Manila Chillin’

– by ChiChai@Empire –
Photos by ChiChai@Empire and Ray@Empire

We had a hella packed schedule while in the Philippines. But– to keep the spirits going and fresh– I made sure to schedule in some free time for exploring Metro Manila.

When the opportunity came to dress-up dress-up, we were all over it. (Our Project PEARLS days usually involve so much sweat, our shirts looked like they were camo print.)

Photo by Sidney Snoeck at Project PEARLS 7th Anniversary Celebration

Some of our free time was spent for personal projects too. For instance, Aiko, Ray and I would be on our laptops working on Empire things while Jolo, KJ, and Mel were prepping for their next dance workshop. They even hosted a dance workshop open to the public in Makati to further fundraise for Project PEARLS!

Other than continually working on our crafts, our Manila chillin’ heavily consisted of food… lots and lots of food. Oh, and shopping.
I compiled a list for you of some of the places we hit up. I hope you find this list well if you visit Metro Manila!



Some of the best katsu I’ve ever had– believe it or not– is here in the Philippines. Where at, specifically? Yabu! The restaurant Yabu: House of Katsu specializes in an assortment of katsu. You can get different type of pork cutlets or even salmon and oyster katsu! We all loved Yabu so much, we probably ate here the most frequently during our stay.

Aside from the traditional katsu, the burger was a big hit among the group. I mean… look at it:

View their Instagram here!


For those with a sweet tooth, BLK 513 is for you! It is the “Creator of Manila’s 1st Activated Charcoal enhanced FroYo.” Thus, not only does it fulfill your tastebuds with its rich flavor and toppings, its actually healthy for you!

Some fun facts:

KJ said that if he ever went missing, this should be the first place we should look.

I may be in the same boat as him. There’s even a little swing in the store!

Mang Larry’s Isawan

The first two are chains but this gem is one of a kind. Monica– a good friend of mine and a Project PEARLS admin– is a proud University of the Philippines Diliman student. She went there for her undergraduate, is back for her graduate degree, and through these years she still loves a beloved on-campus food-stand: Mang Larry’s Isawan.

That’s the famous Mang Larry between Monica and I!

It’s a campus staple for UPD students because, not only are the variety of “isaw” (aka chicken intestines) yummy, it is a cheap college-budget meal. They even got two types of vinegar to saw saw the isaw! One sweet and one sour! Mm.

The Nook

Another one-of-a-kind gem is The Nook, a charming Harry-Potter themed cafe.
side note: When I first asked everyone if they’d be interested in going to a HP cafe, Mel immediately responded, “I should’ve brought my wand!”

As you can see, we were hella into it. The Nook is adorned with Harry Potter memorabilia like wands, a Quidditch set, and a wall painted to make you feel like you’re in Hogsmeade. And! They have robes from each house that you can wear while in the cafe!

The drinks and snacks were as yummy as the shop was cute. *the drinks are especially good for those who love sweets*  They continue with the HP theme with Butterbeer, Butterbeer-flavored cupcake, and more! But don’t let that limit your food and drink decisions. The other choices are delicious!

Singing Cooks and Waiters

Last but not least is actually the first restaurant we all ate at together: Singing Cooks and Waiters. This restaurant is perfect for entertaining guests– especially guests who haven’t visited the Philippines before. The portions work well for big groups and  it satisfies tummies seeking Filipino comfort food.

But… This is not what the restaurant is known for. As you eat, all of the waiters and “cooks” sing and dance throughout the restaurant while bringing up lucky guests to join them.

Great dishes, great entertainment– how much more Pinoy can a restaurant get?


Common Room

We did some shopping here and there. Okay, okay. We participated in the knock-off market by shopping at Green Hills and Divisoria. We practiced our tawad.  But! One store really worth mentioning is Common Room! Common Room provides a space for local artists to sell their artwork and it provides tools + classes to inspire up-and-coming artists.

Stickers, cards, calligraphy sets, plushies, leather goods, books, houseware– this store has it all!

AND! It has a swing!

Thank to our Manila “tour guides” lol — Monica, MaeMae, and Karen

Other than treating ourselves through food and a little shopping here and there, we mostly spent our time chillin’ at our apartment playing Monopoly Deal… alongside a Red Horse or two. We all enjoyed dancing and serving the children of Project PEARLS and, honestly, simply hanging out with each other. I really could not have asked for a better group of people to unfold Art of Us with.

We hope to see you again, Manila, for… season 2?

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