Table of Contents
- 1 The Peninsula Hotel opened up.
- 2 On the night of October 1, 1975-“The Thrilla in Manila”
- 3 Kare Kare. A unique Filipino stew.
- 4 Brenda’s short travel guide to Manila.
Mode Of Transport: Kare Kare, Again.
In 1975, the Philippines positioned itself as an international destination by hosting, what is considered by most sport enthusiast to be, one of the greatest Heavyweight Boxing Fights of all time, “The Thrilla in Manila”. Contested by Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, in which Ali defeated Frazier by TKO in the 14th round. This fight cemented Ali’s self-proclaimed position of “The Greatest”.
The Peninsula Hotel opened up.
The year following, a heavyweight contender of luxury hotels, Peninsula Hotel opened up, cementing Manila as the international destination it was positioning itself to be.
A few years preceding the events I spoke of, my family emigrated to the United States when I was at the age of four. Throughout the years, they spoke of their beloved Philippines with such fondness through their stories, that I thought it a wonderland. They had an affinity for Manila, in specific, as they spent their early years of marriage there.
On the night of October 1, 1975-“The Thrilla in Manila”
So on the night of October 1, 1975, my father and mother, along with a slew of other immigrant Filipino Families they called friends, held a party commemorating the big fight. In a small apartment in New York City , I remember at the age of 8, feeling the pride emanating from the crowd, due to the fact that their city, their beloved Manila, was taking front stage in the sporting world.
They always hoped to see Manila again one day, but, unfortunately, their lives were cut short by illness and they were never to return.
The return to Manila
On August 5, 2015, after 43 years, I returned to Manila, and I stayed at the Peninsula Hotel. In the past 40 years the Philippines has had it’s episodes of political turmoil and has never been able to gain that prestige that other international destinations have attained, but the Peninsula Hotel has been steadfast in continuing to do their part in making Manila to once again be poised to become the next great city to visit.
It stays at the top of its category, not because of its thread counts, and fancy desserts, but because of the hospitality its guest receive from it’s almost exclusive Filipino staff that the Hotel employs.
[Tweet “Filipino cookery, by my estimation is the most unique of its Asian counterparts, with it’s heavy Chinese and Spanish influences”]
Another category that helps put a City on the map is to become a food destination. Filipino cookery, by my estimation is the most unique of its Asian counterparts, with it’s heavy Chinese and Spanish influences, and with the world’s palate getting more and more diverse, it can certainly be the next big thing.
Kare Kare. A unique Filipino stew.
For my money, the dish that best represents this diversity is a dish called Kare-Kare, a stew with a curry like consistency, made with oxtail, tripe, vegetables (string beans, eggplant, cabbage) and a base broth made with peanut butter. It’s best served with white rice and a shrimp paste condiment. It was my favorite Filipino food offering growing up and still is to this day. Outside of the version my Lola (grandmother) made, the best I’ve had has been here in Manila.
Our first night, we had dinner at the hotel with a lifelong friend of mine that happened to be in town for business. In town for business in Manila, not Hong Kong or Singapore, but Manila. This was a good sign that things were looking up. After a few drinks and catching up on life, we sat and ordered the Chicken and Pork Adobo (which many consider to be the national dish) and the Kare-Kare.
I wasn’t expecting much, as sometimes humble dishes don’t translate well when polished up, but the chef did not disappoint, it was as good as any I’ve tasted. The dish was elevated with the use of prime oxtail and crisp to the teeth vegetables (as vegetables in most Filipino stews are over-cooked) and was not pretentious in any way.
The following day, I was brought to lunch by my cousin to a place called, Cafe Juanita. The General Manager promised that their Kare-Kare is the best in town, as they had recently won a restaurant cook-off with the dish. My hopes were high after that comment, and they were met.
Their unique use of fiddlehead ferns in lieu of the traditional string beans was a nice twist and made me realize that Filipino chefs are consciously doing their part in making dishes more refined without losing its integrity. This was definitely a good sign that the growth of a food scene in Manila is being taken seriously.
The other night, after not having had the dish in a good two weeks, we had dinner at a place called, Fely J’s, which came as a recommendation from a friend and the concierge at the hotel. This restaurant served up an exquisite version. What made their rendition so special is the treatment of the tripe. Where in most places the tripe is almost always a bit chewy, but theirs melted on the tongue. To top things off, their shrimp paste was the best I’ve had with the dish.
Here in Manila, every time I had the dish, I remembered my childhood, picturing my folks happily leaving me most of the oxtail as they ate the vegetables I wanted no part of. Mama and Papa may have never made it back to this great city, and not a moment goes by in which I wish we were able to see it together, but at least through Kare-Kare and other great Filipino dishes, I transport myself back to them and them to me.
Loretta and Abundio Tolentino used to say that when they get back to Manila, they would stay at that hotel called Peninsula Hotel. They’ll be happy to know that their son, along with his wife and daughter made it on their behalf. And they’ll be happy to know that the Pen (as it is affectionately known to the citizens of Manila) has become a proud symbol of the City. Which by our humble opinion, like Ali, has cemented itself as “The Greatest” in their class.
Have you traveled to Manila? or tried Kare Kare? Let us know your thoughts!
Brenda’s short travel guide to Manila.
Getting to Manila:
Manila was our second stop in the Philippines. After spending a month in Boracay, we came back to Manila to spend a good number of weeks here. From NYC we took Cathay Pacific Airways which was a great ride. All three of us were quite happy with our seats, the entertainment and the meals they provided. Bailey especially liked to unlimited cup o’ noodles. We used up our miles to get an airfare from NYC to Manila but I’ve seen fares from NYC direct to Manila range between $900 to $1300. I would sign up for their newsletter for sales.
Where to Stay:
The Peninsula Hotel is our choice, hands-down. The Peninsula Group is at the top of the luxury hotels category however, in Manila, it is quite an affordable hotel to stay so take advantage of it. The rooms start at 8,000 PhP, which is $170.99 at the time I wrote this. Usually the rooms also come with breakfast, which I highly recommend you do. It is the best breakfast you can have around Makati and is a nice start to the day.
The hotel is located in Makati which is convenient to all of Manila. There were many restaurants, markets and malls within walking distance.
Transportation around Manila:
Andrew and I together are very blessed with many relatives and friends living in Manila so we were driven around most of the time. On other occasions that we needed a car, we used Uber cars. They are fast, convenient and very affordable. Here’s a gift: Once you download use our
Click here for Uber promo code >> UBER for up to 200 pesos off on your first ride.
Eats in Manila:
Is where we had our first meal in Manila and where we had our first Kare Kare. It was such a special dinner. The lobby is open 24 hours and ready to serve you anytime.
There are several locations but Andrew went to the one in Pasig City.
Address: 19 West Capitol Drive, Kapitolyo, Pasig City, 1603 Metro Manila, Philippines
Is walking distance from the Peninsula. We ordered the Kare Kare, Bistek, Liempo, Pinakbhet and the fantastic crab with garlic rice.
2nd Level, Greenbelt 5, Ayala Center, Makati
Phone: 728-8878 or 728-8858
Monday – Sunday / 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
Ayala Triangle is literally across the street from the Peninsula Hotel so it is a great place to dine while you are staying at this fine hotel. We particularly like Poco Deli and Kanin Club.