When we shared our recent Manila Who experience with people we know personally, their first few questions were the following:
- What is there to see in Escolta, Manila?
- Is it safe to explore that place?
- Why choose Manila Who?
I’m sure, when you stumbled upon this post, you have the same questions in mind. So let me answer those questions as well as share to you our Manila Who experience.
If you’re too lazy to read, you are always welcome to watch our VIDEO instead.
Escolta was trodden by the rich and famous with their escoltas (or escorts in English) in tow during the early Spanish Days.
In the 1900’s, it became both the country’s premier shopping destination and commercial district. The elite usually met there to enjoy the many historic “firsts” of the country. Such “firsts” are an ice cream parlor (Clarke’s), a movie house (Salon de Pertierra), and more.
Sadly, World War II brought devastation to Manila including Escolta. Reconstruction wasn’t able to return Escolta to its former glory. Thus, buildings that didn’t get destroyed faced years of neglect.
Various groups, business owners, and Manila Who though didn’t give up on what was once was dubbed as Manila’s “Queen of Streets.”
With Escolta housing many “firsts,” Manila Who brought the first story-driven tour in the Philippines.
I think it is a great alternative to the usual guided tour, a tour accompanied by a tour guide or a guidebook.
Each Manila Who group is limited to a minimum of two (2) and a maximum of five (5). Since you are not herded around in a big group of people, you can control your pace of exploration. Well, provided, of course, it is within Manila Who’s specified time.
More importantly, you are guided by a story inspired by historical events and characters in going from one place to another
Escolta travel information may not be readily available especially that gadgets aren’t allowed to be used for directions. However, as you look for clues and solve the mystery, you are prompted to discover places you may not visit on your own.
Plus, you’ll get to have more encounters with locals as you find your way.
You essentially get to take in the local sights, sounds, smells, and even taste (when you avail the complete experience). This leads to a more effective information absorption since fun is added into the equation. Yes! Goodbye to simply being bombarded with information.
Experience Escolta via Manila Who
Manila Who has two story-driven experiences to offer which are the following:
- Tale of the Cursed Painting, PHP 450 (or USD 9). It is a 1-hour indoor game experience in Escolta’s historic First United Building that was built in 1928. Collecting clues, solving challenges, and finding pieces are necessary to lift the curse of the painting. This tale is actually based on a historic urban legend.
- The Tale of Rose. This is a 3-hour story-driven outdoor walk that takes you through 6 iconic landmarks in and around Escolta, Manila. You can choose the complete Escolta experience (includes food, drinks, and transportation) for PHP 1, 700 (or USD 34). Or if you don’t have the budget, you can go for the basic experience for PHP 800 (or USD 19).
The Tale of Rose Complete Experience
As instructed via coordinating with Manila Who, we proceeded to the balcony of the 5th floor for the orientation.
I found it a great starting point prior to the Escolta experience since it sets the mood with the view of the historical buildings. Our game master for the day/ one of the owners of Manila Who, Ms. Nikkorlai, welcomed us there as well.
A participant and waiver release form was handed for us to read and sign. It basically just frees Manila Who from liability in case something happens to you. Plus, of course, you will need to pay up if you damage their equipment.
Afterward, we were given a brief background on Escolta’s history. We are also shown a video to give us a glimpse of the past and make us understand Escolta better.
To help us be ready to face the challenges, we were also given a sleuthing tool/ a small Manila Who bag containing the following:
- a good morning towel (for you to wipe your sweat)
- a ballpen
- a handy notebook that also contains an old map of the area
- bottled water
On Finding the First Clue
Anyway, I won’t divulge detailed information because I don’t want to ruin the experience for you. So what you’ll be reading below is a jumbled order of events and/or activities except for the beginning and end.
The Tale of Rose is set in the year 1952 and is about Rosa Abad, a budding actress who was murdered. It is up to us to unravel the mysteries surrounding her death.
We started in a 1950s themed room where we had to find evidence as well as the clue that will lead us to our next destination. There is a time limit of 15 minutes for staying in it. Thus, we had to move quickly and intelligently.
