Three states on my first week in the USA

I initially made this WordPress site for my Fine Arts project (MapaLakad, the Old Manila walking tour), but as I am out of my home country for a year or so, I’m taking this as an opportunity to write about the places I’ve been to while I’m away.

This is quite a throwback post as I’m currently uploading some of the photos I took on my phone to my Google Drive. Let this be some sort of a travel journal so I could collect my thoughts, reflect more deeply about them, and perhaps have the strong urge to write a personal essay once more.

Massachusetts

I arrived in Boston on the third week of August. My plane landed on the airport past 9 pm and the landlord couldn’t give me the keys to our apartment till the next day so I had to book an AirBnb for one night. My plan was to leave early after a good breakfast (and a great morning walk!) so I could head straight to my new home address.

Boston

First morning in Boston

The next day, Marjorie, my university friend from the Philippines, went all the way from New Jersey (where she’s currently residing) to my place in Cambridge. We had it sorted out even before my flight: we would tour much of Boston and then head for NYC and NJ after three days. Her home in Lodi is just 15 minutes away from New York by bus!

New York

I am deeply grateful to Jorie for the time and effort. She toured me around Times Square and Central Park as she has visited these places several times already. She knew every avenue and had the right directions from Port Authority. I would have gotten lost if not for her navigation. Jorie was right, though — you have to love the chaos of New York in order to appreciate it.

times square

My first time at Times Square!

Many times I am reminded of Quiapo and Recto, the sights and smells in the streets, the noise in all corners, the penchant of a person to be in every place. We don’t have towering skyscrapers in the area, but it is the ambiance of New York that makes me understand why the Schuyler sisters in Hamilton would call it “the greatest city of the world.” I didn’t get to watch a Broadway show because of budget constraints, but I’d definitely put it in my bucketlist next time!

I also went to the Museum of Moving Images in Queens to meet up with high school friends who also completed their studies abroad. We haven’t seen each other in a while, so it was a great catching up while going around the Jim Henderson exhibit.

New Jersey

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Liberty State Park and its pretty view

Jorie drove me around New Jersey as well. She brought me to Seton Hall University where she would be taking her MBA and to Liberty State Park where we had a good view of the New York from New Jersey. In the afternoons till late evenings, her family would bring me along for a good conversation with their Filipino relatives.

I left their place on a Sunday morning after having spent four days in NJ. Jorie drove me to the nearest bus stop and we wished each other luck on our graduate studies.

I am grateful for this opportunity to be able to go to different places, to afford these things to while away my time before classes start. But I have no intention of forgetting my purpose of going abroad; things are going to get busy and real serious pretty soon. I had to hype myself before the homesickness starts kicking in.

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Old Manila tour this Saturday!

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The Ocampo Pagoda mansion was built during the Japanese invasion. Now, it serves as a boarding house for travelers. Catch a glimpse of the Ocampo Pagoda mansion, along with other architectural landmarks in Old Manila with MapaLakad!

For a fee of P100 (P80 for students), you get to experience the city in its past and present from 2 to 6 pm. Aside from the MapaLakad guidebook, you will also learn the history of the buildings and the city itself.

Comment here for inquiries/reservations or message me on FB . One tour can accommodate up to seven people, so tag friends along! See you there!

Photo of Ocampo Pagoda by Makisig Yu.

FAQs on MapaLakad

I’m glad to say that I’ve finally opened my Old Manila tours to the public!

Get a copy of MapaLakad: A Guide to Old Manila and a walking tour of your preferred day from 2 to 6 pm for the following rates:

  • P80 for high school and university students
  • P100 for young professionals
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Final Cover

That being said, some queries have been reiterating from those who are interested in joining. I will try to list what I remember and answer these frequently-asked questions to the best of my abilities:

  • Where will we meet up?

If you’re coming from Katipunan, I usually meet the participants at McDo around 1 pm. However, some people have opted to go straight to Recto since they are much closer to that spot. If you’re a group and you opt to meet me someplace else, then we can do so at the nearest train station.

Whichever is fine, as long as you notify me a day before the tour.

  • Can we reschedule if something comes up on the day itself?

As much as I prefer people not to cancel or back out (for everyone’s convenience), I will accommodate reschedules as long as the next date is final. Again, just let me know at least a day before the tour so I can make the necessary arrangements.

  • Will there be other people joining us?

If you’re less than 5 who joined for a particular day, chances are I will be grouping you together with other people. The maximum number of participants per tour is 7. This is also a great way to meet people from different backgrounds!

  • Is there an orientation or briefing before the tour?

Yes! I will make an FB group chat to orient you on what to prepare for our trip. I will also leave my mobile number in case any of you have a question to ask. On the day itself, I will be briefing you on how my project came to be and what the goals of MapaLakad are.

  • What will we see or do during the tour?

I usually change the route depending on the weather; however, the itinerary remains the same. We will tour Quiapo, Escolta, and Binondo on foot with a quick 30-45 minute snack somewhere in Binondo around 4:30 pm. Using the MapaLakad, I will direct you to the different buildings that were famous during their times as well as share with you what I know about their history.

  • How much pocket money do we need to bring? 

Aside from the tour fee of P80 or P100, please bring enough money for a train ride arriving at and departing from Recto as well as P100-P150 for food. A single pass to Recto will not go above P22. The servings are quite large in Binondo so the participants usually share their meals with each other. If you’re also up to buy a souvenir or two at the First United Building (they’ve got shirts, stickers, postcards, and other cool stuff about Old Manila), then prepare to bring a bit more cash with you, perhaps an extra P200 or so.

  • Is it safe to bring our valuables with us?

I cannot guarantee the absence of pickpockets when we are walking around the place, but our group has never experienced any loss of valuables during the tour. One participant even had his DSLR camera hanging around his neck the entire time and thankfully, nothing bad happened to us.

What I can advise to minimize losses is this: always attend to your valuables, pack lightly with a sturdy bag, and keep close to the group at all times.

  • Can we bring other people along with us? 

They are more than welcome to join us! Just remind them that they will also have to pay the fee of P80/P100.

I am also open to taking photos of you and your friends in the spots you like! This is one of the goals of the project: to raise awareness of the decline of Old Manila and to ask help from people in promoting its maintenance and restoration. The more people go, the better!

  • Is the tour in English or Filipino? 

I wrote MapaLakad in Filipino because I initially thought of it as a literary project in Filipino. However, there have been tourists from other countries who have joined me in walking around Old Manila.

Meaning to say, I can easily switch the tour’s language from Filipino to English, and vice versa.

  • Up until when will the tours be?

The tours are open until the second week of August! I usually hold them during Saturdays and Sundays–in fact there are slots open for the 1st and the 8th of July! If you plan to go on a weekday, let me know and I can check for my availability on that day.

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Them taking photos; me explaining the story of the building through the blurb

If you have more questions, feel free to comment them here or message me on Facebook. Let’s experience Old Manila together!