A (Modern) Malaysian Chinese Wedding

I know I’m Malaysian-Chinese, but if you asked me what a ‘traditional’ Chinese wedding is like, I wouldn’t be able to tell you in detail. After so many generations (most of the Chinese here are third or fourth gen), much of our rituals and culture have been  lost – and are continuing to die off as younger people, such as myself, do away with customs for convenience. Weddings are definitely much more different now than they were, say, in my parents time.

That’s not to say we don’t have a few rituals we still follow though. So here are my observations from my cousin’s recent wedding ceremony back in Ipoh. 

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My aunt and uncle rented a homestay for all the extended family members. It was a whole bungalow unit with about 7-8 rooms. Since there were three of us, we got a spacious corner room. It was really hot though as there was only one air conditioning unit. Beds were quite comfy.

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My cousin, the groom, was still picking up the bride at her home in Taiping, about an hour away from Ipoh. Usually, the brides maids will have loads of fun ragging the best men, since they are not allowed into the house until they perform specific tasks (usually silly things, like doing 100 pushups, etc) – but it’s all in good cheer.

Meanwhile, over at the homestay, a buffet lunch was served by the catering company..

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Simple stuff like fried noodles and rice, but it was all quite delicious.

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Curry chicken, stir fried mixed vegetables, shrimp in sweet and sour sauce.

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‘money pouch’ dumplings, fried chicken wings, stuffed beancurd and fishballs.

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The bride and groom arrived shortly after lunch, and then came the important part of the ceremony – serving tea to the elders. This was done by order: groom’s parents, bride’s parents, and relatives according to seniority. After pouring tea and presenting it to the elders, the latter gives their blessing by offering jewelry or red packets filled with money.

*In the olden days, cakes and biscuits were served together with the tea.

After a lot of picture taking, the bride and groom retired to their room, which had been decorated with some traditional wedding items such as red pillows. The rest of us slacked around until it was time for the wedding dinner later in the evening.

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More food. Some of the common dishes are fish, chicken, pork and shrimp. Fish and shrimp are symbolic, since the pronunciation for fish is yu (prosperity) and shrimp is ha (sound for laughter) – indicating good fortune and happiness.

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The toasting ceremony is where everyone stands up for three cheers while shouting ‘yum seng’ (drink to success in Cantonese). The toasts symbolize different things: first for a blissful marriage, second for eternal love, and the third for fertility.

Congratulations cousin Eric and his lovely wife Janice! May you have a blessed married life together 🙂

Things to Look Forward to in Ipoh: Home Cooked Fam Meals

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One of the great things about visiting relatives in Ipoh ? Glorious food. My third aunt, whom I call Sar Kor, is a great chef, and probably the only aunt among my dad’s many sisters to have inherited my late grandmother’s cooking chops. The cuisine is a mix of Hokkien (my great grandparents came to then-Malaya from Fujian province on junk boats in the late 19th century) and Peranakan (Straits Chinese) influences, as my Ah Ma learnt her dishes from a Peranakan neighbour. Simple but hearty comfort food.

A typical home-cooked meal would look like the one above. Blanched vegetables in soy sauce are a must-have for every meal (gotta get them greens in!), while steamed chicken is more of a Hainanese/Cantonese thing (aunt does it really well though. Moist, tender and great when dipped in soy sauce) – but there are also distinctly Hokkien/Peranakan dishes. Sambal petai (stinkbeans in spicy shrimp paste) delivers a hot kick that is addictive with rice, so its worth it to have bad breath for a few hours. Then you have braised pork belly with herbal egg in dark soy sauce, which is kind of like the adobo of the Hokkien world. The way Sar Kor makes it, the belly is so soft and tender with the right amount of lean and fat that it just melts onto your tongue. To wash it all down, a warm hearty bowl of sweet carrot and corn soup with pork.

