My List: Where to Buy Philippine Souvenirs in Manila? Where to Eat Halal Food? Also Filipino Food Restaurants To Try

I was faced with 2 important questions about Manila recently in one night - "Where can I buy Philippine souvenirs in Manila?" and "Where can I eat Halal food?" I was meeting Mr. B from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia - the people behind our Wonderful Indonesia Trip with the komodo dragons in Labuan Bajo. I'm writing this because my interest was sparked when I attended the Pinoy Food Tourism Forum and they're thinking of attracting more Muslim tourists in the Philippines and one of the plans is having a system yet that identifies Halal food/restaurants in the country. We want to make things more comfortable for our guests, right? I myself want to meet more Indonesian friends and our other neighbors and I have not given stuff like these much thought in the past unless a visitor comes. Today, I'm making these into a list so that I can refer to it in the future. I've also added Filipino restaurants where I can bring guests to as this was my original plan (before I remembered that Muslims don't just not eat pork and have Halal requirements). Fortunately, there are some stores and restaurants that came to mind and a little research came in handy. I will update this list if ever I find something interesting for me.


He was looking for some Philippine-made or Philippine representative pasalubongs / gifts / souvenirs in Manila to take home. As a local and traveller, I buy souvenirs from the location in the Philippines like that time when I bought an embroidered fan made by a grandma in a very old ancestral house in Iloilo because I knew she's been making it all her life and it holds a story from my trip. But if time is not on your side and you only have Manila, I used to just go to an SM Department Store / Robinsons Department Store / Rustan's and go to their Filipiniana section (some are not that big though) and give those to some sudden visitors (I would explain it to them of course so that they can tie it to their trip here). Common items are tobacco cigars, lambanog (alcohol), pearls, capiz shell items, dried mangoes, banana chips, kapeng barako (barako coffee), Philippine shirts and bags, fans or more traditional abaniko, small items like keychains, etc. Some go for cigarettes from Duty Free (cheaper here they said) in the airport. I found 3 new places for Mr. B:

1.*TRIED Kultura (also an SM establishment) - They have a big one in SM Megamall Building A. They even have baro't saya (our traditional formal wear) so if you need a Barong Tagalog then you can go here. They also have accessories, house stuff/accents made of native products and childhood games like tirador (slingshot) and sungka (board with holes played with seashells). They have a food section and clothes section too. I hope somebody will open a store selling our favorite childhood treats like plastic balloon, tarzan, jackstone, mipao, etc. LOL.

2. Balikbayan Handicrafts Store - This was my 2nd option in case Mr. B didn't find anything in Kultura (but he did haha). I found out that they do hotel pickups from where you are checked in so guests can actually go themselves =) They have a big one in Makati (other stores in Pasay and Landmark Makati) and they carry big items like carved furniture and statues. I called them and they said they have the small stuff too for souvenirs.

Balikbayan Handicrafts Store Makati Branch - 1010 Antonio Arnaiz Ave., Makati City
+63-2-893-0775 to 77
Mondays to Saturdays 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sundays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

3.*TRIED Tiendesitas - I have a last resort haha. Aside from the stalls selling different items from all over the Philippines, Tiendesitas also has a stage for night jammin' sessions. It's not every day though and the shops might be closed already at dinnertime so timing is key like mid-afternoon. They have scheduled free shuttles in the afternoon from Greenhills Shopping Center to here.

For Halal food in Manila - Since majority of our Muslim brothers and sisters live south of the Philippines (Mindanao), one has to travel there to eat cheaper and for more options in my opinion. It's a bit harder here in Manila, especially if you're not a frequent Halal eater like me. A good starting point though would be to ask a friend who is Muslim, vegetarian restaurants and those that offer Indian/Malaysian/Indonesian/Persian cuisine. I'm still a bit new to the way Halal food is prepared but I know pork is definitely a no-no though for their beliefs. Here's my initial list but I will be adding to these if ever next time.

1.*TRIED - So I called up New Bombay in Podium and they told me that they serve all Halal food. It's one of the Indian restaurants we liked so far. It's no longer as good as their Wilson branch (closed already) though but still okay. We always order Naan, Palak Paneer (mild or not spicy) and Gulab Jamun.

2. Other guides but yet to try (I'm just compiling now then I'll try some later, I also didn't see one that has Pinoy food..) - by city here, here, here
*Familiar / TRIED - according to sites above are Halal (call them please to make sure) - Arya, Kashmir, Shawarma Center, Secret Recipe, The Chicken Rice Shop, Behrouz (yum! always go here haha), Hossein's, Persia Grill, Queen's

For Filipino food or restaurants in Manila - I have my childhood favorites but J says some are not that good anymore so I put other new ones in my list that made the cut.
1.*TRIED - Barrio Fiesta - bouillabaisse, crispy pata, kare-kare (maybe)
2.*TRIED - Gerry's Grill - sisig, grilled baby squid, liempo, San Miguel beer
3.*TRIED - Cafe Juanita - for the ambiance
4.*TRIED - Abe - Kapampangan cuisine (known for more exotic and play of flavors like buro)
5. Manam - If both me (local) and my (frequent) guest are up for some Pinoy food with a twist, I would go here. I'm just wary that they might remember it as the actual version of the dish so careful with this. You would have a lot of explaining to do haha.
6. *TRIED - Cerchio from the creators of Romulo cafe - sisig, kare-kare, crispy pata

That's it for now! I had limited research time and I narrowed down my choices so it's a bit short for now. Of course, the background and interests of the guests also has to be accounted for in the end like other things they don't eat, allergies, what they want to buy exactly, etc.

My List: Where to Buy Philippine Souvenirs in Manila? Where to Eat Halal Food in Manila? Also Filipino Food Restaurants To Try in Manila?

Please feel free to tell me below: Anything to add or suggestions for my list and my future guests? It can be where else to buy and what Philippine souvenirs, where to eat Halal food or where to take your guests for Pinoy food. Please limit it to Manila for now. It can also be something you already tried or you want to check out.