A foreigner's vegan guide to Manila: scratching the surface
Updated 31 July 2022
This is of course not a complete guide. But you might still find it useful. I will try to list things by priority (highest priority first). When I say Manila, I mean the whole metropolitan area of Manila. The locals call it "Metro" or "NCR", i.e. National Capital Region which is the official name. This includes the actual City of Manila (the old centre of town, originally called Maynilà and still called Maynila in Tagalog).
Breathing and transport
The first priority should be (or mine is) being able to breathe. This is easier said than done in Manila. But as Che Guevara (Ernesto) would have said: let's attempt the impossible (... although Gandhi said the opposite). Importantly ↝ If you're exploring Manila, it's best to try to avoid the main roads whenever possible. Often there is a street running parallel to the main road, or in a similar direction, at least for a little while and then again for a little while, etc. This is assuming you're walking (or cycling). Walking longer distances (a few kilometres) appears to be sort of unusual in Manila, at least for tourists or foreigners or anyone who could afford not to walk. If you take a Jeepney (the most common form of inner-city transport, I think - see below), you'll likely be breathing in a lot of fumes. Still, Jeepneys are the normal way to get around in Manila - so worth experiencing. Other transport options are taking the train which, by the way, is not called "metro" but MRT and LRT - but the train network is limited ... or taking a taxi, which you can order online via Grab (an app that everyone is using) or by waving one down in the street or having a security guard or someone else (random guy whom they call "barker" and who will expect a tip) wave to the cab for you. There are also some buses - some of which are TINY (sardines in a can-style) and some of which are larger, possibly with air conditioning. The greenest (most eco-friendly) option is probably walking, cycling, or taking the train. No sharp objects (or weapons) are allowed on the train, i.e. no pocket knives - there are airport-style scanners. You won't be allowed to enter with a pocket knife in your bag. Cyclists do exist in Manila. You can see them around (all power to them), and there are bike shops, but be warned that cycling is not for the faint hearted in Manila.
Tricycle (common in countryside)
Taxi drivers (as "everywhere") might cheat you a little, and in addition (!) expect a large tip, plus a tip for the "barker" possibly. But a taxi ride also offers a unique view of the city (a bit like a space ship) and can be convenient, of course, especially when going to the airport. If you're so lucky to have / make friends in Manila who have a car, private cars too are an option - luxurious but not too green, of course ... which leads us to ...
Or quiet spaces. Well ... there aren't that many. But there are some. I stayed in the south of Quezon City most of the time, and definitely one my favourite place(s) to go is the "North Cemetery". I say places (plural) because on the map (Google maps) it looks like it's just one green area, one cemetery, i.e. the North Cemetery, but they are actually three separate cemeteries (see below). Many Filipinos (Filipin@s) will find probably find it a bit weird to go to a cemetery just to enjoy the place and get away from the city noise and pollution. More cemetery for you. The three big (and historically massively significant) cemeteries are: the North Cemetery (also known as "Cementerio del Norte"), the Chinese Cemetery, and La Loma Cemetery. These three cemeteries are actually separated by (really big) walls, and I did not see any passage ways leading from one into the other, certainly not between the Northern and Chinese cemeteries. There seem to be at least two entrances to La Loma Cemetery, but I do not (unless you are adventurous) recommend the main entrance on 5th Avenue (which I used), because 5th Ave is what one might refer to as a HELL ROAD (massive amounts of traffic, no proper sidewalks, extreme air pollution, dragons, etc.). In my drawing below, the entrances to the cemeteries are shown as green dots. Make sure to visit all three. And yes, there are people living inside the cemeteries - and if you go there you'll see why. It's awesome there.
North Cemetery, Chinese Cemetery, and La Loma Cemetery: a wonderful overview
From the outside, next to the entrance
Happy dog as an indicator of the good life inside the cemetery
This entrance gate is already a bit inside the Chinese Cemetery, just after the entrance. There was practically no one in the cemetery apart from some (very friendly) workers who were mostly hanging out near the entrance (I think they were doing some repair work).
The Filipino Chinese Yad Vashem? Many Chinese Filipinos were killed by the invading Japanese during World War II - I think, this memorial might be related to that time.
There's a toad in this photo (on the step).
Kitten in the Chinese Cemetery
La Loma Cemetery
Goat at La Loma Cemetery
Apart from the cemeteries, there are some other green and/or quiet places, including many side streets (that can be a little green and a little bit quiet). Just stay off the main roads. If you look at Google maps, you'll see a big green space called "Wack-Wack Greenhills" (near Addition Hills), but I don't think this is open to the public (as one "Local Guide" on Google reviews says "Exclusive village for the rich and famous.").
Just outside of Quezon Memorial Circle
South-west of Quezon Memorial Circle there's a nice-looking green park, but then I saw that you have to pay an entry fee (not much) and there are animals in cages. So, I didn't go inside. Checking later (online), I saw it is a mix of botanical and "zoological garden" called the "Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center". Officially, the story they convey is that the park "protects" animals: "the Wildlife Rescue Center that serves as temporary shelter and rehabilitation facility for confiscated, donated and/or abandoned indigenous and exotic wildlife. The Center’s main objectives are to rescue, rehabilitate and release endemic and indigenous wild animals back to their natural habitat. Those unfit for release as well as exotic animals are retained and put on display in the showcase area to promote public awareness, appreciation and support for the conservation of the country’s wildlife resources and their habitats.
The Wildlife Rescue Center also serves as training ground for practitioners and students of veterinary medicine, zoology, biology, botany, and natural science." (whatever that means - I might not want to know)
I'm assuming the animals are put on display because that makes some money (and animals are not perceived to have any rights of their own). Having a zoo probably generates some profit while just having a botanical garden without a zoo would be perceived as less attractive by the public and would therefore not make any money (just cost money to maintain). So, an animal rights perspective could be: rescue centre yes but outside of the city with no (or very limited) visitors.
Philippine Coconut Authority ... If you are standing in front of this, turn left to get to the entrance (underpass) into Quezon Memorial Circle.
