Sure, Manila gets a bad rap for its horrendous traffic and pollution. And while many people (locals and foreigners alike) love to hate this frequently misunderstood city, the country’s capital is teeming with fun things to do and cool places to see—particularly for the artsy and creative. If you’re happiness revolves around arts, crafts, and music, do check out these 8 creative activities in Manila.
1. Visit museums
Visiting museums is not just all about appreciating or interpreting art. It is also one of the quickest ways to better understand a city. So needless to say, whether you’re into arts or not, a trip to the museum should be on your things to do in Manila list. Admire artworks, sculptures and artifacts at these museums*:
The National Museum
Artists of all levels and skills should pay the National Museum a visit, as it holds some of the most significant artworks and archeological pieces about the Filipino culture. Many of these national treasures date as far back as the 18th century, such as the 3,000-year-old Manunggul Burial Jar. Of course, our very own version of Mona Lisa, Juan Luna’s Spoliarium, will surely give you heart-wrenching feels and chills. Artworks by Hidalgo, Botong Francisco, Luz, and Manansala, are also a must-see. Plus, the National Museum is free of charge and just a cartwheel away from several other Manila attractions.
Pinto Art Museum
Rustic, nostalgic and quirky are the most suitable adjectives to describe Pinto Art Museum. This artsy-approved museum in Antipolo is a real eye-candy everywhere you look. No wonder it’s a favorite destination among photographers and art enthusiasts. The museum comprises of a bunch of buildings that hold six art galleries of carefully curated collections of contemporary paintings, wire sculptures, art installations, as well as traditional art. Best yet, all art pieces are from local artists. Must-visit if you like unique and riveting artworks in an outdoor, scenic setting.
Art In Island
You can’t touch art pieces in most traditional museums. Some you can’t even take a photo of. And that’s exactly what makes Art In Island different. This biggest 3D art museum in Asia lets you interact with and be part of the art. Here you can be a mermaid on one painting, an angel next, a surfer afterward and more. You can also travel from the sea world to the jungle and take selfies with your animal friends. Art In Island also takes you to Europe without flying so you can ride a Gondola in Venice, make a wish at the Fountain of Trevi and see the leaning tower of Pisa. Some artworks also use optical illusion, which is pretty cool and unbelievable when you see the results.
*There are many others for sure!
2. Buy locally-made arts, crafts, and other products
Not only you’d find one-of-a-kind and limited edition items from artists-cum-entrepreneurs, you’d also get inspired by their infectious passion and energy. Though many of them are just startups and independent, their items can match and even surpass the quality of those made by branded companies. And if we want to keep these promising creatives come up with unique and interesting products, we have to continue supporting them. You can find talented artists selling their creations at several pop-up shops and bazaars in the metro, mainly at these places:
Previously a financial district in its heyday, Escolta is slowly turning into an artist hub, as more and more indie shops dot the street. Also, once a month on a Saturday, 98B COLLABoratory holds a weekend market in Escolta wherein different artists showcase their talents through their arts, crafts and other merchandise. You can find many interesting items that are either quaint or quirky or both, such as artworks, upcycled apparel and accessories, do-it-yourself wares, vintage goods and furniture, innovative food and more.
10a Alabama hosts quarterly arts and crafts fair at its bungalow in Quezon City. Here you can find handmade and DIY knick-knacks, crafts, jewelry, furniture, home accents, stationery and other unique artsy items. Also, worth checking out at this compound are Resurrection Furniture and Found Objects Gallery’s quirky, upcycled pieces of furniture. See how they turn an old microwave into a side table, a mattress spring into a wall décor and more.
Cubao Expo or Cubao X holds quite a reputation for all things off-beat, creative and avant-garde. What was used to be Marikina Shoe Expo is now a compound-full of hipster shops, art galleries, thrift stores, specialty boutiques, and concept cafés and restaurants. Through the years, this artsy community in Cubao has steadily become a favorite rendezvous point for artists and musicians of different backgrounds.
3. See indie movies and documentaries
While fun and entertaining, mainstream Hollywood or local movies with the often predictable plot can get cloying and even annoying sometimes. So when the artist or movie critic in you craves for something thought-provoking and or experimental, you need to see an indie film or documentary ASAP. Don’t fret if you missed indie film festivals because there are a few cinemas that show independent movies all-year-round. Catch them at:
The country’s first cinematheque, this center houses a 101-capacity theater that shows classic and modern Pinoy flicks (both mainstream and alternative) weekly. Cinematheque Centre also collaborates with different embassies to screen foreign films.
