As a child, my parents encouraged me to read a lot, even though they aren’t readers themselves. We weren’t rich, but they’d buy books for me whenever they had money to spare, so I had no shortage of Peter & Jane books and Enid Blyton novels. For that I am truly grateful. Because without books and the magic of imagination and wonder, I would not be who I am today.
Course, I think my mom regrets it immensely, now that the house is running out of space to store my books lol.
But I digress.
A friend’s daughter had her birthday recently, and since she likes reading (a rare thing among kids these days, I think!), I thought of sending her a book. A Neil Gaiman title if I could find it. But since my friend lives in the Philippines, I had to look for a store/retailer that could deliver there.
I first went to Amazon, but apparently it has a policy whereby books, music, video and DVD products can’t be shipped internationally (coz of copyright issues). Same thing with sites like Kobo and Kindle (even the e-version! If you’re in a different country, it only allows you to read it in that country wtf).
After what felt like hours (and getting annoyed that we’re in 2020 and it isn’t even convenient to buy a fahking book to gift to someone overseas) I ended up at the website of Fully Booked, a books and stationery retailer in the Philippines. Their flagship store in Bonifacio Global City, Manila, is known for its cool lifestyle-oriented aesthetic; similar to how BookXCess is like here in Malaysia. They also have an online arm, and they ship within the Philippines. Perfect!
The site is easy to navigate and offers a seamless online shopping experience. Books are sorted by category (children’s books, fiction, non-fiction, lifestyle, art & design, etc.), and they also have a tab for special collections and bestsellers. If you know the title/author you’re looking for, there’s a search bar you can use to navigate the site. Aside from books, Fully Booked also carries stationery, totes, clothing and novelties, as well as toys and games.
After selecting your order and adding them to cart, simply key in your details and check out. Payment can be done via (for those in the Philippines) Dragonpay through options like Over-the-Counter Bank Deposits and Over-the-Counter Non-bank payments, and credit card. Since I’m based in Malaysia, I chose Paypal as my mode of payment, and it automatically converted the currency from RM when deducting the amount (this is based on standard international conversion). You can also choose to pay via Cash on delivery, provided you have a minimum order of PHP799. Free shipping is also available for orders above that amount.
Once I made the order, I received an email confirming my purchase, along with a tracking number. It takes about three to five working days to process, after which they’ll send another email informing you that the shipment is on its way.
All in all, I think it took about five days in total for the book to arrive, which is quite efficient!
I originally wanted to get Coraline, but it wasn’t available, so I chose a lesser known Gaiman title which I thought she would enjoy.
Cinnamon is a picture book set in a make-believe place in India. It talks about a talking tiger, who is the only one who may be able to get a mute princess to speak. Illustrated by Divya Srinivisan, the book is full of colourful illustrations that both adults and children can enjoy.
I was glad to hear that she enjoyed reading it – and that it piqued her curiosity about Indian culture. That’s another great thing about reading : it encourages us to broaden our minds, and with that, our understanding of the world.
So that was my review of using Fully Booked for the first time. Even if you don’t live in the Philippines, I think it’s fairly convenient to buy something from Fully Booked as a gift for someone there. The only downside is that you can’t give it as a ‘surprise’, since you’ll need to key in their contact details.
PS: Thank you Mr.A for the photos!
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I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – I have a love-hate relationship with Manila.
On one hand, I love how culturally rich and historical it is, with its museums, churches and art galleries (And Jollibee, of course!). On the other, I’m not a fan of its insane traffic, the pollution, and the fact that its one of the most densely populated cities in the world. It’s extremely difficult to find a quiet space.
Having been here several times, I often get friends asking me if Manila is worth visiting (for many Malaysians, the Philippines is not as popular as other S/E Asian destinations like Thailand or Indonesia – and if they do visit, it’s usually to Boracay). My answer is always “It depends on what you like.” If you’re thinking the type of packaged cultural offerings you often get in Bali or Chiang Mai, or a beach getaway (because Manila is by the sea right? lol), then you will be disappointed. Manila is not a place to ‘get away from it all’. But if you’re up for a bit of urban adventure in a chaotic and colourful city…then Manila has a certain charm.