Inside of Quezon Memorial Circle
View of Quezon Memorial Circle at night (from the distance)
Santo Domingo church ... one of the biggest churches around
Another church (I forgot the name, same church as the St Francis of Assisi stained glass window below)
UP Diliman campus (UP: University of the Philippines, the most famous university,
not much loved by anti-human rights presidents, dictators, etc.) ... There is a big park there.
This is next to the entrance.
There's also Greenway Park and Kasalikasan Garden around the border of Makati and Taguig.
Vegan food, of course. Animals aren't our food.
There are several different street foods / snacks that are made from rice, sugar, and coconut. The most relevant of these for vegans are probably "tupig" and "suman". There is a general term for sweet rice-based street foods: kakanin from "kanin" (rice) and "kain" (to eat).
Tupig ... Tupig contains rice, grated young coconut meat, and sugar (and is wrapped in a banana leaf). It's a regional street food from northwestern Luzon (Ilocos region), i.e. way north of Manila. It's also available in Manila, but I'm told it's less tasty there. ... not to be confused with "tubig" = water. Tupig should always be vegan.
Suman ... "Suman" is made from steamed glutinous rice, coconut milk, and caramel sauce (sugar) - and wrapped in banana leaves or coconut leaves (or some other leaf). Suman is often vegan, but I was told that there are suman variants with fillings that aren’t vegan. So, it's best to ask about the ingredients. Suman is wrapped in a banana leaf.
Often suman is also sold without the leaves around it. And it can have ginger added to it and is said to go well with tsokolate (which is a hot cocoa drink, see below).
Suman (not wrapped in leaves) and tsokolate.
Suman (vegan; in the middle) and cassava cake (non-vegan; in the front)
Again, suman and vegan tsokolate
Bibingka ... "Bibingka" can be vegan and is made from rice, sugar, and grated coconut, but it may also contain margarine, milk, egg, and/or cheese. I was told that bibingka is more likely to be non-vegan than vegan. So, better ask the vendor about the ingredients. Bibingka can also contain coconut wine, especially in Visayas (middle of the Philippines). It's baked in clay pots (see below).
This is a vegan bibingka, a little burned, but it's supposed to be a litte burned on top. (I didn't eat the burned part though.)
See the typical oven used to bake bibingka below.
This is how bibingka is baked.
Here you can see another type of bibingka (don't ask me - it looks completely different to me) sold at a market stall. The two different colours are probably due to different types of rice used.
Palagsing, another REGIONAL kind of kakanin found in Butuan City (Mindanao, southern Philippines). This is probably not available in Manila. And foreigners really shouldn't go to (most of) Mindanao - too dangerous (kidnapping etc.). "Palagsing is made up of brown sugar, coconut, and unaw, and sago. Unaw is a derivative of the palm tree found commonly in the marshlands." (Manors 2021) So, palagsing should be vegan.
There are other similar-looking snacks based on rice, sugar, and coconut such as "moron" which is cooked with tablea and originally vegan, but now cheese ist often added to make it "special". "Binagol" is similar but made from taro (not rice), and it contains condensed milk and eggs (packaged inside a coconut shell covered with banana leaves). Both of these are from eastern Visayas.
Turon (street food), outside of Manila (somewhere in Ilocos region, north of Manila). Turon is banana (the saba type - see below) with brown sugar in a spring roll wrapper - and this is fried. Turon should always be vegan. But there are non-banana versions of turon - and some apparently are with cheese. But this here is the "normal" (most common) turon with banana. Turon is not considered a kakanin because it's not rice-based. There is also turon with jackfruit (langka) inside in addition to the banana - which is is also vegan.
This, by the way, is in a long-distance bus (coach). There are vendors selling food to passengers before departure.
Turon in a mall (outside of Manila - somewhere in Batangas) ... Apparently, there is a turon vendor of this type in every SM Mall (a chain of malls), always in or next to the supermarket.
Lumpia ... vegetable lumpia can be vegan, but I was told that even vegetable lumpia can have shrimp or meat - even if the vendor calls it vegetable lumpia. So, again, it's best to ask about the ingredients.
There is also lumpia with more meat inside - not called vegetable lumpia. Lumpia is like a deep-fried spring roll.
Vegan vegetable lumpia
Lumpiang toge (lumpia with toge, i.e. sprouted mung beans) - can be vegan (but better ask).
Lumpiang gulay gourmet (i.e. fancy lumpia with vegetables; "gulay" means vegetables)
Boiled cassava which has a bit of fresh coconut milk (ground up mature coconut with hot water and then squeezed out) added to it. This also seems to be a relatively common street food - vegan.
There is also a kakanin called "Puto cuchinta" or just "kutsinta" which should be vegan and is made from tapioca flour, rice flour, brown sugar, lye, and yellow food colouring or annatto extract (steamed in ramekin dishes, and garnished with grated mature coconut). I tried one and thought that it tasted a bit like egg (or black salt), but apparently it does not contain egg and is always vegan. There is a picture of kutsinta further down.
There is alsoputo bumbong which is steamed in bamboo tubes and which may be vegan (and originally seems to have been vegan). But nowadays they often add margarine (which might or might not be vegan) or butter instead of coconut oil (which was used traditionally).
Puto bumbong - could be vegan or non-vegan. Someone has commented that in most cases puto bumbong is not vegan.
Pinakbet or pakbet is a mix of typical Philippine vegetables, often squash, bitter melon, okra, string beans, and aubergine/eggplant. Often, it's cooked with bagoong (fish sauce) or with dried fish added to it. Sometimes it's also cooked with coconut milk.
Here is a vegan pakbet (pinakbet) cooked with tomato and salt (somewhere in Mindoro, and island way south of Manila).
Young coconuts (buko) are also commonly available (especially also outside of Manila).
The vendor will scoop the coconut meat out for you - and usually put it in a plastic bag. So, it's good to have a container with you as an eco-friendly alternative to the plastic bag.
There are also a few different street foods on small wooden "barbecue sticks", and some of these are vegan 🠞
Kamote cue (deep-fried sweet potato with sugar) and banana cue(deep-fried banana with sugar) should always be vegan.
