Travelogue Manila: Explore Filipino History At Ayala Museum, Makati

As someone who loves history and culture, there’s one thing I really like about Manila – the museums! Not only are they full of interesting exhibits, they’re also pretty well maintained (well, at least the ones I’ve been to).  On my most recent visit, N and I visited Ayala Museum, located close to the Greenbelt shopping area in Makati.


Established in 1967, the museum is privately run by the Ayala Foundation, under the Ayala Group which is the oldest conglomerate in the Philippines. The museum was moved from a heritage building to its current location in the early 2000s. The impressive six-storey structure is made from glass, granite and steel and boasts a modern look.

There are four floors of galleries to explore. Photos are only allowed on the 2nd floor (dioramas), so please excuse the lack of pix.

Image: KINNARI. Surigao. Ca. 10th-13th century. 7.4 x 4.6 x 12.1 cm. 179 grams. Cat. No. 81.5189. Ayala Museum Collection, Photo by Neal Oshima, for Ayala Museum. 

We began our visit on the fourth floor, as advised. This level houses a permanent exhibition called Gold of Ancestors, which has over 1,000 gold objects from the pre-colonial Spanish era, on display.

Spanish influence plays a big part in Filipino history – and we can see that in the form of churches, religious artefacts and artworks – but I think that many people, Filipinos included, have not really delved into the rich indigenous culture that existed before the Spaniards came.

The GoA is a good place to start, as it not only highlights the advanced technology local cultures used in gold smithing, but also the sophisticated social systems they adopted.  The exhibition features precious objects recovered from the 10th to 13th centuries, from sashes and necklaces to bracelets and earrings. These were worn by the elite, and the more complicated the pieces, the more elite the person wearing it was in social standing. There is also a collection of funerary gold masks.

Also on the same floor is A Millennium Of Contact, home to an extensive collection of 500+ Chinese and Southeast Asian ceramics found in the Philippines  – proving that trade and social ties existed in the past between these nations.

Image details: BLUE AND WHITE TWIN BIRD WATER DROPPER. Ca. 14th to 15th century. Ming Dynasty. Roberto T. Villanueva Collection. 

Moving on, we made our way to the Fernando Zobel gallery, where a collection of his artwork in the 1960s are on display. A member of the prominent Zobel de Ayala family (of which the museum is named after), the works were done in his mid-thirties after Zobel decided to retire from the family business. Visitors can observe the change in his artistic style through the years, most of which were done in abstract form.


Aside from the Gold of Ancestors exhibit, my favourite part of the museum was the Dioramas section, which chronicled important events throughout Philippine history, from the stone age right up til modern times. Photos are allowed here, so enjoy!

(Above) A group of stone age men hunting a predecessor of the modern elephant.


Building rice terraces on the hill slopes.

I was really impressed by the effort put into constructing the dioramas. Even though the exhibits were static, it was fun picking out small details. Each set was arranged in chronological order around the hall (60 in total).


Arrival of Arab traders, which propagated the spread of Islam in the Philippines.


Construction of the University of Santo Tomas, the oldest university in the Philippines / Asia.


The Spanish invasion of the Muslim-dominated southern region.


Town scenes of early Manila


Malacanang Palace, which was built by the Spanish to house the Governor General of the Philippines as a summer home. Lavish balls ala Europe would be held here.


The Katipunan (also known as the KKK) was a group of revolutionaries opposed against Spanish rule. They have little in common with the American racist organisation KKK, although in this diorama the face masks look eerily similar.


The revolution spread through towns, hamlets and small villages.


The execution of Jose Rizal.

I’ve always felt that Rizal was a man beyond his time; a gifted polyglot who could speak 22 (!) languages and who excelled both in arts, math and the sciences. His death was a dark moment in history, but his is a story that proves that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. Although he was never part of the violent revolution, his ideas and work ignited a fire in the hearts of the Filipino people that could not be subdued.


There were loads of other sets depicting the American occupation, Philippine independence, Japanese invasion and more. You can view the full set of dioramas here.

Ayala Museum is a definite must visit for fans of arts, culture and history. Entry is PHP425 (USD8 / RM32) for adults. PS: Teachers enter for free!


Avenue corner De La Rosa Street, Greenbelt Park, Makati, Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines

Operating hours: 9AM – 6PM (closed Mondays)

Travelogue: We Met A Magical Cat Lady @ Ayala Triangle Gardens, Makati City

After our morning trip to Salcedo Market (blog post here), N and I had a lot of time to kill, so we took a walk around the central business district (CBD) of Makati.


One thing that strikes me each time I travel around Metro Manila is the huge disparity between CBD neighbourhoods such as Makati, Eastwood and Bonifacio Global City, and their surroundings.

On one hand, you have the general chaos of Metro Manila – honking jeepneys loading and unloading wherever they please, a thick layer of smog, garbage strewn along the streets, and pretty apparent poverty in some areas where kids run around half naked without shoes.


On the other, you have the clean, almost clinical orderliness of the CBDs, with its nicely landscaped gardens, wide roads and pavements, glitzy malls and high-rise offices. It’s like entering another country altogether.

It reminded me a lot of LA, where you have ‘hood’ areas like Skid Row, with the homeless pushing carts asking for change, versus the glamorous excess and gigantic mansions of Beverley Hills.

Not saying we don’t have income disparity in Malaysia, because we do, but I think the contrast is particularly striking because of how visible it is.