While quarantine restrictions are still in place due to COVID, that doesn’t stop you from planning for your next adventure. Since June 24 marks Manila Day – commemorating the 449th anniversary when Manila was proclaimed as Spain’s capital city in the Philippines – I’ve made a list of my favourite places to visit! For those who have never been to Manila, this will give you a good idea of what to expect.
If you’re new to Manila, Intramuros is undoubtedly the best place to learn about the city’s rich history. Dating back to the late 1500s, this old walled city has walls that are at least two-metres thick and six metres high, and is home to many historical landmarks, from churches and gardens to old mansions and museums. You can walk around the impressive stone ramparts, some parts of which have cannons on them, or ride around in horse-drawn carriages called kalesa.
SAN AGUSTIN CHURCH
One of my favourite places to visit in the area is the San Agustin Church, which was founded as a monastery by Augustinian monks. Part church, part museum complex, the building has a sad and haunting beauty, with austere stone hallways and sombre oil paintings. This is in stark contrast to the church proper, which features stunning architecture rivalling the grand churches of Europe. There are also galleries filled with religious artefacts and even a crypt. If you’re a history nerd like me, a visit to San Agustin is a must.
BALUERTE SAN DIEGO / SAN DIEGO GARDENS
The San Diego Gardens is one of those rare oases in Manila that offer a quiet respite, with tranquil European-style lawns and fountains that make it popular as a wedding photoshoot venue. The Baluerte San Diego, a small fort within the gardens, is the oldest structure within Intramuros. Its purpose was to ensure a clear view of the place and prepare against invaders. Back in the day it had all the facilities: courtyard, water supply tank, lodging and workshops – but all that remains of what must have once been a thriving fort are bare brick and stone.
The story of Jose Rizal fascinates me. I am no revolutionary, but as a writer, there is something very moving about how Rizal’s writing set a fire in the hearts of the Filipino people that eventually led to their fight for freedom against their Spanish oppressors. His story is a true embodiment of how the pen is mightier than the sword.
Fort Santiago is where Rizal was housed before his execution in 1896, and visitors to the fort will see a pair of bronze footprints embedded in the ground and leading out to the gate – said to retrace Rizal’s last footsteps. Inside the fort, you will also find a shrine/museum dedicated to this Philippine National Hero, which contains various memorabilia including poetry pieces, letters he wrote to family and friends, replicas of sculptures, paintings and more.
PLAZA SAN LUIS
One of the items on my bucket list is to visit Vigan, a town known for its Spanish colonial architecture. In Manila, you have Plaza San Luis, a complex that contains five houses, a museum, theatre, hotel, souvenir shops and eateries. Since Intramuros was nearly levelled during the war, many of the old homes were destroyed, and the homes here have been replicated to represent different eras in Filipino-Hispanic architecture. The overall colonial feeling of the place – with its quaint courtyards and staircases – makes it easy to believe that you are peeking through a window in time. You can almost believe that some rich young ladies in traditional Filipinianas, giggling behind their fans in the summer heat while out for an afternoon stroll, are just about to round the corner.
This cathedral was rebuilt a whopping eight times – it kept getting destroyed by fires, earthquakes and whatnot. While the architecture is not as grand as St Agustin, I like the stained glass art that it has, as well as the replica of Michelangelo’s La Pieta in which Mary cradles the broken body of Christ.
A short distance away from Intramuros is Rizal Park, one of Manila’s few green areas. Like many old parts of Manila, it teems with history – hundreds of nationalists were executed here during Spanish rule, including Jose Rizal. It is fitting then, that the Philippine Declaration of Independence from America was read in this spot, and that the park was named after the revolutionary himself. When Pope Francis visited the Philippines and conducted a mass at the park, six million people turned up – that’s 1/5 of Malaysia’s population! While I wouldn’t say Rizal Park is the best park I’ve ever been to (litter is a problem), I think it’s a great place to visit if you’re sick of Manila’s endless malls. There are a few smaller parks within like the Nayong Filipino which are nice to explore.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY
With it’s tall, white-washed Corinthian columns and wooden doors, the grand-looking National Museum of Anthropology (aka Museum of the Filipino People) is hard to miss and is just a stone’s throw away from Rizal Park. Part of the National Museums of the Philippines, it houses the anthropology and archaeology divisions, spanning five floors. Coming from Malaysia where we have pretty lame museums (sorry, got to call a spade a spade), I was blown away by the quality of Manila’s major museums. The quality of the exhibits, as well as how they are arranged (with sections dedicated to indigenous art and culture, the history of the Philippines during the colonial era, etc.) offer interesting insights into the development of modern Filipino society.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS
Filipinos are artistic people – there’s even a stereotype about how all Filipinos are good at singing and dancing (these people have obviously never met my husband) – and art has always been a way for the people to express themselves, even in times of oppression.