Banana cue (bottom left), cassava balls (made from deep-fried grated cassava and sugar; top left and right), and lumpiang gulay (vegetable lumpia) or lumpiang toge (mung bean sprout lumpia) (middle). Toge are mung bean sprouts. All of these foods should be vegan.
Note: Banana cue is deep-fried banana (fried in oil). So it should be vegan. Animal fats aren't typically used for deep-frying in the Philippines. On the other hand, "dang dang cue" (below) is also banana on a stick but is not always vegan (see below).
"Dang dang cue" is grilled banana (saba type) coated with margarine and sprinkled with sugar. That means that dang dang cue is only vegan if the margarine they use happens to be vegan. Based on the intelligence (!) I could gather, here's the vegan status of some margarines commonly available in the Philippines:
Star (NOT vegan) -- very common
Minola (NOT vegan)
[- Sagana Coconut (vegan - but probably not really used by street vendors because it's too "fancy".)]
However, I was told that there is also cheap "no brand" margarine in clear plastic packaging, available in markets - which is something that vendors may buy. And the vendor might then not know the brand or ingredients of the margarine.
Dang dang cue vendor coating the bananas with vegan/non-vegan) margarine.
Peanut sugar thing (called "panutsa"): We bought this somewhere in the Batangas region (outside of Manila). You can see the ingredients aren't very precise but probably sugar, peanuts, and young coconut. It was rock hard and had much too much sugar. When we bought it we asked about the ingredients and the vendor said that it did not contain anything from animals (milk, egg, butter, etc.) - but someone has told me that panutsa in most cases will contain butter.
Panutsa - usually not vegan (probably)
In different countries I've seen (and eaten) snacks made from peanuts and sugar/syrup (including Germany, Brazil, and India). Typically they seem to be vegan (just peanuts and sugar). But in the Philippines, they sometimes contain butter (made from cow's milk), for example:
Peñato (NOT VEGAN)
Carrot juice from a Korean supermarket. Korean stores aren't uncommon. They usually have tofu, Korean fermented soya bean paste, and other things I have no idea what they are. I haven't investigated vegan kimchi.
The easiest place to buy soya milk is probably supermarkets (in shopping malls) or Soy & Bean stores. You can also find (vegan) soya milk at Pan de Manila (and Starbucks - if you must).
Soyfresh soya milk
Lactasoy soya milk with black sesame (from Thailand)
V-Soy Golden Grain almond oat soya milk
Vitamilk soya milk - note that the plain Vitamilk soya milk (see below) is NOT vegan. But the chocolate Vitamilk soya milk is vegan. Vitamilk soya milk is also available, for example, at "Mercury Drug", a very common pharmacy/drugstore chain.
This is the NON-VEGAN plain Vitamilk. It contains whole milk powder (1%).
Tofu is called "tokwa" in the Philippines. In Manila it's quite easy to find: in supermarkets in malls, at Soy & Bean shops, and at some market stalls (and in Chinese or Korean shops). If you find it at a market stall, it's probably cheapest - theoretically, because as a foreigner you might (!) be given a much higher price. Tokwa is less commonly available in the provinces (outside of Manila), and it's usually more expensive there. I'm guessing that tofu in the Philippines is typically made "Chinese style", i.e. with calcium sulfate, rather than "Japanese style" with magnesium chloride or nigari.
Taho ... What's amazing is that in the Philippines there is a street food called "taho" which is made from silken tofu, tapioca balls, and sugar syrup - so taho should always be vegan. It's considered a breakfast/morning food, so the street vendors (shouting tah-hoh) are usually around before midday. Soy & Bean shops also sell taho, and that may be a safer place to eat taho for inexperienced foreigners (because the hygiene standards of some of the street vendors may not be sufficient to keep foreigners safe - but that's just speculation). I also saw a taho stall inside a mall. The soft tofu (silken tofu, taho) is traditionally carried around in metal buckets, and then as you order they put the tofu, tapioca balls, and sugar syrup into a plastic cup. Taho is a good reason to carry a reusable (more or less) regular cup-sized cup (~250 ml) with you - so you can avoid the plastic. You can also ask the vendor to add less (or no) sugar syrup. Our correspondent send the following pictures of taho vendors (they may also sell tofu/tokwa):
Left: papaya, watermelon seeds (butong pakwan), kutsinta (see above).
Right: green kaimito, Asian pear, kamote, (mangga (mango), and lanzones (Lansium parasiticum, similar to lychee).
Durian (Durio zibethinus). They grow in the south of the Philippines and are a seasonal fruit. And either this durian wasn't that amazing or I'm just not that much of a durian fan anymore. I saw durians in some supermarkets (in malls) and in a street market in the City of Manila.
Marang - People say it's better than durian, but this one was a bit overripe and also ... there was hardly anything edible inside.
Tambis (watery rose apple, Syzygium aqueum). I saw these in front of a house. I'm assuming, they were offering the fruit to people who pass by. But I wasn't sure. So I didn't take one. (This was somewhere near Quezon Ave, in or near Laging Handa, Panay Ave or Ignacia Ave.)
Mango bargain - bought these at Eliptical Road at Quezon Memorial Circle (near the entrance, near Quezon Memorial Circle Parks Office). There are market stalls there on the sidewalk. Bought some papayas too.
Bananas: There are many types of bananas in the Philippines. But I think four are the most relevant: lakatan, latundan, senorita, and saba. The term for banana in general is "saging". The "normal" banana commonly available in Europe is the "Cavendish" banana - you can also sometimes find these in the Philippines (mostly in supermarkets, maybe considered "posh", but really not as tasty).
Lakatan (left) & latundan (middle and right) ... I always mix these two up, but latundan is a little "dirty" looking. Senorita (señorita) and saba are easy to recognize. Senorita is very small, and saba is fat looking (see below).
Saba ... Saba is often eaten cooked (a little unripe and then boiled). It can be boiled inside the skin - just boiling the whole bananas. And this makes for a great traveling snack that doesn't spoil easily (easily stays fresh one or two days), and the skin is tough enough to not easily break and make a mess. You can also eat the ripe saba raw. Both are nice. Saba is awesome.
