace Pool Club where you’ll see Drew Merritt’s mural of two women relaxing by the entrance. On the way out, take 32nd street to catch another mural by Drew Merritt at Globe Tower. Next, head out of BGC to the next city over, Makati, which is our financial district. On Chino Roces Street, or as most would call it, the Art Road, you’ll find Silverlens and SLAB, the first local contemporary gallery to showcase photography. NOW Gallery is just a few doors away, along with La Fuerza compound where you’ll find Finale and Nova Galleries. Down the road, our last stop is the 2135 compound where Archivo showcases master artists, and our gallery, Vinyl on Vinyl, in contrast, exhibits street art, Pop Surrealism and other contemporary art.
Shopping and Entertainment
Black Market is along Chino Roces, a club featuring some of the most talented underground DJs around. For the more adventurous, head over to Burgos Street, our red light district. Go to Ringside Bar to see a little person and a lady boxing. Be sure to be a referee when you go!
For the more historical parts of Manila, head over to to Intramuros, which means “within the walls” in Spanish. The oldest district of Manila, you can still see the colonial houses and cobblestone streets from the Spanish period. Be sure to go during the Saturday Market x Future Market. You can find quirky trinkets of old Manila as well as local artists selling their work.
If you are willing to rough it up a bit more, you can walk around Quiapo and Divisoria. It’s a dense city with so many random things to see, like their wet market. There you can find someone walking along the streets selling watering jugs in one hand and cellphone chargers in the other. Not really a place to go to buy things unless you know what you want, but it’s a haven for people into taking pictures.
Now head north on EDSA, our major highway, to Greenhills Shopping Center for your souvenirs in their Tiangge. They sell everything from our traditional items to generic clothes and knock-offs, more or less what you would see in a usual night market around Asia. Then check out the Ronac Center, which has WeLegendary for skater stuff, Secret Fresh Gallery and Carrot Bombing for your graffiti fix. We barely have any places selling cans and other street art materials, so this is pretty much your one-stop shop.
Next stop is Cubao X, further up north, where you can have shoes made to your liking. This compound is now turned into a small indie scene with quirky bars, coffee shops, pop-up galleries and random vintage shops. It definitely has a fun, anything-goes bohemian feel to it. Gold Digger has a nice selection of records.
There’s an old Italian restaurant called Bellini’s at the center of Cubao X. The owner used to be a major paparazzo in Italy, and you can see a wall filled with his articles. They make their own pasta and wine. Be sure to try the angel hair Tartufo and add prosciutto. Then have the panna cotta—it’s to die for.
Make your way to Quezon City to see local graffiti and have dinner at Van Gogh Is Bipolar in Sikatuna. The owner, Jetro, is bipolar and realized that certain food can change his mood. This is what his dishes are inspired by. I recommend you explore the place and get a chance to talk to Jetro himself. I wouldn’t want to give too much away. Needless to say, it is an experience. Be sure to book before you go.
If you catch a Dirty Ice Cream Cart (don’t worry, they aren’t dirty) along the streets, be sure to have some! It usually comes in three flavors. They give you a cone consisting of about ten small scoops, or you can have it in a pandesal, which is a local bread. Cheese is our most popular flavor. We brought artist Gary Baseman over a while back for a show, and this is what he fell in love with. He loved it with pandesal. He even made his own cart.
Things to taste that people don’t usually blog about: Bulalo—if there is one dish to have before you go, it’s our local version of beef stew. There is a place near our gallery called Pat Pat’s Kansi. They have the best broth and the biggest bone I’ve ever seen. It comes with a barbecue stick to pull the bone marrow out. Inasal is barbecued anything. It is traditionally served under banana leaves.
Kristin Farr mural
Tagaytay is an hour drive up to the mountains and has our smallest volcano, Taal, which you can climb. There is a wonderful restaurant called Sonya’s Garden, which is heavenly. Everything served is hand picked. You can get a massage there too. Be sure to experience Hilot, our local massage style.
Boracay is about a 45 minute flight plus a 15 minute boat ride away from Manila. It’s our mini Ibiza. Softest sand I’ve ever felt, and it will never burn your feet! I know so many people who planned to stay for a week, and five years down the line, they’re still there.
Originally published in the September, 2015 issue of Juxtapoz Magazine, available here.