The National Museum of Fine Arts, which is housed in the former Legislative Building, is a testament to this creativity and resilience, with works by national artists such as Juan Luna, Félix Resurrección Hidalgo and Guillermo Tolentino. In fact, when you walk in, the first thing you will be greeted with is an almost floor-to-ceiling work of Juan Luna Y Novicio’s Spoliarium – possibly one of the Philippines’ most popular pieces of art. The gallery is filled with artistic treasures, most of which reflect the country’s European-influenced past, and there are pieces that are so intricate and detailed, you can’t help but marvel at the level of craftsmanship that went into creating them. It’s definitely a place that you can get lost in for hours.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
Another must-visit is the National Museum of National History, which has a very picturesque central court that boasts a structure called the DNA Tree of Life, as well as loads of interesting exhibits on nature and geology in the Philippines. There are sections dedicated to botany and entomology, marine life, mangroves and more. Even if you’re not into natural history, the architecture of the building alone is worth dropping by for.
I try to visit the local Chinatown whenever I visit a foreign country. Idk, call it a subconscious need to reconnect with my roots or whathaveyou, lol.
Manila’s Chinatown, Binondo, is the oldest in the world, dating back to 1594. Its narrow, chaotic streets, with its haphazard signboards and buildings, can feel claustrophobic, but it has a charm of its own. What I like about Binondo? The food. There are legendary establishments here that have been in the same family for generations, such as Eng Bee Tin – known for their hopia (a type of pastry) and tikoy (sticky rice cake – in Malaysia we call it niangao). If you’re here, look out for a shop called Ling Nam, which serves mami noodles (plain or with pork asado) – I stumbled across this gem purely by chance. There are many restos around the area that I haven’t had the chance to try yet, so I’m looking forward to another visit!
Like many major cities in Southeast Asia, traffic in Kuala Lumpur is pretty bad. The distance between my home and the office is about 20 kilometres, and I spend about an hour getting to work, and 1.5 hours to get home. This will stretch to two hours when it rains, or if it’s a Friday evening.
Traffic congestion has been a long standing problem in Malaysia, especially in the Klang Valley. We are a nation of drivers – almost every household in urban areas has at least one car. Malaysians reportedly have one of the highest rates of car ownership in the world. It’s not because we like cars (who wants to be tied down with loans and whatnot, especially since our cars aren’t that cheap either) – but it’s a necessity. Getting from place to place is simply too inconvenient if you don’t have one.
The way I see it, the major issue is connectivity. For example, the area I live in has no buses servicing the route, and the nearest train station is 25 minutes (on foot), with no pavements to walk on (you’ll have to walk on the road where you’re at risk of being run over by a truck or some shit). This is true for many housing estates, so the only way one is able to travel conveniently is to get a car (or a motorbike). Even when using public transportation, it is often unreliable. I used to travel from my home to my college (about 40 kilometres away), which would involve me getting up at 5.30AM (my dad would drop me off at the train station on his way to work), catching the train at 6.30AM, and arriving at school at 8AM. When I had to go home, I’d take the train and switch to a bus (the journey would take up to 3 hours) and I still couldn’t get right to my doorstep because it would be a 30 minute walk on unpaved roads again – I had to wait for my dad to come pick me up.
These days, there is Grab – but the government has been regulating the system and as a result, many people have quit being Grab drivers, and the supply is limited. Longer waiting times aside, there has also been a surge in price. There have been calls from certain parties to promote carpooling by banning single drivers (which is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard), but until the day they can have better urban planning (don’t build housing estates THEN think about transportation; sane people do it the other way around) and better connectivity, I doubt there will be a solution to our transportation woes.
