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Where to Go in Metro Manila to Feel Like You’re in a Rom-Com

by Danna Peña

If you think romance is dead and gone, this isn’t for you. Or if you do share that sentiment, hopefully this list would convince you otherwise.

Living in busy, on-the-go Manila can feel overwhelming to say the least, but if you know where to look, the city is rife with avenues, corners, and nooks fit for romance.

When was the last time you sparked a gleam in your date’s eyes? Try going on lesser-known dates that serve as a breath of fresh air from crowded malls, expensive restaurants, and monotonous Netflix and chill sessions. Besides immersing in a different setting, you can have a delightful time learning about your date, too—and you can do so in a light-hearted and unassuming fashion that would put the Before Sunrise trilogy to shame.

Swoon over your special someone without the need for a blockbuster budget, and start planning that special rom-com-esque date that will have you falling in love all over again long after the credits roll. We’ve compiled places and activities that would make you two feel like stars of a modern-day romantic comedy—sans missed goodbyes at the airport, long sad faces of contemplation, and overt displays of undying affection.

(Plus, these picks are perfect for solo fliers, too, because whoever said you can’t be the hero or heroine of your very own love story?)

Contemplate art, history, or science at a museum

INSTAGRAM: mglcrl

Looking for a meaningful and pride-eliciting pursuit? Visiting Manila’s several museums is a no-brainer, not only because it’s a culturally savvy choice, but because doing so instills a sense of pride—depending on which museum you visit, you wouldn’t believe how rich in art, history, and biodiversity the nation is. Museums are pervasive in Manila, making it the perfect locale for museum hopping, long winding conversations, and getting to know your date a little better. Best of all? Most museums in Manila are free-for-all!

Our current favorite: The National Museum of Natural History, which recently opened its doors last May 2018. Upon entering the National Museum of Natural History’s wide, airy spaces and taking in the breathtaking neoclassical architecture, visitors are greeted by an immense, picturesque DNA helix-shaped elevator named the Tree of Life, which at some point may have already invaded your social media feeds. Walk your way through five of its floors and bask in the Philippines’ rich biodiversity and ecosystem. Don’t forget to engage in its interactive exhibits and visit its open library, too.

DG Tip: Wear comfortable shoes and strategically plan your mode of transportation since parking is limited in the area. It’s best to visit on a weekday or be first in line on weekends.

The National Museum of Natural History
Teodoro F. Valencia Circle
Ermita, Manila

Central Museum Visitor Operations Division:
(0929) 457 3286
(0966) 330 5931
cmvod.nationalmuseum@gmail.com

Catch a local film at lesser-known theaters

INSTAGRAM: iankidd11

Although Netflix, YouTube, and other streaming sites can be convenient, we suggest going for the more romantic, unconventional choice of heading out to an independent cinema for a unique and soul-enriching experience. There’s something quite intimate and rom-com-like about catching a local indie film in a micro-cinema: only a select few moviegoers, a cozy setup, and exclusive access to less-publicized yet nonetheless brilliant films—it’s as if you and your date are in on a well-kept secret.

Our current favorite: We love Black Maria Cinema in Mandaluyong, a 40-seater micro-cinema that showcases both local and independent films. Other well-loved indie cinemas include Cinema Centenario along Maginhawa, Cinema 76 in San Juan, and Cinematheque Center in Manila. Apart from being situated beside a coffee shop, another great thing about Black Maria Cinema is that they offer ice-cold beer. Cheers to that!

DG Tip: Before going to an independent cinema, check its official social media pages for their movie schedules. Also, if they don’t have ticket reservations, it’s best to come early to secure your seats.

Black Maria Cinema
779 San Rafael St, Mandaluyong
(02) 782 4566

Have a leisurely stroll at the park

INSTAGRAM: snapshotsbykevin

After being plunged into Manila’s hellish traffic time and time again, the sight of a park’s sprawling greenery is always a breath of fresh air. For your next date, set aside an afternoon with a special someone where you two can actually immerse and fully enjoy the scenery. Some sweet bonuses: visiting parks requires no entrance fee, is a low-impact activity to the environment, and is simply beneficial to your overall well-being.

Our current favorite: We recommend Washington SyCip Park near Greenbelt, nestled in Legazpi Village, Makati. If you visit on a Sunday, make sure to drop by the Legazpi Market, a short 5-minute walk from the park where you can shop a fusion of food choices and artisan crafts. Sit on a bench, dine al fresco, and chat about anything and everything under the sun. Talk about a walk in the park!

DG Tip: Wearing flowy skirts and dresses may make for cute photos, but it’s best to wear breeze-proof clothes for those unpredictable gusts of wind. To avoid being inconvenienced by Manila’s hot weather, go in the early morning or late afternoon when it’s typically cooler. Also, it might be handy to bring a blanket in case you can’t find any benches in the park—or if all of them are taken.

Washington SyCip Park
Legaspi St., Legaspi Village, Makati

Enjoy a cup of joe over conversations at a café

INSTAGRAM: bhemdumsie

Forget dressing to the nines for a night at a swanky restaurant. Instead, show up to a conversations-over-coffee date and let your relaxed, true-to-yourself state shine. From Quezon City to Taguig, Manila’s nooks and crannies are teeming with coffee havens, from third-wave cafés to more established coffee shop powerhouses. A café’s casual environment is a prime spot to engage in an open and honest dialogue, letting you and your date chatter comfortably. The low-key ambiance allows you to embrace silence with your date as well, all the while nursing a hot cuppa. Sweet!

Our current favorite: The garden-inspired Coffee Project, which has branches all over Metro Manila (and even beyond). With cozy and spacious interiors, reliable Wi-Fi, and a wide selection of meals, coffee drinks, juices, and desserts, it’s the perfect set-up for a laid-back date, and even for some much-needed, well-deserved “me” time.

DG Tip: We know that connectivity is key these days, but when you’re on a date and want to cherish every moment, it’s needless to say that it’s best to put your phone down and focus on the person you’re with. Don’t forget to bring a cardigan for when it gets chilly inside!

Coffee Project
Ground Floor, Wil Tower
Eugenio Lopez Drive, South Triangle
Tomas Morato, Quezon City
(‎0912) 828 6177

Sip on gin and cocktails at a speakeasy

INSTAGRAM: aix.md

Inject a dash of mystery to your rom-com-esque date by whisking someone away to an unassuming hideaway. If you want a different scene from noisy clubs and packed bars yet don’t mind a dose of alcohol, your friendly neighborhood speakeasy would be the ideal hangout.

Our current favorite: Int.Bar is a film-inspired speakeasy hidden behind a red curtain of a photo booth at Cubao Expo. Immortalize the moment by taking a black-and-white photo from its photo booth entrance, then enter the dimly lit speakeasy where you can order drinks inspired by classic films and literature, such as the ‘La Dolce Vita’ and ‘A Toast to Hemingway’.

DG Tip: When heading out to a speakeasy, it’s best to avoid popular times like Friday nights if you want some peace and quiet, as most of them tend to get packed. Off-peak schedules might lead you to stumble upon some happy hour promos, too!

Int.Bar
Cubao Expo, General Romulo Ave.
Cubao, Quezon City
(0917) 806 9991

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About Danna
Danna Peña's works can be seen on Rappler, CNN Philippines Life, Deal Grocer Traveler, PURVEYR, Young STAR's Zine, and Food Safety Trends PH Magazine. When she’s not working, she often finds herself exploring all kinds of destinations, may it be a vast sea, a bustling city, a foreign land, or most frequently, a book. View her creative spaces on www.dannapena.com and @dannapena on Instagram.

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