Travel

Our Busy Week

posted by saltybug.com 22/03/2015 6 Comments

Salcedo Markets

Last weekend it was time to commence our ‘let’s check out the markets’ adventure. I consulted my notebook. The place I store all my research scribbles, notes to self, useful numbers and lists for all sorts of things. We agreed on a good starting point and on Saturday morning we grabbed a taxi and headed off on our adventure.
 

Breakfast in the Fort

 

 

After driving around in circles for a while wondering where we were going wrong, I realised that the markets I thought were a good starting point, were actually a night time affair. We were just a few hours too early. Never mind, we stop off at the Fort and found a hearty breakfast and coffee to regroup while the children ran around.

Salcedo Markets

Our second attempt was a lot better. We found the Markets in Salcedo Park in the heart of Makati (a trendy, up-market ‘place to be’ area of Manila). A lovely little park surrounded by high-rise apartments reminiscent of Paris and Europe. This park is filled with large tree’s that provide a wonderful canopy for families to sit and enjoy the space. A bustling children’s playground is not for the shy or faint-hearted, and after a few minutes of heart pounding parenting, I suggested the children and I play on a shady grassed area while we waited for SB to return with fresh Churros.

Salcedo Park

 

 

Home Cooked Delights at Salcedo Markets

 

 

Fresh Seafood at Salcedo Markets

 

 

The Salcedo Markets started around ten years ago and were developed by a few local residents who were after access to fresh produce, and a reason to get out and meet the neighbours. This market is bustling every Saturday morning and has a variety of stalls ranging from fresh flowers, herbs, fresh seafood (some of it still jumping with life…eeehhhh), fruit and veg, to homemade specialties. It is as always here, a sensory overload. Yet one that is captivating. I brought the children honey lollypops they sucked on while they watched the display of live bee’s in their enclosure.
We found the delicious Japanese Dumplings we’d discovered a few years back at the Fremantle Chili Festival. Sadly on this day we were too full from our big breakfast to partake in eating these delights. Next time for sure!

Paco Park
Sunday morning roused us and SB packed and left for the airport. I needed to get the kids out of the house so I looked through my notebook again searching for a fun adventure to take the kids on. I decide to take us off for a picnic so in a flurry I knocked up a few rounds of sandwiches, fruit, biscuits and had BB on his new special job of filling up the water bottles from our newly purchased water dispenser. With BB’s scooter in hand, off we went to Paco Park.
 

Paco Park


Driving to this place I was taken by the absolute poverty we witnessed. Narrow streets were crammed with small shopfronts selling everything from fresh fish to plastic strainers. Rubbish and filth were strewn through gutters, across laneways, piled up in random corners.  
 
Malnourished children barely dressed played in groups, and as they scampered in quick succinct movements between cars, jeepneys and bikes I was reminded of the little local brown sparrows here called Maya’s. Maya’s fly in flocks. They flutter, jump and flit about with quick little movements. These children in their actions were so reflective of these tiny birds.
 
Babies bathed in tubs on the side of the road. Dogs with heavy udders from too many pregnancies lethargically plodded around trying to find something to forgo their boredom.
 
As we edged closer to the park I started to wonder about my choice of destination. Rubbish littered streets; tall bland high-rise apartment blocks and buildings filled the space to a point of claustrophobia and homeless people slept in hard to find shaded parts of the roadside.

At last we pulled up to the front gates of this sanctuary which is totally swallowed up by the urban landscape. Despite this, as you stand at the large iron gates enclosing this secret sanctuary, her presence is looming, imposing and intriguing. Tall ancient walls surround this circular park. Walls so filled with history you feel like you are
transported back in time as you enter.
 
Sadly these days that sense of nostalgia is diluted as you enter, with speakers booming music throughout the park. However as we walked through the gates, Nat King Coles ‘What a Wonderful World’ started to play and it felt like it was part of this show. By the end of our walk around the walls, I was bopping to The Four Seasons ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ with FB dancing around in my arms.