A monument of Sultan Kudarat, a Philippine national hero who ruled Mindanao in the 17th century. He fought against Spanish invaders and prevented the spread of Roman Catholicism in the southern regions, which is why the area still has a large population of Muslims today.


Another monument nearby is that of Gabriela Silang, the first Filipina to lead a revolt against Spain. Born in the early 18th century, she married Diego Silang, a revolutionary leader. After his murder, she led troops in his stead – earning the title Generala – but was captured and publicly hanged by the Spanish. Today, she is remembered as a heroine. Here, she is depicted on horseback wielding a bolo, a traditional Filipino machete.



The Peninsula Manila, a five star luxury hotel. Apparently a ‘siege’ happened here in 2007, when a senator and a group of officers charged with mutiny walked out of their trial and occupied the hotel’s second floor. They were joined by some civilians and other military personnel supportive of their cause to overthrow what they said was the corrupt regime of President Gloria Arroyo. The coup ended with the military storming the lobby, as an armored tank crashed through its glass doors. Looking at it now, it’s hard to imagine such an event took place!





Emerging at a tree-lined avenue.


We decided to walk through Ayala Triangle Gardens – a nicely landscaped area with lots of greenery and shady trees. The park offered some respite from the humid, scorching Manila heat. There were people practicing Arnis (a Filipino martial art) on the green, an expat honing his football skills, and also this lady:



I’m guessing she must be a feeder because she had a bag of kibbles. As she rustled it, a clowder of cats came out from behind trees and shrubs, and started following her around with their tails high in the air. There must have been at least 7 or 8 of them! GIVE ME ALL THE KITTIES 


Well maintained park


An impressive archway with a bridge connecting two buildings.


Arrived at Ayala Greenbelt, a series of posh malls where you can find high end brands like Gucci, Prada, etc. I liked how they designed the area to be green and full of trees – like an oasis amid the gaggle of glitzy malls.



Mostly restaurants along an open-air stretch of mall.


A pond with koi fish, popular with families in spite of the sweltering heat.

If you’re looking for a respite from the hustle and bustle of Manila, the Ayala Triangle Gardens and Greenbelt Malls is a great place to hangout and enjoy the greenery, pop in to the buildings for some air conditioning when it gets too hot, do some shopping and indulge in food.


Paseo De Roxas St Cor Makati Ave, Cor Ayala Ave, Makati, 1209 Metro Manila, Philippines

Travelogue: Saturdays At Salcedo Market, Makati

Hey guys!

So it’s my fourth time visiting Manilayou’d think I’d be bored and running out of things to do by now – but this city has a way of surprising me.


Morning was overcast, but the Boy and I decided there was enough sun to go visit Salcedo Market – an open-air artisan/organic/food market located in the heart of Makati.

Held every Saturday at Salcedo Village, which is a nice green plot surrounded by condominiums, the market hosts dozens of stalls peddling everything from fresh seafood and handicrafts to flowers and organic local produce. It isn’t very large, but there’s plenty to see and experience (and eat!).


Different kinds of fresh seafood: shrimp, catfish, milkfish, squid, crab, eel, even tuna eggs.


You can also find ‘exotic’ dishes like fried pigeon!


Tropical fruits – pomelo, jackfruit, rambutan, lychee and longan, mangoes – and not so tropical fruits, like strawberries and cherries.


Stall selling honey and honey-related products. They even had a honeycomb panel with live bees in it.


Traditional ice cream cart, complete with brightly painted exterior and carriage-style wheels.


You’ll also find fancy stuff at the market, like Lobster Rolls. At PHP500++ per roll, this is for those who want to splurge but still get that ‘street’ food vibe.


Cheeses, spreads, dips and pate. Interesting flavours!



My mom had this running joke about how I’m actually European in my past life because I like bread > rice


All that walking around and smelling the food got me hungry, so we stopped at this stall selling lechon wrap with plum sauce. The wrap was ala Chinese – thin and filled with spring onions and vegetables – and then there was the tender, moist juiciness of the meat and the crisp of the skin. Explosion of flavours and textures in the mouth.

Only qualm was it cost PHP85 which is quite expensive, and the wrap was gone in a bite 😀


You’ll find different kinds of cuisine here! We saw a lot of Spanish-influenced dishes, traditional Filipino items, even a Malaysian (!) stall selling curry –  alongside Japanese takoyaki, pizza, grilled sausages, etc.

I had chicken isaw (intestines), cooked on the grill to order. Unfortunately no picture :/


Stuffed fish. These are also cooked to order on the grill.


Boy and I got a taho (silky tofu dessert) to share. This is very similar to the Malaysian-Chinese tau foo far, although the Filipino version is much sweeter and adds sago pearls. Vendors usually scoop the soft tofu out of a large metal bucket, and ladles the syrup from another.


I really enjoyed my time at Salcedo Market ! It’s reminiscent of the farmers markets/organic markets in Western countries, but with a local touch. We don’t have too many markets of this kind in Malaysia: there’s usually pasar pagi (morning wet markets) and pasar malam (night markets selling food or cheap clothing). There were many expats doing the rounds during our visit. I can see myself coming here every weekend if I stayed in the area.


Jaime C. Velasquez Park, Salcedo Village, Makati, Kalakhang Maynila, Philippines

Open: 7AM til 2PM Saturdays