Then again, I just need to take a trip to Manila to remind myself that we have it much better than they do. Visiting N there has been a nightmare the last couple of times; like the time we got stuck in a flood which took us 5 hours to get from the Museum of Natural History back to our hotel near the airport: a distance of 12 kilometres. Also, breathing in diesel fumes from jeepneys, being squished like a sardine in the vehicle, sweating from pores I didn’t even know existed, and such. Yep. Gimme KL traffic any day.
Has it only been a month since my Manila trip? It feels like ages ago :’D
Maybe it’s because I can’t wait to go back so I can
gorge on Frankie’s buffalo wings spend quality time with the Boy again. LDR isn’t an ideal arrangement, but fingers crossed that we won’t have to do this for much longer.
But I digress.
While in town recently, the Boy and I stayed for two-nights at the Manila Marriott Hotel, a five-star luxury accommodation located in Pasay, just a stone’s throw away from Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Convenient location aside, the hotel boasts a slew of facilities, including 570 modern guest rooms and suites, several restaurants and bars, a rooftop pool, and the brand’s signature Quan Spa.
One thing in common with many Marriott hotels all over the world is their modern yet elegant decor, as well as connectivity. Apart from having ballrooms and meeting spaces, most of these establishments are linked to malls and/or entertainment centers. Manila Marriott Hotel is accessible via a covered walkway to the Resorts World Manila shopping area and casinos.
Our premium room was extremely spacious, with a king-sized bed complete with fluffy duvets and pillows, large TV with good selection of channels, coffee-making machine, complimentary tea, mini bar and work table. Furnishings were sleek and modern, employing use of white marble countertop surfaces paired against dark wooden flooring and furniture and grey carpeting.
What I really liked: international sockets – so you don’t have to bring a travel adapter along! You can also charge your devices using the USB port, without the three or two-pronged charger head.
Stocked mini bar.
Bathrobes in the closet all fluffed and ready. They also have complimentary shoe-shining services.
Another thing I really liked – the bathtub! There was a big glass window separating the bathroom from the bedroom, and a shade you could pull down at the touch of a button if you need privacy.
Very spacious, branded amenities from Thann in the bathroom.
Resorts World Manila is just a short walk away through a connecting passageway! Very convenient. Although, if you aren’t planning on dining at the hotel, food options are rather pricey/limited.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to try any of the facilities because we came back late on the second night after getting caught in a flash flood and conked out almost immediately after getting back to our room. There is, however, a nice pool we got to check out, as well as gym facilities.
More on the breakfast buffet in a separate post!
Rooms start at PHP8,000 (RM612 – USD150) per night.
MANILA MARRIOTT HOTEL
2 Resort Dr, Manila, 1309 Metro Manila, Philippines
Reservations: +63 2 988 9999
*erisgoesto was invited as a guest to stay at Manila Marriott Hotel in exchange for a review in Going Places Magazine (goingplacesmagazine.com). Views here, however, are entirely my own.
On my last night in Manila, N’s sister brought us out to 75 Lilac Cafe + Kitchen in Marikina for dinner (thank you for the meal, ate!).
Specialising in Western and Filipino fusion cuisine, expect dishes the likes of Wagyu Salpicado with Tofu and Carne Asada Tacos as well as more traditional takes of pasta, pizza and Crispy Pata.
The resto is located within a commercial block facing the street, so parking is rather limited.
The place exudes homely vibes, with warm ambient lights, assorted frames, brick walls and unfinished concrete flanking colourful chairs and diner-style couches. Guests will also find various posters and decorative quotes/pictures hanging from the wall.
We kicked off the meal with an appetiser of salted egg chicken lollipops (PHP200 – RM15). The portions were generous, but the chicken was rather bland despite its creamy disposition. After the excellent experience(s) at Frankie’s, this was quite meh on my list.
I’ve had traditional sinigang at N’s house, but I’ve never tried Sizzling Sinigang (PHP380 – RM29), which is one of 75 Lilac’s specialties. Served on a hotplate with the sauce still bubbling, thick cuts of tender beef short ribs are stewed with French beans, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, bokchoy and sinigang gravy. The tangy sourness of the gravy, with strong tamarind overtones, whets the appetite and is the ultimate companion for rice.