You cannot avoid or ignore the poverty here

 

 

 

 

This park is surrounded by two large walls, which together shut out today’s world. The walls are thick, both of which you climb up and then walk around the top of, taking in the tranquil view hidden inside. If you look outwards, you see life as we see it today. Litter, filth, pollution, rotting, broken buildings and broken people. I did look out, I always look out. Today however, my focus was inside. In this hidden world that time seems to have forgotten (except for the music!). I love ancient buildings, I love the texture, the story the stones tell. I run my hands along walls and imagine the conversations that happened here. In this case, I thought about

A Gardener collecting fallen flowers

the sadness, anger, hurt and fear from the history of this city. I tried to involve the children, asking them to notice things. They noticed the frangipanis and the patterns in the pathways. I took the time at each memorial to consider the men who are represented here, and what they were fighting for. Peace. Freedom. A world of fairness. I found it eerie that within these walls where these men of peace lay, that white doves had found a home. I also felt saddened that after centuries, we are still fighting for these same things.
We sat on the grass and had our picnic then I watched the children run around exploring and playing freely. I felt the cool damp grass in my fingers, the mottled sunlight on my face and closed my eyes to take in the sounds. Amazingly all I could hear was the rustle of the wind in the amazing ancient trees and the tweeting of these gorgeous tweetie birds (my official name for the Maya’s). Today’s world is shut out.

White Doves

As I was getting ready to leave, I met a lovely couple from Canada. With a generous chat and help changing some money, I was reminded that kindness is everywhere, and at a time I was feeling so isolated, it was a perfect gesture. With that, we walked out to catch a taxi home. Walking out amongst the street vendors we were once again transported back to this life here complete with small begging children with large deep sad eyes.
Paco Park has a long history, built in the 1800’s as a cemetery, it was built by the Dominicans (a Roman Catholic religious order founded by a Spanish Priest) to house the affluent Spanish residents of Manila. Shortly after being built it was used as the primary place of rest for victims of the Cholera outbreak of 1820. Through the years the cemetery was used as the temporary resting place for a range of people including being the final resting place for three famous Catholic Priests, who were executed in 1872 by the Spanish for alleged conspiracy. The Priests were fighting for freedom. They were martyred and their remains are still in Paco Park. The other well known Filipino figure who was for a time hidden here, is Jose Razal, who ironically at age 10 witnessed the tortured deaths of the Priests. Razal was executed for his fight for peaceful reform. His death made him the face of the Nationalist Movement and to this day he is celebrated as a hero to this country.          
Burials in Paco Park ceased in 1912 and most niches are now empty and sealed however there are still the remains of deceased and there is a whole section for babies and children, hidden away behind St Pancratius Cathedral which sits as a central feature within the walls. Like a secret garden.
In 1966 the park was converted into a National Park and restoration was undertaken to repair damage from the war.
Today this park is a popular venue for weddings, photographers and tourists. The evenings provide a water and light show at the central water feature as an added attraction. This park is gorgeous and the kids and I plan on taking SB back to check out the light show one night.

Miaw Cat Café

Last Monday, we had a very fun adventure. I took the children to the Miaw Cat Café in Quezon. This café has only been opened for a few weeks, opening its doors on Valentine’s Day. Based on a popular café’s in Japan and Taiwan, the owners are massive cat lovers and created this haven where fellow cat lovers, who are unable to have their own kitties can come for a two hour session of kitty love. There are strict hygiene practices in place, on arrival you remove your shoes and sanitize your hands. The cats are very well looked after and treated in a most respectful manner. 
 

Pretty Kitties

Getting to this place was a mission. Thank heavens I had access to a driver that day because if we didn’t, well I don’t think we would have made it. The traffic was particularly horrendous on Monday and we were stuck on one road for over an hour….I only packed enough kiddie snacks to manage an hour long ride – total. The kids were going nutty, our driver was huffing and puffing and I was trying to pretend I was anywhere but there. We had booked into the 11am session and we were well and truly past it. The next session was at 2pm and thankfully I had been on Facebook Messenger with the café so I could let them know. They kindly said we could attend in the afternoon.

I knew that finding the actual café was going to be an issue as it does not yet have signage, rather instructions which sounded straight forward – but in my opinion were not. Google Maps did not help. So, after about an hour and a half, we found the KFC reference point and I told our driver to stop here, the kids needed feeding and there was nowhere else around to sort that so in we went for an interesting Filipino KFC experience. The kids got a ball of rice with their chicken. The chips have some sort of BBQ type flavour on them. I ordered the kids a Mango Krusher and it was actually made fresh and of fresh mango and yoghurt….go figure. I sat in the crowded restaurant looking at Google Maps for help and I thought I’d figured it out.

After lunch we still had time to kill though and I was worried about what we would do as the children were chanting ‘where are the kitties, where are the kitties’ over and over and over….
I showed our driver where I thought we needed to be but the building was an old derelict shell, complete with dark foreboding, somewhat broken windows. Our driver parked the car nearby. He got out and ordered me to lock the doors as he left and bless him; he went and scouted out the location. On his return he announced he found the place and we were a reasonable distance down the road from it. Thanks Google! (Not!)