We’ve been suggesting to her to do one of those home-kitchen thingies (what do you call them, underground kitchens?) where, say, a group of 10 guests come to your home to enjoy excellent home-cooked food. Concepts like these have been picking up lately and you can find homekitchens offering local, Sri Lankan or even Korean fare. We don’t know if she’ll take up the idea, but it would be great if she did, don’t you think? 🙂

 

First World Plaza, Resorts World Genting

Located just an hour away from downtown Kuala Lumpur, Genting Highlands is a cool retreat for many locals, especially over the weekends. Many years ago, a wealthy Chinese businessman called Lim Goh Tong made a gamble to turn the then unexplored hilltop into a casino/theme park. The bet paid off, as Genting is now a popular tourist attraction and entertainment center, right in the heart of the mountains.

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There are many hotels at Genting, but the parents wanted somewhere quiet, so we stayed at the Chin Swee Cave Temple Hotel, about 10 minutes from the hill top. The hotel/temple is built into the hillside, with some parts designed to follow the natural contours of the cave.

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We entered through the back entrance, through a small shrine. The lobby is on the 12th floor.

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View from lobby. The rooms were very basic, with no TV. We had to cram into a triple room (one double, one single bed) coz they didn’t have any more rooms. Reception was bad, let alone Wifi… this is truly a place to ‘get away’ from the city.

A quick rest and shower later, we drove up to First World Plaza, which is part of Resorts World Genting at the hilltop. The theme park has been closed for renovations and will reopen sometime next year as FOX Studios (wow!). For now, guests can enjoy the busy world-themed shopping center and numerous casinos within the complex.

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Why ‘world-themed’?Well, the complex has various replicas of landmarks from around the world, such as a stage with Times Square and a statue of Liberty in the middle. Some restaurants are also surrounded by a moat, like the canals of Venice, with bridges and arches running through them.

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Food in Genting is expensive. The cheapest options are the food court on the top floor, or fast food chains such as McDonalds. I love the fried chicken from Marrybrown, which is a homegrown fast food chain. They don’t have many branches in KL, so I have to have this while in Genting! 🙂 The chicken was fried to crispy, golden brown perfection and had salty, crunchy skin wrapped around juicy, tender and piping hot meat on the inside. The fries are well-salted, and I like that they have gravy to go with the meal. Idk why but Malaysians don’t seem to like gravy with their fried chicken. 😡

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There are loads of entertainment ‘centers’ in First World Plaza. You can get on rides, such as a mini reindeer ‘coaster’ and colorful flower ships on rails that give you a birds eye view of the place. There is also a Ripley’s Museum, a haunted house, Snow World, bowling center, and numerous arcades. The prices are all jacked up. Would be a nice place for youths, but since the parents weren’t impressed, we didn’t go for anything lol.

Bought some snacks to munch on at the hotel later, then headed back.

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It rained, so the weather was really cold. Temperatures regularly dip below 12C at night, so its a nice place to sleep.

How to Get There 

From KL Sentral, there are many buses/taxis that go up to Genting, and they shouldn’t cost over RM100. The ride takes about an hour. Alternatively, you can take a cab to the Skyway (cable car station) at Gohtong Jaya and ride it up the top.

 

Colmar Tropicale French Village, Bukit Tinggi Pahang

My mum had cataract surgery a few weeks ago. She’s been feeling cooped up in the house, so we took her for a short getaway to the hills of Pahang. Our first stop was Colmar Tropicale French Village in Bukit Tinggi, which is about an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur. It’s a perfect place to visit over the weekend, since it’s quite close to the city, but far enough to be a relaxing retreat.

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Owned by hospitality and entertainment conglomerate Berjaya Group, the Colmar Tropicale is a small enclave on top of the hill fashioned after a ‘French’ village. The moats have mallards and ducks, as well as black and white swans. There is a spa near the village, and the buildings are made to look like old castles and turrets.

Despite being quite high up in the hills, the place was sunny and warm – not much different from KL. By the time we got to the village, I was hot and sweaty. Global warming has not been kind on Malaysia’s mountains and hills. I think it’s partly due to deforestation and rapid development. It’s not so bad in Bukit Tinggi, since the resort is run by one private company, but in places like Cameron Highlands, a lot of land is being cleared by companies cashing in on the tourism and agricultural boom. More hotels, more farms, more ‘gardens’. A lot of news exposes have been done on illegal logging and the rape of the hills, but as usual, money wins in the end..

