Saturday, February 28, 2015

National Museum of the Filipino People - Chronicles of a Nation Part 1

Life sometimes basks on irony.

Such is fact that I've seen all of the major museums in Southeast Asia and beyond, yet I've never visited my country's "National Museum of the Filipino People". In fact, I've seen Singapore, Vientiane and Maldive's museum twice. The idea that something "will always be there" is contributory to such glaring malpractice. But I've finally remedied this when I accompanied a foreign guest to see it.

Museum tends to lull a lot of people to ennui. After all, these are matters buried in the past, and most people prefer to "move on" and get preoccupied with the "now". But there's glory in the fact that "the past" invariably teaches us something more than just the passing of years. Nothing is lost. How else do we make a better future if we don't take note of the mistakes of the past? Won't we be committing the same mistakes over and over again?

Manila's "National Museum of the Filipino People" does not disappoint. In fact, the only other museum that approximates this collection in my side of Asia is Jakarta's national museum. This is why I can't seem to understand the countless negative reviews from sites like Trip Advisor. The collection is considerable, although I have to mention the fact that the "works of art" (paintings, sculptures, etc.) are housed in a separate "museum" (National Art Gallery) a few blocks from here. While Singapore's museum is a tad better at presenting their rather scanty collection (they employ an interplay of lights, movement, audio-visual, etc. so there's an interactive vibe), our museum tends to present static displays, i.e. traditional presentation.

Yes, the Philippines used to be a part of the huge land mass that included countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, but time eventually chipped it off and moved it southeastward to its own archipelagic mass. This separation has allowed us to acquire a national flavor that's quite distinct from its Asian neighbors. It has also made us vulnerable to siege and colonization: from the Spaniards, the Japanese, the Americans, the Dutch, the British, etc. Many of the paintings depict scenes from Spanish colonization. After all, they almost ruled over us with barbaric wonder for half a century.

This particular museum focuses on anthropology, archaeology and natural history. Depending on your interests, some sections tend to be more interesting than others. If you're predisposed to rock formations, animals, indigenous tribes, relics from ancient sites or shipwrecked galleons, the museum suffices.. Since the display is vast, we will spread our post into two parts. Part 2, which is more interesting, succeeds this post.

Sunday visits are free. Otherwise, a fee of PhP100 is collected at the entrance. No-flash photography is allowed inside. The museum is located in the vicinity of Intramuros and Luneta, along P. Burgos Drive, Rizal Park. It's open daily except Mondays, from 10AM to 5PM.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

For more information, please visit their website here:

Part 2

Doctor Antonio de Morga, captain of the ship "San Diego". He wrote a book that detailed the sinking of the San Diego , published in Mexico in 1609.

I have fascination with hallways.

Anthropomorphic jar covers found in Ayub Cave in Pinul, Maitum, Saranggani. There are black and red paint on the head and neck.

Way out of the National Museum

You may want to check out the National Art Gallery as well:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Shangrila Makati's Circles - Underwhelming Buffet Dining and Preposterous Reservation

One usually reliable and consistently enjoyable buffet dining experience is Makati Shangrila Hotel's "Circles". Most people that I know don't have much to complain about it - or its sister-diner "Heat" (in Shangrila Edsa Plaza Hotel, Mandaluyong City). I recently took my family here for one of our gastronomic soirees. Unfortunately, it was mostly an underwhelming experience - coupled with a baffling reservation process. If you've been following this blog, you'd know that buffet dining is a common experience for us.

Makati's Shangrila stands proud  in the heart of the financial district.
To start with, its seafood station was an ocular feast, but for some reason, they're pre-cooked and iced on the station to keep it fresh. This however doesn't "taste" as palatable.

In fact, my crustacean made my stomach queasy. The aftertaste lingered long after dinner. There were two entries of lechon (one of which was the piglet, on photo), and both were bland. I distinctly remember one pork dish we enjoyed, but that was mostly it. One main dish in a sea of food.

If you like desserts though, you will enjoy their sweets section. I loved their "ginataan" in its purplish glory.

Their fruit station was also commendable, most especially the mangoes on display - sweet and fresh. There's a table with 3 different kinds of "iced tea" concoctions, including a "green tea". None succeeded to impress. I preferred drinking water instead.


The place fills up fast and reservations are required. What's rather ridiculous was, when I called to reserve seats, I was asked by the lady I was talking to to "come here in the morning and pay a reservation fee" so I could guarantee my reservation. A dining reservation requires my presence at the hotel hours before dining? Is this the alternate world? It felt like being in the Twilight Zone.

Entonces, my calling them for a reservation was almost a useless deal - not to mention a truly ridiculous and tedious exercise to have to go to the hotel in the morning just to reserve seats. It was a preposterous thing. I told her we will be there on the time I required the seats. If we're not, then they can cancel the aforementioned. Simple. "It's regulations, sir," she replied. Then I asked her to get my credit card details for their exquisitely silly, albeit optional pre-dining ritual, for Pete's sake. "We don't do that, sir!" Huh? And can I just say again how truly RIDICULOUS it was?

Talk about an exercise in futility, right?


I told her I do not intend to make a special trip to the hotel prior to the reserved date and time. Either she took note of the reservation or my credit card details - or she declines it! Period. "Okay sir, you have 15 minutes to get to the restaurant on the appointed time - or we'll cancel your reservation," she said. There you go! Wasn't that less asinine? There are less moronic ways to assure reservations.

To be quite honest, it just didn't seem apropos for Makati's premiere hotel to be practicing such preposterous "rules". They require your presence and a special trip so you can go back in the evening for your dinner? What was that? An appointment with the dentist? Visa application at the U.S. Embassy? Screening process for an audience with the Queen?

So it goes. The proof of the pudding was in the eating. And for PhP2,200 (roughly $50) per person for a group of six, the gastronomic experience wasn't all that different from eating at a fast food chain; except that they served more. What happened to their "consistently enjoyable dining experience"? Maybe it was the chef's bad day?


This series of buffet dining was part of our post-Christmas family activity where for two weeks, we'd hop into different buffet restaurants every 4 days or so. In the span of 2 weeks, we dined at Oceano in far away Acuatico Resort; Manila Hotel's Cafe Ilang Ilang (at P3,200 each), Guevarra's by Chef Laudico (which was 1/4 the price of Circles) and this one. Proximity of the dates makes comparison easy. I tried several times to make a reservation at Solaire's "Fresh International Restaurant" but they were either mostly full (on the single time someone came to pick up the phone) or no one attends to their calls. This was baffling to me as well, but hey, I don't care. It's their business if they don't want more customers.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

My buffet haul - the first and last main-course plate. Nothing tasted right. It was a cold plate so do the math. Check the discoloration of the crustacean for hints of freshness.

Bounty of the sea. Nothing warm.

Ginataan - this should be one of my very few favorites here.

The one and only piglet from 6::30PM to 9:30PM. Taste as bland as it gets.

Varieties of iced tea and nothing tasted right. Go figure.