"Baloy" is another type of banana which is bigger (BIG). It's often used for baking banana cakes and is (I am told) common in the provinces.
Note that the fruit and vegetables and other foods listed here don't even scratch the surface. There are many "exotic" fruits in the Philippines, which I have never tried or seen ... such as ... santol (Sandoricum koetjape), kubili (some kind of chestnut), mabolo, katmon, paho, kamansi, littuko, kalumpit, sugod-sugod, tabon-tabon, buli, lipote, lubeg, biasong, seryales (aka mansanitas), batwan (apparently I've tried it), sampinit, bignay, ...
The local vegetable vendor nearest to our place (in Quezon City) was impressed that I, a foreigner, would eat vegetables. And after learning that I was a vegetarian, he told everyone that this foreigner was a vegetarian and that's why he ate so many vegetables. And this happened again at the place where we stayed in Bolinao (many hours north of Manila) where the owner told everyone I was a vegetarian and didn't eat any meat.
Other common vegetables include ... sitaw, sayote (chayote), okra, ampalaya (bitter melon - there are two varieties in the Philippines: big and small), kalabasa (pumpkin), kalunay (amaranth leaves, Amaranthus viridis), hyacinth beans (Lablab purpureus), kayumanis (sometype of fern,Clausena anisum-olens), alagaw (Premna odorata), alibangbang (Piliostigma malabaricum), ... and of course bawang (garlic), and sibuyas (onions), ... and also tanglad (lemongrass) and luya (ginger).
And there are edible flowers too such as sabidukong, himbabao, ... and seeds such as dungon-late seeds ... and mushrooms such as ... kankanool, mamarang, and kurakding.
And seaweed such as ... tulad ng lato (arosep, sea grapes, Caulerpa lentillifera):
Tablea is pure cacao and is available at supermarkets (in malls) and small shops, and tourist shops too. I might be the only person who eats tablea on its own. I've noticed that the different "brands" of tablea all taste a bit different - all bitter for sure. I've tried three or four "types". This one was from a small shop and tasted quite burned (a bit like coffee grains too).
Here's "the official" definition of tablea: "The Philippine tablea is defined as roasted, ground and molded nibs of fermented pure (100%) cacao beans without added ingredients and additives. It is also a cocoa mass and cocoa liquor made from cacao beans that are fermented, dried, roasted, ground then molded into blocks, balls, discs, or tablets.
It is traditionally used in the Philippines to make a hot chocolate beverage [tsokolate] using a wooden mixing implement or stirrer." (industry.gov.ph 2022)
Tablea is used to make tsokolate - the hot chocolate drink they were talking about, which is traditionally made from tablea, water (or cow's milk), and sugar (see below). Coconut milk is also used sometimes and was originally used rather than cow's milk. You can make it with soya milk too, of course.
Tablea - I bought this one in the supermarket in Fisher Mall (Quezon City). This one was quite good, the best I found in Manila, I think (not a pasalubong/gift brought from Mindanao).
Tablea - this picture is from Mindanao too (a pasalubong picture).
In Visayas and maybe Mindanao (middle and south of the Philippines) they also use the term "sikwate" for tsokolate that for sure is just plain tablea, water, and sugar (no cow's milk) - but coconut milk could also be used for sikwate. So, sikwate should always be vegan while tsokolate could contain milk. The term sikwate may also be useful because tsokolate can also be spelled "chocolate" - providing ample room for misunderstanding, i.e. someone (especially a foreigner) ordering tsokolate ("chocolate") might be misunderstood to be ordering a typical "western" hot chocolate or a some Nesquik-type chocolate drink - both of which would typically involve cow's milk ... Then again, in Luzon, where Manila is located, people might not necessarily understand "sikwate".
Mango and vegan tsokolate (sikwate)
Vegan tsokolate (sikwate)
Peanuts - I bought these at the supermarket in Fisher Mall (Quezon Avenue). Peanuts can be a good thing to carry around for traveling vegans. They're a good source of protein, iron, and zinc (and calories), and can be eaten anywhere and with pretty much anything. A supermarket in a mall may be a good place to stock up on peanuts.
Pili nuts ... a local nut ... Check that they're not mouldy.
This "palapa" is a seasoning made from grated coconut and chili, but fresh palapa also contains scallions, turmeric, and ginger. Ingredients lists, by the way, are not that common in the Philippines.
Vegan protein powder "rawactives" (seen in SM Mall)
Halo-halo is a popular street food, but it's not usually vegan - unless you ask the vendor to leave out several things. It usually contains crushed ice, evaporated milk (NOT VEGAN), ube jam, kidney beans, sugar, young coconut strips, sago, gulaman (vegan gelatine made from agar), leche flan (NOT VEGAN), boiled taro or yam, fruit jam, and ube or mango ice cream (NOT VEGAN). Here you can see a stripped down, vegan halo-halo. The vendor left out the non-vegan ingredients. It was not extremely amazing, of course, but still cooling in the crazy heat. This was outside of Manila - somewhere in Batangas.
Gulaman - like "jelly"/"Jell-O" - but not made with gelatine (from animals) but with agar (from seaweed). Food colouring is quite popular in the Philippines. Gulaman is a typical ingredient of halo-halo. The gulaman below has raisins added to it.
Markets / food stalls
Kamote (sweet potato) vendor
Foreigners' rules for shopping at the market:
Find out the normal prices beforehand ... and/or ...
Stick to the stalls which have prices on signs (like in the picture above).
Check what the signs say: per kilogram, per "pile" (tumpok), per 1/4 kilogram.
Pick your own.
Check that the fruit / veg you buy isn't rotten.
Translation: "I'll pick the best ones for you" = I'll give you rotten food, foreigner!
State clearly how much you want, for example, "1/4 kilogram". The vendor might "misunderstand" and think you want "1 kilogram". Insist on what you want.
This may be slightly exaggerated, of course. Don't be too paranoid. You might not really need these rules at all. Most of the market people I've met were really friendly and honest.