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But I digress.

Colmar Tropicale is small, with two rows of quaint-looking French-themed buildings, a watchtower and a ‘drawbridge’. The hotels are inspired by medieval designs, with suits of armour, wooden counters and charming old-style paintings decorating its walls.

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At first glance, it does look like a charming little French village -colorful windows and tiled, slanting roofs. And then you have the ‘ketupat’ light decorations from Hari Raya that have yet to be taken down.. 😛

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There are some chic cafes, French restaurants and bakeries scattered all around the area. But typical of tourist traps, everything is super pricey.

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A ‘wishing well’ which I did not throw any coins into lol.

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There seemed to be some team building/treasure hunt going on, as groups of people wearing the same type of T-Shirts were seen racing around the place, pointing and looking at maps.

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Tucked at the end of the street is a small funfair-like area with game booths where visitors can try to win stuffed doll prizes.

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View from halfway up the watchtower at the far end of the street. It’s about five storeys high and offers nice views of the valley below.

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View from the top.

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There is not a load of things to see or do here, but it’s good to stop by for an hour or two. Also, pretty photos!  If you’re around the area, there are other attractions like an Adventure Park, Japanese garden (we’ll be headed there next!), mini zoo and a temple which you can complete within the day.

Visitors to the Bukit Tinggi resort have to pay an entrance fee, which is RM13 per pax. Entrance to the Colmar is included, as is a visit to the Japanese Garden/Botanical Garden. Not sure about other attractions; you may have to pay separate fees.

 

Last Day

 

What would you do if it was your last day on Earth?  

 

Just a random thought that crossed my mind. 

I’d probably spend it with my family, and tell them I love them all very much.

The me before was too caught up with work, thinking that I had to sacrifice my time and my weekends for the sake of the job. If my boss asked me to do something (even if it meant giving up time with family) I’d never say no, because I always thought there’d be a next time for the fam.  I spent certain ‘special’ days, like Mothers’ Day, working. And it’s something I regret, because the time I’ve lost with them will never come back. These days, family always comes first for me and I find myself much happier even if it means I don’t have that much money to splurge on things I want.

We never know when we’ll be gone. Things happen. The most we can do right now, at this moment, is to make the best of it and live a life of no regrets.

 

Love, and live. 

 

 

Also, this music video.

 

Are You Sure You Don’t Want Children?

That’s a question I get a lot when the topic comes to bebehs (which is cropping up pretty often since I’m now in my mid 20s). My answer is always a resounding no – but society can’t seem to stop telling me what to do with my own life.

“You’re just not ready yet. You’ll come around” 

Or: “You’ll regret it when you’re older and there’s nobody to take care of you.” 

Or:“Your life as a woman is not complete until you’ve experienced the joys of motherhood.” 

 

To point 1: I felt the same way about babies as I did when I was 10 (annoying things), when I was 16 (annoying things) and when I was 21 (annoying things) – so I doubt there’d be a sudden change of heart. Some people love children, but I’ve never been comfortable with them. Some people are born with maternal instincts for kids. I was born with a maternal instinct for cats.

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Baby Chepp (left) five years ago. ❤

To point 2: That’s kind of a shaky investment, innit? Some children don’t even visit their parents once they’ve left the nest – there’s no guarantee that they’ll take care of you. Which is why I’m working hard so I don’t have to rely on my ‘kids’ to take care of me when I’m decrepit. It’s easier when you don’t have to blow like half a million in raising a child and saving for their college fees.

To point 3: I beg to differ. I’ve seen enough friends and colleagues to know that mothers look like perpetual zombies – especially those with new babies. The modern mother usually juggles work, kids and household chores – which is incredible, in my opinion. Maybe the joy you feel when your kid takes their first step makes you forget all the pain you suffered. It’s just not something I want to put myself through.

I don’t deny mothers sacrifice a lot for their children. Their dreams, their hopes, their time, sometimes even their wellbeing. I think it’s amazing, their capacity for love. But if I’m not 100% sure that I can love my own child that way, why even bring one into my life just because society tells me ‘its what life is about’? Life is not just about getting married, having babies, growing old and dying. If it is your choice, so be it. But life can be about so much more.

Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon@ Sunway Lagoon, Malaysia

As far as theme parks go in Malaysia, Sunway Lagoon takes the cake. Opened in 1997, the place is massive (I’d know. I ran a race here before and it left me half dead). Even though it’s pretty old, it hasn’t lost its appeal, attracting millions of visitors every year. The dry rides are meh (pirate ship, coaster, ferris wheel.. standard stuff), but the real winner is their wet theme park. Slides, tubes, 5D water theatres, surf beach, a massive Vuvuzela, wave machine… you name it, they got it.

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Image credit: Sunway Lagoon

And now….they’ve opened up a new section called Nickelodeon’s Lost Lagoon: the first Nickelodeon themed amusement park in Asia. Visitors can enjoy 14 new rides in addition to the existing ones at no extra charge. Of course, I couldn’t miss it when they invited me and my colleagues to attend the launch!

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From the surf beach entrance, it was a good 10min walk under the hot sun to the Lost Lagoon area. Thankfully, media gets star treatment and we were ferried right to the doorstep on a train. 🙂

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The entrance overlooks the pond/volcano structure sitting in the middle of Sunway Lagoon.

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Clowns and performers dressed in tribal costumes to suit the ‘Lost Lagoon’ theme greeted guests as part of the launching gimmick.

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This reminded me of that gameshow I used to watch as a kid called Legends of the Hidden Temple. Made to look like an ancient temple, there were animal motifs alongside weathered brick and overgrown tree trunks.

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Walking through an avenue lined with quirky fish statues.

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Souvenir shop. There were also food stalls where we got free flow of snacks.

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It was a very sunny day and the fan (?) did jack all to cool us lol.

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Media area. The VIPS arrived and gave their speeches.

The gazebos and decorations were a quirky mix of Nickelodeon and tribal motifs. Notice that the hut is shaped like a pineapple. I dont have to tell you which Nickelodeon character lives in a pineapple under the sea, right? 😀 The tree branch is obscuring it, but Spongebob was sitting right at the top of the water feature. Mascots of the well-loved cartoons including Dora the Explorer, Boots and Patrick Starfish also made an appearance.

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Slime time! The green bucket was filled with goo which poured onto a couple of poor kids at the bottom of the pool lol.

After that, we were given free reign of the park for the day so we could try out the rides! Colleagues and I changed into our wetsuits, dumped our stuff into the locker and headed out. They closed the Lagoon area until 2pm, so we went to the main water theme park area for the Vuvuzela ride.

Had an unpleasant experience with a staff member. I was wearing my glasses, and didn’t realise it wasn’t allowed on the ride. He stopped me at the bottom and said I had to remove them. There were no lockers nearby and I am blind as a bat without my glasses, so I told him I won’t be able to see. Mind you, I was perfectly civil.

“Oh, you can’t see ah? Then you can’t ride lah.” he said rudely.

Wow. I didn’t want to make a scene because we were there to have fun after all, so I looked at him, shook my head and said “You have great attitude”. Sunway Lagoon, you seriously need to look at training your staff to behave like human beings with manners…. especially a particular staff member manning the Vuvuzela ride at 1pm on Feb2.

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That unpleasant episode aside, we had loads of fun. Once the Lost Lagoon opened, we hopped on over there and went on the Jungle Fury. This was so fun we went on it twice. The first time felt dangerous because the staff actually pushed the tube into the slide before everyone was ready, and I barely hung onto the handles. The ride was so bumpy that I almost got thrown off a couple of times. But hey, that’s what made it adrenaline pumping!

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Image credit: Sunway Lagoon

There was a long line waiting for the Monsoon 360, where guests drop almost vertically down the slide. I was too chicken to go on this lol.

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Image credit: Sunway Lagoon

Last but not least, the Kurabango, which I also sat on twice. That steep drop on the right makes it feel as if your heart is flying out of your chest –  and just when you thought it was okay, your tube propels backwards again at top speed. Woot!

Also went on two other slides called Cobra Creek and Boa Constrictor – good, fun and exciting slides that get your blood running but won’t give you a heart attack.

