Makati Sizzles by Rosario Albar
Greenbelt Square Gardens
Visiting the Philippines can be a truly relaxing trip.  When my pasalubongs in big and heavy balikbayan boxes have been checked, I am free once again to enjoy the trip I look forward to more than any other.  Why, you ask?  The answer is in the promise of a pampered lifestyle that awaits me in Makati.

Makati, specifically the area bounded by Ayala Avenue on the north, Pasong Tamo to the south and Edsa to the east, has everything I need to be independent during a short visit.  My itinerary usually includes a stay at one of the hotels in the area where I languish in style, albeit briefly.  I can easily walk to a multitude of shops, restaurants, my hairdresser, the church, and even the LRT station in case I feel like going to Megamall or Baclaran.

The Greenbelt Shopping complex has blossomed into a world class destination.  During a recent visit, my cousin, Marc, and I met at the Buddha restaurant in Greenbelt 3.  We had a plateful of dim sum and other dishes, all well prepared with hardly a trace of grease.  We were lucky to get a table as the restaurant was crowded.  I noticed that most of the other restaurants were full as well.

After dinner, we made
pasyal with the intent of finding an outdoor cafe and were nearly disappointed.  We found the last available table at Cafe Breton, right next to Cafe Havana.  While sipping our espressos, we listened to a free musical concert with the San Miguel orchestra playing under the direction of Ryan Cayabyab.  We had great seats for people watching.  It was a comfortable evening and it seemed as if the expatriate community was out in force, enjoying the tropical setting of Greenbelt Square.  The ambience reminded me of Miami Beach.

The night was young so we made a round of Greenbelt 4 where there were beautifully appointed restaurants and people eating dinner
en plein air.  We immediately noted the restaurants we wanted to check out on future visits.

I returned the following day to Greenbelt to take photos of the gardens where colorful orchids and protea grow abundantly around the circular and open Greenbelt Chapel.  On my way over, I took the covered pedestrian overpass that leads to boutiques with names that spell pricey!  It was fun to window shop.  My favorite stores though are at Glorietta Mall.

It's quite entertaining to walk around Glorietta Mall.  The mall has some of the biggest crowds I've encountered anywhere, especially on weekends.  There's always something going on.  It seems you can do everything at this mall.  You can live here.  Oakwood Apartments are part of the mall.  You can go to church here.  There are Catholic services on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings.  You can eat here.  There are many choices including those serving local fare as well as ethnic cuisine, not to mention the numerous snack counters selling delicious Philippine pastries.  My favorite restaurants are Bon Appetit, Via Mare and Cabalen.  You can buy groceries here.  Rustan's, Landmark, and SM next door have what you need to stock up on groceries.  I buy all the snacks I take back to the U.S. with me from these supermarkets.  You can go to the movies here.  There are several theaters showing both local and American films.  You can take the kids to Timezone to be entertained.  And you can buy clothes and accessories from the hundreds of affordable specialty stores.  Manel's has fine leather handbags made in the Philippines.

Your tired aching feet deserve a break after a day at the mall.  I especially like the foot massage at Paradigm in the Shangri-la Hotel.  For your night out on the town, get a makeover at James Cooper Beauty Salon in the Dusit Notel Nikko. 

Don't go to bed just yet.  Enjoy live band music at The Conservatory in the Peninsula Hotel.  Pilipino musicians can always get you in the mood to dance and sing.  And when you rouse from a soothing night's sleep, saunter over to the breakfast buffet spread at your hotel and don't feel guilty about eating too much.  Remember to order the freshly squeezed mango juice.  Life couldn't be better!

So the next time you're visiting in the islands, spend a few days in Makati and turn your vacation into capital F-U-N.  Makati sizzles.

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Where to stay:  The Makati Shangri-la is elegant and luxurious, as is the Manila Peninsula Hotel.  Ask for the Balikbayan rate which includes a buffet breakfast.  If both of these hotels are booked, try the Dusit Hotel Nikko or Hotel Intercontinental.
Makati Shangri-la - or phone 63-2-813-8888
Manila Peninsula - or phone 63-2-810-3456
Dusit Hotel Nikko - www. or phone 63-2-867-3333
Hotel Intercontinental - www. or phone 63-2-815-9711

January 2004
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