... And the people who do attempt to cheat you do have a point that you (likely) are a "moneybag" compared to them, and there is unequal distribution of wealth in this world - even though many might not act with a clear political understanding of this in mind, they do know that you are "rich" (rich enough to buy a plane ticket) and they are not and that is not because they are lazy and you are hardworking.
Our correspondent send a bunch of more pictures of market stalls:
Shops / Stores
Pan de Manila
Pan de Manila is a bakery chain store, and there are quite many of them in Manila. This can be quite a useful place for vegans because most bread in the Philippines doesn't seem to vegan. One of the most common types of bread in the Philippines are "bread rolls" called "pandesal". Often pandesal is NOT vegan. Pan de Manila has vegan pandesal - but they also have non-vegan pandesal. Pan de Manila labels all of their vegan foods as vegan (see the white V in the green circle - below).
This is the ice cream fridge at a Pan de Manila (in the City of Manila). Don't be confused (like I was): the blue circle with the milk bottle means dairy and the green logo means vegan. So, these flavours of ice cream exist in both vegan and non-vegan versions. Make sure not to buy the non-vegan ones by mistake.
Pan de Manila also have peanut butter (without palm oil or coconut oil or hydrogenated oils) - still contains salt and sugar though. I haven't seen peanut butter made of 100% peanuts (or tahini for that matter) anywhere in Manila. Pan de Manila also have soya milk ("Soylife Soymilk" - which is vegan, confirmed by Pan de Manila).
We bought a tub of vegan ice cream thinking we could eat it straight away, but their vegan ice cream making needs improvement. Straight from the freezer the ice cream is rock hard, and then it just turns liquid after a while. See the video below.
This is pandesal from Pan de Manila.
Another Pan de Manila
As I said, most bread in the Philippines isn't vegan (I think). You CAN find some vegan ("spongy") bread in supermarkets in malls (bread like in supermarkets in England, for example), but you really have to look. In some provinces there are some other interesting vegan bread options:
"Catanduanes puto seco" ( made from rice flour and coconut milk) should always be vegan. This is a picture from Catanduanes Island. This is what they call "puto seco" (puto seko) on that island - not to be confused with the more common cookie called puto seco (which is NOT vegan). This type of "puto seco from Catanduanes" might not be available in Manila.
Salvaro is a soft bread from Leyte (middle of the Philippines), and it seems to typically be vegan. But it might not be available in Manila. The typical recipe contains flour, sugar, grated coconut, water, and yeast. ... Not to be confused with "kabkab", a dry, hard cassava cracker which they call "salvaro" in Cebu (also in the middle of the Philippines) - which may also typically be vegan. The typical recipe contains cassava, oil, coconut cream, and sugar.
Soy & Bean
This is an awesome chain. I saw quite a few Soy & Bean stores in Manila. They sell vegan ice cream, soya milk, tofu, vegan pandesal, etc. Note: Not everything they sell is vegan. The Chinese characters say "tofu store".
Black sesame and soya ice cream (vegan) by Soy & Bean. Quite good.
I didn't really see many interesting things at 7-eleven - and 7-eleven stores are common. They used to have a plant-based burger steak (a "burger steak" is basically a burger without the bread/bun etc.), but we looked in quite a few 7-eleven stores but couldn't find it. Here you can see a poster advertising the plant-based burger steak. The plant-based burger steak (the burger patty) is vegan - as confirmed by 7-eleven Philippines. However, the gravy of the planr-based burger steak is not vegan. 7-eleven Philippines has sent me the ingredients list of this gravy: "here is the list of ingredients for the gravy sauce of our Plant-based burger steak - water, margarine [NOT SURE IF VEGAN], soy sauce, all-purpose flour, onions, white sugar, gelatin [NON-VEGETARIAN], garlic, iodized salt, MSG (flavor enhancer), ground black pepper, potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate (preservatives)." And then there is the plant-based burger, including the bun and toppings and including non-vegan (cow's milk) cheese. Other than that, some 7-eleven stores are said stock Vitamilk soya milk (remember, the plain one isn't vegan), and, allegedly, vegan Magnum ice cream.
There are other non-vegan plant-based burgers. For example, this chain (Brothers Burger) sells a plant-based veggie burger - that is NOT vegan.
I didn't seriously investigate drinkables. But San Miguel is the most common beer brand in the Philippines - I'm assuming it's vegan. In terms of water (tubig), I tried drinking boiled tap water, but it doesn't taste good. We had water delivered in big water containers. Otherwise you'll need to buy water in plastic bottles. I didn't investigate alcoholic drinks other than beer either. But I did walk around with open eyes, and I think, an interesting place for a foreigner is the Kultura store at SM Mall Makati (1223 Palm Dr, Makati, I think). Kultura is a shop with traditional Filipino food, clothes, etc. They also have tablea, for example, and they have several Filipino liquors, etc.
Our correspondent sends these two pictures of ...
Sago't gulaman, a typical Filipinio refreshment, commonly sold in the street (apparently)
The restaurants here are vegan and vegetarian restaurants only.
Pipino is a 100% vegan restaurant that is, however, part of the restaurant "Pino" which is non-vegetarian. So, there are two restaurants next to each other that belong to the same owner, and the one on the left is Pipino, the vegan one. The menu is also an all-vegan one. We entered through the entrance to Pino and the waiter also suggested we take a seat in Pino - which we didn't. I think, Pipino is an interesting restaurant because their food is based on vegan versions of traditional Filipino dishes but not based on fake meats. Quezon City. There are many vegan options on that street, including an Indian vegetarian restaurant. (There's another Pipino, also in Quezon City.)
Malunggay (moringa, Moringa oleifera) - see pictures of the malunggay tree below.
Vegan chocolate cake
Two more pictures from Pipino:
Coach Arms, a small, new, 100% vegan restaurant (entrance is on the side street). Quezon City.
The Vegetarian Kitchen (100% vegan). For some reason I didn't end up going to Vegetarian Kitchen. Next time. Quezon City.
