AN URBAN OASIS

Offering a perfect mix of modern architecture, luscious greenery, and a captivating art scene, bonifacio global city breathes new life into metro manila, finds Crystal Leung

If overcrowded streets, infernal traffic congestion, and deteriorating air pollution are the reasons stopping you from visiting the capital of the Philippines on your hard-earned holiday, you’re guaranteed to have a change of heart after delving into Bonifacio Global City (BGC), an up-and-coming business and lifestyle district located in the heart of Metro Manila. Also known as The Fort, BGC exudes a laidback and sophisticated vibe that makes it an ideal destination for family relaxation and entertainment.

Surrounded by skyscrapers, world-class shopping malls, and luxurious hotels, it’s hard to imagine that the BGC used to be part of the main Philippine Army camp at Fort Bonifacio, named after Andres Bonifacio, the Father of the Philippine Revolution.

Situated on 5th Avenue, Shangri-La at the Fort is the newest luxury accommodation in BGC, as well as one of the tallest buildings in the Philippines. After an energyboosting breakfast buffet at High Street Café, a modern food hall adjacent to the hotel’s cavernous lobby, I set off on a facinating adventure to the first public-access science centre in the country, The Mind Museum. A recipient of the internationally-recognised Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement, the state-of-the-art museum is spread across two floors, with five inter-connected galleries and over 250 interactive exhibits. Taking centre stage in the Universe Gallery is the Space Shell, a mini-planetarium where visitors can lounge on comfy memory foams while enjoying movies showing the formation of the universe. Fans of Jurassic Park shouldn’t miss the Earth Gallery, home to a life-sized fossil replica of a Tyrannosaurus rex, one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs to have ever existed.

While The Mind Museum offers a fun-filled experience that can satisfy the curiosity of any inner child, another major drawcard of BGC is the beguiling art scene, which has been increasing momentum in recent years. Thanks to the Art BGC NextACT ONE Festival – the country’s first mural-centric fair, which debuted in 2015 – the neighbourhood is now decorated in an array of captivating street art which pleases the eyes and feeds the souls. To appreciate the artistic environment in style, I take advantage of the fleet of Bambike bamboo bikes available for rent at the Shangri-La at the Fort. Probably the greenest vehicle on the market, each Bambike is handcrafted with local bamboo and abaca material by workers from Gawad Kalinga, a Philippine-based community development organisation.

Guided by Bryan McClelland, the founder of Bambike, my one-hour journey takes in a couple of mural sites featured in Art BGC NextACT ONE Festival 2016, which includes artwork by local talent Kris Abrigo, as well as American masters Andrew Schoultz and Bunnie Reiss. Impressive and inspiring, Calamansi and Sampaguita by Argentinean artist Francisco Diaz, aka Pastel, is a colossal piece painted on the exterior of the BGC Corporate Centre. Representing the native spirits of the Philippines, the mural features the signature plant used in Filipino´s funerals as a way to purify the body, and the national flower, which represents humility and reverence. Also not to be missed is a series of graffiti pieces created by Los Angeles-based artist Nate Frizzell, featuring remarkably lifelike children.

The perfect stop after working up an appetite, Bonifacio High Street is home to a plethora of international dining venues, ranging from Japanese ramen joint Kichitora of Tokyo to Mexican restaurant Agave. The one-kilometre boulevard also hosts international brands and designer labels, as well as a spacious park, ideal for an afterdinner stroll to walk off those extra calories. If you’re looking for something more exhilarating, BGC is also the newest nightlife hub in Metro Manila, featuring Valkyrie, the city’s biggest nightclub, which can accommodate over 2,000 party goers.

With a mission to take home a variety of locally grown mangoes – arguably the best in the world – I make a trip to Market! Market!, a clean, well-organised space which peddles an assortment of flowers, vegetables, fruit and local specialties at great value, including roasted cashew nuts from Palawan, and banana chips from Roxas City. Opposite the fruit venders is a line-up of food stalls serving up a kaleidoscope of grilled meat and seafood, alongside authentic local dishes, such as pork dinuguan (pork blood) and sinigang na isda (fish soup).

Although the slew of construction sites scattered in BGC temporarily dim the brightness of the district, it’s easy to see the precinct as a promising destination with substantial potential and the strength to capture a fresh generation of bon vivants.

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