Lloyd though, who is quite a joker, just kept on telling funny things while we were searching. Our game master noticed that we were taking quite a while so she generously gave us hints.
When we found out that we missed simple stuff, we ended up laughing hilariously at ourselves.
It was already fun!
What made it more exciting was figuring out whether to go to a church, a bridge, a restaurant, or a museum next.
Interactive Experience in and around Escolta
Years of neglect turned the once beautiful Art Deco style building built in 1935 into an unpleasing sight. We, at least, got to relive the past through reenacting scenes from Casablanca. Check out our acting skills here.
A visit to Escolta won’t be complete without eating sumptuous Chinese food. Whether you’ll be eating at the neighboring district, Chinatown, or at one of Escolta’s restaurants, you’ll have to find out for yourself.
You’ll get to learn about Escolta’s colorful heritage through the community museum established by the Sy Lian Teng family. Various memorabilia, old news, and even old objects are there on display.
Would you believe that the neo-classical architecture building standing proudly along the river banks is our Manila Central Post Office building? It actually won various praises and recognition during its time.
A scoop of ice cream is always a great idea especially when we know that Escolta had the country’s first ice cream parlor.
The Carriedo fountain which was built in 1882 to honor Don Francisco Carriedo, the benefactor of Manila’s water system, can be appreciated from the distance.
Be amused with Philippines’ old movie posters.
Riding a kalesa, a horse-driven carriage is almost a ride back in time. You won’t be worried about getting ripped off since it is part of the experience.
It was actually my first time riding a kalesa with Lloyd in the streets of Manila.
Looking for clues in a blast from the past museum gives us a glimpse of how people lived. And knowing that they could function well without the comforts we are having today uplifts us that we can still do well too. Of course, not just without the internet because our blog and work are already tied with it.
Finally, this isn’t part of the Tale of Rose but I just found this fascinating. It is an art that is part of the quarterly exhibit on one of the museums we went to. I wonder what message the artist is portraying. If you’ll be booking Manila Who soon, I challenge you to find this and write in the comment section below where you found it.
On Solving the Tale of Rose
We gave our best shot in finding out who killed Rosa. Here is an excerpt from our conversation when we were trying to solve it:
Me-An: “Ilabas mo na lahat ng clues and evidence.” [English translation: Bring out all the clues and evidence.]
Lloyd was the one who kept all the clues and evidence for us.
Lloyd: “Yan na yun lahat.” [English trans.: That is all there is.]
Me-An: “Sure ka talaga?” [English trans.: Are you really sure?]
Lloyd: “As sure as I love you.“
After we gave our final answer as to who killed Rosa, it was revealed to us that we were wrong. The game master was searching for the key evidence in all the evidence we have gathered and she couldn’t find it. She said we were holding it before. So after Lloyd emptied his pockets to search, it turned out it was in his back pocket. That made us laugh out loud!
Me-An: “Yung bulsa mo ang nakinabang. Hahaha!” [English trans.: Your pocket was the one who benefited. Hahaha!]
We may not have been able to solve the case. However, what matters the most is we got to learn about the past and be proud of it. All that while having fun together. We were also able to roam around without experiencing or witnessing any petty crimes. The locals there were just truly accommodating as well.
Love Manila Who
We love the Manila Who Tale of Rose complete experience so we highly recommend you to try it. You can already deduce from our post that is an exciting way of getting to know Manila.
So give it as a surprise to your significant other. Make it a family bonding. Or simply unleash your competitiveness with your friends or colleagues through their teambuilding activities. I’m sure you won’t regret. Just make sure to reserve two days prior to your preferred date of the event.
Thank you so much to Manila Who for the complete Tale of Rose experience and to Ms. Nikkorlai for being such a patient game master. We know that Escolta does not get much attention compared to its neighbors, Intramuros and Chinatown. But we admire your efforts in helping revitalize the famed Queen of Streets as well as presenting the forgotten allure of it.
Unit 516, #413 First United Building, Escolta St. Binondo, Manila.
(o2) 244 3166/ (02) 975 8886
(+63) 917 868 8872
Operating hours: 10:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.
Walk schedule: Tuesdays to Sundays, 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, 2:00 PM and 3:00 PM.