Our correspondent sends this picture: vegan dark chocolate cake from The Vegetarian Kitchen, which costs around 400+ pesos, probably the best price in Manila (or the world).
Greens restaurant (100% vegan).
Great food, nice place, friendly people. Unfortunately they were out of cake. Hare Krishna-looking pictures on the walls. Quezon City.
Mango shake, tsokolate, and ice tea, I think
This is vegan "fish".
Planted ... I saw this at night, somewhere near iVegan (Makati). But I couldn't find any online presence. So, I'm not sure if they still exist.
iVegan (100% vegan restaurant) ... We went there after eating somewhere else. So, we didn't eat much at iVegan. Very friendly staff. Europe-like prices. Makati.
Some hipster bowl.
Our correspondent sends some more pictures from iVegan:
Banawe Soybean Curd - this is a soy product company, not a store or restaurant but on the same street as "Harvesters Vegetarian". We just walked past. Banawe is the name of the street.
Harvesters Vegetarian (formerly known as Bodhi; not 100% vegan but vegan-friendly). Quezon City.
This BBQ sauce has swastikas on it, which in Europe can get you into trouble. So, I'm only showing the censored version here. (I've been told that the correct term here is "sauwastika" rather than "swastika". The sauwastika is left-facing/counter-clockwise. The swastika and sauwastika are, of course, common symbols in India, China, Japan, and Korea. I have also been told that the design of this barbecue sauce has now been updated and does not include swastikas/sauwastikas.)
They have a buffet with mostly vegan options. But you can't randomly mix things. Instead you choose one thing per plate and pay per plate. Strange. The same white-pinkish things are also available at the vegan restaurant "Vege Select" in China Town (see below). I find them disgusting (!) - unless you like plasticky artificial-tasting food. Canned Del Monte pineapple juice - not worth buying. Tofu and vegetables - decent food in my opinion. Noodles - OK. Friendly staff.
This is called a "fresh lumpia" - fresh meaning it's not fried like normal lumpia. I liked that one. Recommended. If you go to Harvesters, order this.
Big tofu cubes = good
The small green fruit is kalamansi (calamansi, Philippine lime). You squeeze the juice onto the food. Kalamansi are very common.
Our correspondent send these pictures of another "Harvesters Vegetarian" in the SM City North EDSA mall (Quezon City). There also is a Harvesters in SM Megamall (Mandaluyong).
Closed vegetarian restaurant and Buddhist temple we found on Google maps, checked it out, but the place doesn't seem to exist anymore (at this location at least).
Our correspondent send this picture from Indulge (100% vegan restaurant; Quezon City).
Likha Diwa is a 100% vegan restaurant. But due to the pandemic it wasn't open for "dining in". It used to be called "Likha Diwa Vegetarian and Seafood Cafe", but they don't have "seafood" anymore. We once passed by in the middle of the night. Quezon City.
And then in the middle of the day. We did "dine in", i.e. they had a table for us, but it didn't exactly look like a restaurant (and I'm talking punk standards). Anyway, it was not officially open for eating in.
This was the Likha Diwa menu.
This was the chocolate cake. It was good but a bit crumbly. Likha Diwa seems like a cool place to me. But I like non-formal places.
Sexy Kitchen by B
Well, Sexy Kitchen is probably the place that would be referred to as "must visit" (or the must visit) in Manila. Unbeknownst to me, the Korean concept of samgyupsal (some animal eating thing) seems to be very popular in the Philippines, with some extremely popular Korean samgyupsal restaurants. The "Sexy Kitchen" is known for offering a vegan samgyupsal (see below). Makati.
Pandesal (probably the best pandesal you'll find)
Vegan bulalo soup
Three different types of (really good) vegan meats (part of the samgyupsal)
Our correspondent send these two pictures: cake and more samgyupsal.
Daily Veggie restaurant ... very vegan-friendly but not 100% vegan, very friendly people. Quezon City.
Daily Veggie menu
Soya skins (this is the censored version without swastikas - sauwastikas to be more accurate) at Daily Veggie. They have a small store section.
Bao tse - in the Philippines they call them "siomai". I have not tried many, but these ones were quite good. I bought these at "Daily Veggie". I almost went back to buy more of these.
Heavenly Grace (100% vegan) restaurant. It was closed when we passed by.
Wabi Sabi ... vegetarian, mostly vegan restaurant. It was late and the kitchen was closed when we passed by. This is the one in Quezon City. There's another one in Makati.
Vege Select, a 100% vegan restaurant in China Town. Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of the food, but it's quite "typical vegan Chinese buffet" food, similar to Harvesters (see above). City of Manila.
Green Meat Hub
This is a vegan vendor located inside the Mercato "food court", which is located inside the Ayala Circuit Mall (Makati). Tapioca and coconut oil are commonly used in the Philippines to make this type of vegan "meat". Lots of plastic is unfortunateley also very common.
There are other 100% vegan restaurants in Manila. Check out the table at the very end.
Green Bar (100% vegan) in Makati.
These photos are from June 2022.
Vegan pop-up market
ELPI is a 100% vegan food delivery company that specializes in "Vellychon", a vegan version of "bellychon". But they also have "chicken" nuggets and pizza too.
These vegan "chicken nuggets" seem to be quite similar to chicken nuggets from chickens - which many people love. These are also from ELPI.
Our correspondent send these six pictures of food by ELPI:
Pizza Plant / Go Salads (delivery only)
Pizza Plant is a 100% vegan business that opened during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the same people also run a "Go Salads" (which is a non-veg chain restaurant) in the same location (I mean, the San Juan location). So, both businesses are really the same place but officially two separate businesses. They also have Ambassador ice cream (all 100% vegan).
Although it's delivery only, they had a table for us and we could eat the pizza there.
This is the (non-veg) "Go Salads" menu.
This is the (100% vegan) Ambassador ice cream "menu" at Pizza Plant
We once went there (see above) and once had pizza delivered (below).
Our correspondent send these pictures of "Plant Thea", a 100% vegan cake delivery.
... I'm not sure of they still exist.
There are other 100% vegan food companies that offer delivery (but have no physical store/restaurant). Check out the table at the very end.