The Lost Lagoon is a great addition to the existing water rides at Sunway Lagoon, and the good news is there is no extra charge. There’s a good balance of exhilarating (for you adrenaline junkies out there) and family-friendly (baby pools, small slides, etc for the kids) so I recommend coming here to experience it for yourself. 🙂

Tickets: Adult Malaysian (12 years and above – RM120), Child (RM96).

Opening hours : 10am – 6pm (Daily). Come during weekdays if possible, weekends are mad. Unless you don’t mind lining up for like an hour for one ride.

 

Things To Do At The Quezon Memorial Circle, Manila

One of the places I visited with E during my trip to Manila was the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City, Manila. We took a jeepney and got off opposite the circle/park, but couldn’t find a way to cross the road. We ended up circling around half of the park for a good 10mins, before realising that the underpass was where the jeepney dropped us off lol.

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First time riding a jeepney in the front passenger seat!

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The underpass to cross the highway is at the entrance to Quezon City Hall. The short, brightly lit walkway was lined with tourist information boards detailing the best places for entertainment and food in QC and beyond.

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Quezon Memorial Circle and its surrounding park was named after Manuel L.Quezon, the 2nd President of the Philippines who held a nine-year tenure from 1935-1944. The place was originally intended to be the seat of the Philippine government and plans were underway to build a Capitol building before it was interrupted by World War II. Today, it is a green park with many family-oriented attractions such as a museum, playground, biking trail, and a small theme park.

We entered through an avenue lined with flags from all over the world. It was cool and breezy under the trees.

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Some beauty queens were practicing their modeling and catwalk skills. An interesting article here on the beauty pageant industry in the Philippines.

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The main area of the Circle was huge and filled with people even on a weekday morning. Joggers, children on trikes, people walking dogs (a rare sight in Malaysian public parks due to religious sensitivities), college students practicing their dance or singing performances, MMA fighters doing training… a perfect place to sit and creep people watch.

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Zumba class in session.

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Towering over everything else, the main fixture at the Circle is the Quezon Memorial Shrine. It stands at 66ms tall, representing the death age of President Manuel Quezon. The sleek triangular structure, which is shaped like a three-pronged crown is topped by female angels holding the sampaguita (the national flower) wreaths – each dressed in a regional traditional costume to represent regions in the Phils, namely Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

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At the base of the structure is a museum dedicated to who else – Manuel L.Quezon. Entry is free but visitors can give a donation for its upkeep. Inside chronicles the history of Philippine independence, besides housing various historical artifacts and an insight into the life of the man himself. (Above) How the quarters of the first lady, Aurora Quezon, looked like.

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Quezon’s remains were re-interred here in 1979, and his wife’s at a later date. The huge dark tomb sits on a raised platform in the middle of a circular chamber which allows natural sunlight to filter in, lighting the tomb up like a halo.

During his time, Quezon made many reforms, including establishing a more uniform national language (Tagalog), education, agricultural, government and social sectors, as well as trade. In fact, the Phils enjoyed the best economy and trade it had seen since 1929, in Quezon’s time. This was brought to a halt when the Japanese invaded Manila in the 1940s. Quezon eventually died in exile in New York from tuberculosis at the age of 66.

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Outside the museum, the circle’s base had engravings that depicted important points of Filipino history.

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Cookies and cream – cold, milky and creamy. What more can one ask for on a hot day?

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Exploring more of the park. We stopped by at the Circle of Joy, a children’s playground complete with bicycle trail. Visitors can rent bikes, tricycles and tandem bikes for a fee.

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Had kebab and kalamares (only 5pesos each, that’s dirt cheap).

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A theme park area aptly named Circle of Fun, but it was closed during the day.

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Someone randomly left buckets of taho (soft sweet tofu) lying around ._.

Quezon Memorial Circle and its park is a good place for families and tourists as there are lots of things to see and do. It’s not the best kept (there were still patches of garbage around) but it’s clean enough and some spots are quiet and nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Quezon Memorial Circle 

R-7, Diliman, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines

Getting There 

Useful link here