Our second main was the Sigarilyas Sa Gata with pork belly (PHP380 – RM29): essentially crispy pork belly on a bed of sigarilyas (winged beans) cooked in coconut milk, cherry tomatoes and chilli oil. The crunchy winged beans are the perfect complement to the soft, melt-in-your-mouth tenderness of the pork belly with a crispy crust, bathed in fragrant coconut milk. I couldn’t get enough of the sauce, I was still sopping it up even when the rice had run out 😀
Awesome layer of fatty goodness.
Verdict: 75 Lilac delivered on 2/3 of the dishes we ordered, and for such a setting, was reasonably priced.
- Food: 7.5/10
- Ambience: 8/10
- Service: 8/10
75 LILAC CAFE + KITCHEN
75 Lilac St, Marikina, 1800 Metro Manila, Philippines
Opening hours: 9AM – 10PM (weekdays), 7AM – 11PM (Sat-Sun)
Now, now. Am I REALLY going to blog about going to an arcade?
Yes. Yes I am. 😀
While I enjoy the finer things in life once in awhile (like an expensive, romantic dinner date), I’m not averse to a fun day out at the arcade either. In fact, there’s nothing I like more than a guy who can play some FPS or shoot a few hoops with me – so it’s great that the Boy is one of those that doesn’t mind my childishness. 😛
After lunch at Razons, we went to kill some time at World of Fun @ St Lucia Mall, a massive entertainment center that’s almost like a mini theme park, complete with a small roller coaster, bumper car rides, ghost house and merry go-round. There was also a section dedicated to carnival games where you can win prizes like stuffed toys, and the clippy vending machines where you can try your luck fishing out ice cream, sweets and other goodies.
I’m impressed with the variety of machines and games here! It’s rare to find such a large arcade in Malaysia.
Convinced the Boy to go on the small roller coaster; no mean feat since he has a fear of riding in coasters. We survived!
Managed to finish the Walking Dead arcade game, then spent the remaining coins trying to grab ice cream from the pincer machine but failed. 😀
There was a karaoke corner where you can go on a mini stage and ‘perform’ to a crowd.
Random PS: Ended the trip with a visit to KFC because the Boy says that it’s different in Manila vs KL because they have awesomesauce, unlimited gravy. Agreed – the chicken was tastier, somehow, and less greasy.
This goes to both locals and visitors to Manila: If you haven’t been to the National Museum of Natural History at Rizal Park, then you should.
Why? Well, it’s awesome!
Originally built in a neoclassical style in the 1940s as the Agriculture and Commerce Building, the structure was destroyed during World War II, and subsequently rebuilt to house the Department of Tourism. They eventually moved out in 2015, as per an agreement to convert some of the heritage buildings in the area to form a museum complex, and so here we are. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend paying a visit to other attractions nearby, namely the National Art Gallery and the National Museum of Anthropology.
The hype has been massive since the museum opened in May, and lines are still long, even on a weekday. While waiting, admire the beautiful architecture of the entrance hall, with its neoclassical arches and honeycombed ceiling. Large bags and backpacks have to be deposited at the security counter before entry.
Emerge into the cavernous main hall, with the DNA Tree Of Life at its epicenter. Towering six storeys high, the double helix steel structure houses an elevator and spreads out into a distinctive ‘canopy’ of ‘leaves’ and ‘branches’.
Alternatively, visitors can walk up each floor via ramps on one side of the hall.
The hall is also decorated with giant tapestries of animals endemic to the Philippines, such as the Philippine eagle, the tarsier and the Philippine cattle.
Even if you’re not a history/natural history buff, the architecture alone is worth coming for. Explore the spacious hallways lit with warm, yellow light, and marvel at the exquisitely patterned marble flooring, beautiful wainscoting and steel-wrought windows and railings.
The Ayala Hall is where visitors will find the skeleton of Lolong, certified by the Guinness World Records as the largest crocodile in captivity. Measuring a behemoth 6.17 metres and weighing over a tonne, the croc was estimated to be about 50 years old when it was captured in 2011. It succumbed to pneumonia and cardiac arrest just two years later.
A replica of Lolong near the main entrance.