CCP Arthouse Manila
The Cultural Center of the Philippines shows Cinemalaya movies every second and last Thursday of the month at 1pm and 4pm. Entrance is free.
Museum of Contemporary Art and Design
Besides art exhibits, the MCAD Manila also organizes monthly screenings of critically-acclaimed documentaries and indie films every Wednesday and Friday at 9am and 3pm.
4. Witness spoken word poetry
No, it’s not just a yawn-inducing poetry reading. Far from it, in fact. Spoken word poetry is more of an art performance. If you haven’t heard of Juan Miguel Severo from Words Anonymous yet or have only known him as “Rico” from On The Wings of Love, you definitely must see him perform live on stage. Be sure to catch him, and other talented millennial poets recite original poems, many of which are relatable, #hugot and #feels-filled. Follow Words Anonymous and Spoken Word MNL to be updated on where and when you can get your dose of spoken word poetry.
5. Enjoy local gigs
What better way to celebrate the weekend or spice up a boring weekday than by watching the country’s best local acts perform live! Whether you dig OPM, rock, indie, pop, reggae and other music genres and eras, you’ll surely find Manila’s thriving music scene lit AF. Grab your friends; order your choice of poison and pulutan, and catch your favorite musicians at these venues*:
12 Monkeys Music Hall & Pub
12 Monkeys offers a well-stocked bar, unique food items (Palabok Pizza, anyone?) and excellent sound system. Some of the big names in the OPM industry regularly perform here, such as Up Dharma Down, Side A, and of course, Parokya ni Edgar, as frontman Chito Miranda, co-owns the place.
Route 196 Bar
This small and cozy bar in Katipunan, QC is the place for you if you want good grub and live music. Route 196 hosts both new and underrated artists, as well as established ones, so you’ll always have a various lineup of bands to choose from.
B-Side in Makati is arguably reggae, punk and ska fans’ #1 happy place. What’s not to love? Music is eargasmic. Food and drinks are cheap. The crowd are chill and skanking to the live beats. Swing by on an Irie Sunday for an incredibly fun root, rock, reggae, dancehall and ska night.
*Seriously, there are too many other gig venues to mention and it would warrant a separate post altogether.
6. Paint and drink wine at Sip & Gogh
Where else can you channel the frustrated Picasso in you and drink wine at the same time? Only at Sip & Gogh, the country’s first paint and sip studio, that’s where. Simply choose the art work you’d like to recreate, and the instructors will teach you how properly to paint it. As you make your first brush strokes, you’ll be served with your choice of drink (wine, juice or soda) and snack platter (cheese, ham, and biscuits). Don’t worry about bringing materials like canvas, brushes, paints, easel and apron, as they’re all provided. And of course, you can bring home your masterpiece as a souvenir. For just around Php 1,000 per person, Sip & Gogh is ideal for date nights, barkada activity and family bonding.
7. Try flow arts
There’s probably no other art more accurately embodies fun, playful and whimsical than flow arts. Imagine learning poi swinging, fire dancing, hoop spinning, juggling, object manipulation, etc. Doesn’t it sound exciting? But more than just an art form, flow arts are a body-mind activity, just like yoga and the martial arts of tai chi and wushu, which are fused in this immersive art. If you’re curious about achieving the ‘flow’ state and or you want to spin flaming or glowing pois and hoops while consequently squeezing in a good work out, then be sure to contact Flow Arts Philippines soon.
8. Snap double tap-worthy street art in Intramuros and The Fort
No need to go to Berlin, Los Angeles, Singapore or somewhere far away to take vibrant street art photos. Aside from the Walled City’s centuries-old structures, Intramuros has a burgeoning street art scene. Art and selfie-lovers specifically drop and pose by the Graffiti Wall on Anda Street. But there are also Pinoy-inspired street arts all over General Luna Street that you should check out. Of course, you shouldn’t miss The Fort’s top-quality commissioned murals made by local and international artists. Bonifacio Global City holds annual ArtBGC Festival to showcase newly-commissioned stunning murals and art installations all over the business hub.