The Vegan Grocer. San Juan.
The Vegan Grocer is a classic vegan shop/store that will make a Filipino vegan's heart sing with joy. Check out their products on Shopee (a Philippine version of Amazon). They have, for example, vegan bagoong, vegan chicken or ham spread, peanut butter, etc. Probably lots of vegan travel snacks too.
There are more 100% vegan stores (with an actual physical store) in Manila. Check out the table at the very end.
Eating at non-vegetarian places
The typical thing for eating vegan at non-veg places is that either ...
(1) the chef and staff do not even know what vegan means or, which is much more common nowadays, (2) the chef and staff do know what vegan means (no animal products at all), but they think that means only eating "vegetables". This isn't specific to the Philippines. I have experienced this many times in Germany, for example, which is a country where vegan eating is relatively well-known, popular, and fashionable. The protein powerhouses of vegan diets are tofu, tempeh, and legumes (beans, chickpeas/garbanzos, lentils, peanuts, etc.) in general, in addition to maybe quinoa, nuts, seeds, nut butters, etc. (and adding mushrooms as a possible extra). Many chefs in non-veg places do not use these foods regularly, nor do they have them on hand/in stock in their restaurant kitchens ... So, if you order a vegan meal, and they will understand "yes, vegan means no animal products", they will serve you a dish of vegetables - which can be great if that's what you want. But generally this is not nutritionally sustainable, especially if you are mostly having this type of main meals for several days (or longer) - because protein is lacking. Sometimes the dishes are even low-fat, in addition to being very low-protein. The high-protein vegan foods (legumes, etc.) are typically also rich in iron and zinc (and other micronutrients). So, lacking these major staples of the vegan diet for days on end, you might end up feeling less energetic than usual (tired), and you might even be more prone to infections (if you eat a very low-protein diet for days or weeks) - which is not something you want when traveling or being on holiday (especially in a foreign country).
This is an example of two "vegetables only" meals in Mindoro (correspondent's photos): These dishes do come with plain rice - but no legumes. While this type of meal might be tasty (ideally), it's not very satisfying, at least not over the course of several days or more. For me personally, it would not be satisfying for a single day.
Fast food chains
Of all the popular fast food chain "restaurants", Starbucks and Chowking may be the most vegan-friendly - but the options aren't amazing. Unlike in Europe for example, McDonald's and KFC do not have relevant vegan options, and the extremely popular Filipino chain Jollisupermabee has no vegan options (except French fries). Burger King does have plant-based burger options which may be vegan (see below).
The very popular fast food chain Chowking has some vegan options: fried tofu cubes (with some sauce: soya sauce, vinegar, and onions), plain rice, and steamed kangkong (ordered without the sauce) - which makes at least a good basic meal. The kangkong comes with a non-vegan sauce (bagoong = fish sauce ... the bagoong is usually in a small separate container) - but ideally do ask for kangkong without sauce/without bagoong). In addition, Chowking even has sweet called "buchi" (see the two balls below, bottom right) which appears to be vegan and is made from rice flour, sweet red bean paste, and sesame - deep fried.
Steamed kangkong at Chowking
Starbucks appears to have some vegan options, including sweet and savoury options (see below). Starbucks, however, has fallen out of favour with many because of their support for the current (new) Philippine president - the son of the Philippine dictator Marcos. ... The Guardian wrote: "Under [the old] Marcos’s two-decade rule, thousands were killed, tortured and “disappeared”. The Philippines became a kleptocracy as the Marcos family and their cronies plundered up to US $10bn. [...] The return of the Marcoses is a warning to the world." (The Guardian, 18 May 2022) As of May 2022, Starbucks Philippines have a "plant-based classic lasagna" (with plant-based cheese and plant-based meat - it's not clear if this could contain anything non-vegan) as well as vegan "No Chix Japanese Curry Puff" and vegan "Penne alla Vodka" (pasta dish).
Our correspondent also send these pictures of Starbucks in Manila:
Silk soya and almond milk
Since around 2020 Burger King Philippines has introduced plant-based options - at first it had non-vegan mayonnaise and non-vegan cheese. The mayonnaise seems to be vegan now (as indicated by the ads from 2021). The burger patties ("meat") seem to be vegan. Interestingly, the ads from 2022 show that they are using veg-"chicken" by "The Vegetarian Butcher" (from Europe) - not all of the products by The Vegetarian Butcher are vegan. So, it's best to double-check. I couldn't confirm any of the information with Burger King (no reply).
These two are from November 2021 ("now with plant-based mayo").
Shakey's: Although Shakey's (a pizza parlour chain) is said to have a vegan pizza (called "Goood Taco Pizza") and they do have a plant-based burger (called "Goood Burger"; three Os), they say they have no vegan options. The vegan pizza (if ordered without cheese?) seems to have only been available at "select" Shakey's outlets. The pizza dough and pizza tomato sauce at Shakey's appear to be vegan though. The plant-based burger called "Goood Burger" (which does still exist) is plant-based but not vegan. While the burger patty itself seems vegan, the bun is NOT vegan: "the potato bun makes our Goood burger non-vegan as it has egg and milk components." (quote Shakey's May 2022) I couldn't get a reply from Shakey's if they have a vegan pizza.
You can see the Shakey's logo in this picture.
The fast food chain "Army Navy" also have some plant-based options - but these appear to not be vegan. I wasn't able to confirm this with Army Navy though (no reply).
This is a bougainvillea flower.
Not sure what this is.
Cassia pod - found these lying around at UP Diliman campus (UP: University of the Philippines; Cassia fistula). This is an interesting medicinal plant. If you want to taste the fruit pulp, only taste a tiny bit. "The pulp of the fruit is considered a laxative although in Ayurvedic medicine, self-medication short of medical supervision is strongly prohibited." (Mwangi et al. 2021)
Aubergine / eggplant (Aubergines are called "talong".)
Yellow passion (sweet granadilla, Passiflora ligularis) tree, also known as "pasyonarya" or "masaflora" in Tagalog.