Divided according to ‘themes’, there are loads of things to see and do in the museum. We explored a hall dedicated to the documentation of botany and entomology, where there were butterfly and insect specimens on display, as well as elaborate scientific drawings hanging from the walls that would not have looked out of place at a fine art gallery!
Get hands on at this fun section where you can sketch your own tree/plant
Excuse the sweaty hair/face; the air conditioning wasn’t strong and we just came from commuting lol.
The Dr Jose Rizal foyer, beautiful in its simplicity.
More attempts at hipster photo fails.
There was a section dedicated to the Nilad mangrove; recreating the area around Manila and its rich biodiversity pre-Hispanic rule through taxidermied wildlife exhibits.
Moving on, another area showcased the rich biodiversity of the Philippine seas, complete with giant replicas of marine life dangling from the ceiling and a mini submarine.
There are a total of six floors in the building; although during our visit only four were open. I strongly suggest coming on a weekday to avoid the crowds, and allocate at least half a day to really immerse yourself into the exhibits, all of which are nicely done and catalogued.
Entrance as of July 2018 is free.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY MANILA
Teodoro F. Valencia Circle, Ermita, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila, Philippines
Opening hours: 10AM – 5PM, closed Mondays
**Wowowow and why has it been a couple of days since my last post? Well, life happened. lel
Hey guys! I’m back with another edition of ErisGoesTo Manila ! This time we explore the Metropolitan Museum, located within the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Complex along Roxas Boulevard in Malate. Founded in the 1970s, the building is home to various modern and contemporary visual art pieces by both local and international artists.
We were there on a weekday so the place was empty. MORE FOR ME
Photos were only allowed on the ground floor.
There are currently two ongoing exhibitions on display. The first, FASCINATION WITH FILIPINIANA: THE VARGAS COLLECTION (running until July 27 2018) features works collected by lawyer and diplomat Jorge Vargas, including art, books, coins, memorabilia and stamps gathered before, during and after the Pacific War. Also running concurrently is IN THE WAKE OF WAR AND THE MODERN: MANILA, 1941 TO 1961, which focuses on the relationship between Vargas and the city of Manila, in particular during and after the Japanese period.
Scenes depicting simple village life
Pulubing Nagbibilang ng Kanyang Kita (Beggar Counting His Earnings) by Demetrio Diego, pen and ink on paper, undated
Pabasa (reading of scriptures), by the same artist
Portrait of Manuel E Roxas by Pedro Coniconde, pen and ink on Bristol Board.
This was one of my favourite pieces. If you zoom into the piece, you’ll see that he made the portrait by overlapping the pen strokes over and over again to form coherent lines and an overall picture. Amazing work! I also liked the juxtaposition of different images in the background.
Kubo sa tabi ng Puno ng Duhat (Nipa Hut Beside a Duhat Tree) by Jorge Pineda, 1929, oil on canvas depicts a very traditional village scene. The colours were subdued and muted, which is something I noticed with Philippine art from the era; perhaps influenced art deco palettes.
A poster for the Philippine National Bank, done during the Japanese occupation, urging citizens to exchange their currency at the bank for legal money. This propaganda poster has disturbing parallels to the ones produced in Malaya during the same period; and we all know how that turned out. I think we still have the ‘banana money’ handed down by my grandmother – ie money that was virtually worthless during the war because inflation skyrocketed to crazy heights.
One of the more vibrant pieces imo: Dragon Procession by Diosdado Lorenzo, oil on wood board, undated – showing a scene from Binondo aka Manila’s Chinatown.
Pictures were not allowed on the second floor, which houses The Philippine Contemporary: To Scale the Past and the Possible permanent exhibition highlighting modern and contemporary art.
Let’s just say that we enjoyed the first floor better. Some of the pieces were good, but there were also some which made no sense – but I guess that’s what art is? Open to interpretation? 😀
Entry is PHP100 per pax, which isn’t too expensive imo so if you’re ever in the area and looking to appreciate some Filipino art, the Metropolitan Museum of Manila is a good place to go.
METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF MANILA
BSP Complex, Roxas Blvd, Malate, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines
Opening hours: 10AM – 530PM, closed Sundays
Phone: +63 63 250 5271