By this time it was only 1.30pm and we were still early however the children’s  

chanting was growing so I thought we’d risk it. We found parking and I convinced our driver that he wanted to pat kitties with us and off we went.

There is a very steep unassuming staircase, the only indication you are in the right place is the cat door mat at the entrance, you climb the stairs and enter a glass enclosed foyer which gives you a guarded peek into the café. As soon as we lay eyes on a cat through the glass windows, smiles filled our faces. The children started making gorgeous noises of happiness and I started cooing and talking baby talk. Our driver’s face lit up and the staff who knew who we were, and what an ordeal we had been faced with, let us in early to play with the cats.

We were welcomed warmly and any grumpiness I had felt was instantly removed. It was such a blessing to have that short time before the session started, where it was just us with these beautiful creatures. As soon as 2pm hit, this tiny café filled up to the brim. Speaking to one of the owners she said how they had not anticipated the response and they were expanding the premises.

For a fee, you get some food (we had already eaten so I got to take yummy muffins home with us) and a drink, and you get to play with the cats.

Those who know me know how much I love cats. They know how devastated I was, and only a few understand that I still am totally devastated, by the loss of my beloved girl two years ago. I am also deeply saddened at leaving our other family member home, although he has a Facebook page now and seems to be settling into his new family very well with a growing fan base. I love cats, what’s not to love. As Steve McGarrett said in a recent episode of Hawaii 5-0 ‘cats are cute, cuddly and provide hours of entertainment’ (or something to that effect).

Cute art decorates the walls

Before animal activists get up in arms here, Let’s be clear. I am a crazy animal lover and do not support anything that is in any way cruel or unfair. In this café the customers are required to be on their best behaviour. The animals are well rested and fed. They have an outdoor area and plenty of escape routes to use to get away for a time out. They have a caretaker over night and sessions are broken up with hour long breaks in-between, and there are strict rules for patrons to follow.

As I sat I observed the going’s on. My children were giggling shamelessly using cat toys to entice and engage their chosen kitties. I noticed too that every single person in this place was beaming. It is impossible not to. The minute each person arrived up the stairs, and their eyes seized upon a cat, a smile filled their faces and it did not leave, not even for a moment. The energy was warm, kind, loving. It was like family. My children interacted with the guests with ease. Everyone made room for anyone trying to take precious pictures. Knowing looks as eyes met. What a beautiful creation, individuals coming together in harmony and shared care and understanding.

Our picture added to the collection

A cat was sleeping under the table where I sat and I stroked her head, and then her inner arm. The places I loved to stroke my precious girl. The softness of the fur in these places was like silk and the intimacy took me back to that place, that time before I lost her. People who don’t love pets as family members don’t get it. Those that do, will. I got something I was craving so badly on this day, and the children had the most wonderful time and days later FB still looks at the photo’s of her playing with the kitten ‘Chappy’ and gushes over them.

American Women’s Association Bizarre
On Thursday we endured another painful taxi riding experience. It took over an hour to get a taxi, so the whole idea of getting up super early, was pointless in the end. However we made it down to Manila Bay to the big convention center down there for the monthly American Women’s Bizarre. This space was filled

 
with stalls selling everything from local crafts, furniture, clothing, to freshly baked and cooked foods. I found a gorgeous traditionally hand woven blanket I plan to use as a picnic blanket. I also plan to buy the big size for our bed next time. I brought a pack of fresh pita bread and tub of fresh hummus and we sat at a table in the food court area and devoured that along with a couple of bratworst sausages.

Treasures

This is a monthly bizarre I plan on making a tradition to visit.

So that is the week’s highlights. Sit tight for more fun in the next week. Probably not as much fun as this week has been, I assure you a fascinating read non-the-less.  

 

 

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6 Comments

Lucy PH 24/03/2015 at 11:10 pm

Thanks for letting me drink in the environment of Paco Park and the ambience of those markets. Looks like you had a great week in the end.

Reply
SaltyBug 25/03/2015 at 1:53 pm

Thanks Lucy, we had an awesome week! Paco Park is a special place.

Reply
Joy Page Manuel 26/03/2015 at 12:23 am

Seems like you're enjoying the exploration! Thanks for sharing all this, Sarah! One of the things I miss most about being home there is the fresh seafood…yes, still alive when you purchase them. Nothing beats that freshness! 😉

Reply
SaltyBug 26/03/2015 at 11:17 am

Thanks Joy, do you have any recommended places to get seafood from over here?

Reply
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