Jackfruit (= langka) tree
Carabao (water buffalo) - Batangas
Dog - Batangas
Abandoned kitten - Manila
Toad - Manila
Snail - Manila
Dog on a short leash - Manila
Lounging cat - Manila
A sea shell-dwelling crustacean (near Bolinao, Pangasinan region, i.e. far from Manila)
Dog in a restaurant in Bolinao.
We bought bananas from this stall. So many huge and colourful dead fishes. Bolinao.
Turkeys - near Bolinao
A turkey somewhere next to Quezon Avenue, Manila
A dog next close to Fisher Mall (Quezon Avenue)
Pigeons outside the entrance to the Chinese Cemetery, Manila ... Pigeons are sold for events like weddings etc.
A cat inside the Chinese Cemetery, Manila
A kitten at Quezon Memorial Circle. You can see many sick-looking kittens around Manila.
Man changing a horseshoe - City of Manila
Maybe the most popular celebratory food in the Philippines is lechon (roasted pig). They also use the word "lechon" for other animals, as in "chicken lechon" (lechon manok) or "cow lechon" (lechon baka).
We happened to walk into an area (the barangay Paang Bundo, Quezon City) that prides itself as being the "lechon capital of the Philippines".
Humans can get used to a lot - does this not look horrifying (and it sort of reminds me of when humans were impaled).
More of the same
Many dogs are kept on really short chains all day long.
A stained glass window in a church depicting St Francis of Assisi. I don't remember the name of this church, but it was somewhere in or close to Tatalon (Quezon City).
Lamb of god symbol
Again, this is far outside of Manila, somewhere near Mabini (Batangas). This is a farm for breeding fighting cocks (gamecocks), ... and one of the local dogs hanging out.
Same dog as above.
Another one of the local dogs, growling.
Another rooster (three actually).
Another rooster, somewhere in the street.
This seems to be common. Big fish, many, in a tiny fish tank. Bangus is a type of fish (called milkfish). This was also far outside of Manila. But I also saw massively "overcrowded" fish tanks in a supermarket in Fisher Mall in Quezon City.
Baby chicks being sold ... Vendors selling baby chicks, hand-painted baby chicks, dyed baby chicks as toys basically. From what I understand, all the animals that aren't sold will be discarded (thrown in the rubbish/killed). And those that are sold will likely also die while the child who received this toy as a present is playing with it (or the child gets tired of it). And all of this animal killing because it's "fun". This was just outside Blumentritt NLR (train) station in Manila. They were also selling baby rabbits and rats (and baby ducks too, I think). The rats, I was told, are likely for students of biology/veterinary medicine (etc.) to experiment on. I've seen something similar in South America (baby chicks and baby ducks being sold as toys) but not that many in one place. This was just before Easter. So, I thought it might have something to do with Easter. But apparently, animals are sold in this way all year round.
Woman painting the chicks.
Rabbits and rats.
This seems to be common all over the world. Butcher shops depicting animals as "happy cartoon animals". Why do meat eaters have to pretend that the animals they kill are happy? (This was somewhere close to the North Cemetery, probably in San Isidro Labrador.)
If you live in the Philippines ... or need to buy B12 there. The easiest and cheapest option is probably to order a Solgar supplement from Shopee or Lazada (the Philippine version of the western monster called Amazon). I only (!) saw methylcobalamin (not the usually more common and more stable cyanocobalamin). But if you buy a high-dose supplement, there's probably not much of a difference (I'm guessing). Take 2000 mcg (i.e. two tablets if you have the supplement below) once per week ... or 1000 mcg twice per week (for example, Wednesdays and Sundays or whatever days you like).
The average vegan doesn't need iron supplements. But some women lose a lot of blood (= lose a lot of iron) during menstruation and may feel better (less tried etc.) with an iron supplement. I saw this supplement available at Mercury Drug (common chain store).
You might think rivers belong to green spaces where you can hang out and relax. Not in Manila. Often they are full of rubbish and in some areas the stench is terrible.
This is the San Juan river seen from Quezon Ave Bridge.
This should also be the San Juan river (a bit further downstream).
This is Diliman Creek.
This is the San Juan river, next to Puregold Kalentong (Puregold is a supermarket chain) - even further downstream. The San Juan River flows into the Pasig River, the main river in Manila, which flows into the sea.
This is the Pasig River next to the Ayala Mall Circuit (Makati). The fish are gasping for oxygen here.
This was probably the Pasig river.
If you want to transfer money from abroad to a Philippine bank account, the Wise app can be very useful and give you a good rate.
This and that
Many people live in makeshift houses. Many of these DIY houses are made of concrete, but many are made from sheets corrugated metal and/or all kinds of stuff (see below). These houses are referred to as "informal settlements". Probably much of Manila consists of informal settlements. Some of these are "legalized" while others are not, but they are still (at least temporarily) tolerated by the state.
Drugs are highly illegal in the Philippines.
There are quite many Buddhist temples around. As Buddhism in the Philippines appears to be strongly influenced by Chinese/Taiwanese Buddhism, vegetarianism does not seem to uncommon among Buddhists in the Philippines.
When you think Philippines, you might think thousands of islands and therefore 🠊 beaches. In Manila there is a controversial, artificial, non-swimming beach, and even that was closed when I was there. It seems that in most (?) of Luzon - and you may want to sit down - most of the shoreline is privately owned or at least blocked by private property. That means that you cannot just go to the sea and there's the beach. It means that there is hardly anywhere where you can find a public beach, and in most places you will have to pay - and you may not want to continue reading, if you're Filipino - a ridiculous price (~10-15 EUR minimum) to be allowed to enter a "resort" (some space with tables and benches) to go to a beach that might not have sand, might be full of rubbish, and where people are singing karaoke at full volume.
This was a public beach near Bolinao. At 6 pm (18:00) the police showed up and forced people to get out of the water (closing time).
There are good beaches though (but often private).
And there's the wonderful sea.
KKK does not mean Ku Klux Klan in the Philippines.
Books about Manila
List of 100% vegan restaurants, stores, and food deliveries in Metro Manila