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Another Philippine adventure

Updated: Mar 27

A long weekend in the Philippines is an excellent excuse for food, horseback riding, archery and more food.

My daughter was overdue for a mini-adventure trip, so a three-day weekend in January was a good reason for our return to the Philippines.

As with anything else in this amazing country, none of our experiences were what we expected. If nothing else, the Philippines lives up to Lawrence Block's suggestion that "our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else."

We started our weekend with an activity I had shared with my son a couple of years earlier; a tour of the old city, Intramuros, on Segways. We did this with White Knight Tours (at the White Knight Hotel, Urdaneta St, Intramuros) on seated Segways, which were a hoot. Our one-hour tour was with a different guide this year, who was very sweet and eager to impart her knowledge of Filipino history and culture. Given the choice between the thirty-minute versus hour tour, I highly recommend taking the longer tour. We ended our Intramuros experience with a very nice late lunch at Illustrado ( 744 General Luna St, Intramuros) before heading back to the Shangri-la Hotel.

We had a light Thai dinner at People's Palace (Greenbelt 3, Esperanza St, Makati) and turned in early ahead of a morning drive to the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga (what used to be Clark Air Force base) for a bit of horseback riding.

The ride to Clark took about an hour and a half from Makati. After checking into our hotel we headed to El Kabayo Riding Stables (Gil Puyat Avenue corner Panday Pita, Clark Freeport Zone). It was hard to miss since old western towns don't normally materialize in the landscape of the Philippines - but there it was. We were greeted by El Kabayo's owner, who speaks English better than I do and who is someone you'd immediately invite to dinner - before heading off on a three-hour horse riding tour. As with everything else, it wasn't what we expected. We rode through manicured grass parks, past farms, through a small village, a bit through what appeared to be a plastics waste dump, across the white moonscape of the Dolores River bed, and back through manicured parks - and my daughter and I loved it because it was uniquely Filipino. Thence (yes, that isn't a typo) to the Amante Ribs and Steaks restaurant (which is part of the El Kabayo facility) for a surprisingly excellent dinner. For some reason, we expected Amante to be similar in quality to US casual dining chains - it was not. We had an upscale restaurant meal in a casual, old-western town motif restaurant my daughter still raves about. She liked the soup so well that when I ordered my after-dinner dessert, she ordered another bowl of soup. Kudos to Amante's chef!

Returning to our hotel turned out to be more complicated than I would have expected because there were few taxis on Clark. Fortunately, I called our hotel, the Park Inn by Radisson (SM City Clark, Manuel A Roxas Ave, Clark Freeport Zone), and they sent a car to retrieve us.

On our final day of the trip, we returned to Manila for one last experience (maybe two if you include our constant search for good eats) on my daughter's weekend adventure - bow and arrowing... uh... I mean, archery. I suppose it shouldn't come as too great a surprise that several of the archery venues I had found from my internet research had shuttered - I wouldn't expect archery to be as popular as, say, bocce ball or curling. As a consequence, we ended up at Arrowland in the SM Megamall (5 Floor Mega Fashion Hall, SM Megamall, Ortigas). The concept of going to an archery hall in a mall may seem like a waste to many purists. But that depends upon your priorities - as you will understand in a moment.

Because bow and arrowing was an important part of my daughter's adventure weekend, we opted for the billion arrow program - some absurd number anyway. The wait time to wing (or is it hurl, or fling) a gagillion arrows at a target was a little more than an hour, so we signed up and headed out in search of our real mission (I told you we'd get here); finding lunch. And, believe it or not, the mall had a few good options from which to choose. Ultimately, lunch was at the Chinese dim sum restaurant, Din Tai Fung (Ground Floor, Mega Fashion Hall, SM Megamall, Ortigas). After eating far more than is advisable, we returned to shoot arrows. This is when I learned that muscles used in archery aren't ones I use in my everyday, semi-super hero, life - hence robust sweating and ultimately sore bits around normally unused parts of my body. But, after being beaten at bowery by my much more accurate daughter, we headed to Ooma (Third Floor, Mega Fashion Hall, SM Megamall, Ortigas) for very yummy Japanese cuisine - an excellent consolation prize.

We flew home later that night, exhausted and full. And, as it always seems to do, the Philippines delivered what we wanted in a way we wouldn't have expected.

(The photo, such that it is, was taken by me. Copyrights reserved.)

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