Ateneans are no strangers to stress. Be it academics or org work, the weariness we get feels all the same and usually leaves us drained by the end of the week. Sometimes, all we need is a quick weekend getaway to unwind and recharge. The question of where to go, though, may seem like another stressful matter.
There’s no need to fret, though. Here’s a compiled a list of hidden spots in the city and road trip-worthy gems that will help you power through the week.
Gandiva Archery Range & Café
If you ever feel like unleashing your inner Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games or Legolas from The Lord of the Rings, this is the place to go. Archery may seem like an intimidating sport but Gandiva Archery Range & Café promises a relaxing experience for everyone. Named after the celestial bow in the Indian epic Mahabharata, the spacious archery range aims (pun intended) to bring the sport closer to Filipinos who wish to embark on a healthy lifestyle.
There are coaches available for those who are trying out the sport for the first time. The thrill of hitting the bullseye (or at least trying to) is a good way to release post-exam stress. After trying out the bows and arrows, head on over to Gandiva’s café. They serve flavorful vegetarian meals that perfectly complement the healthy-living theme of the place. Aside from the wide selection, the dishes are reasonably priced and would fit into your weekend budget.
Budget: One hour of archery, inclusive of equipment, range lane, and coach (Php 980)
Hailed as one of the quintessential tourist spots in the metro, Rizal boasts of its diverse catalogue of scenic travel destinations: from alpine mountains to looming waterfalls to a handful of shimmering lake-beds and rivers. Only a two-hour trip from Manila, Daranak Falls is 14-meter high waterfall that provides a brief reprieve from the hustle and bustle of city life. The falls cascade into a deep catch basin, where visitors are free to swim, paddle, dive, and wade to their heart’s content. Tucked away at the foot of the craggy Tanay mountains, this tropical hideaway is adorned with all sorts of lush greens and idyllic scenery.
Open all-year round, visitors seeking a respite against the unforgiving heat can rent rubber-tubes, floaters, and other diving equipment. For the braver souls, cliff diving and spelunking are also available activities and are attended by a local guide for safety purposes. If a day at Daranak still doesn’t quench your thirst for adventure, the Tinipak River in Daraitan is a formidable companion for budding adrenaline junkies, just an hour or so away from Daranak, featuring trekking and river crossing.
Budget: Entrance fee for adults (Php 50), while children below three feet can enter free-of-charge. Picnic sheds (Php 300) and picnic tables (Php 200) are also available.
For those wanting to go off the beaten track, this hidden sanctuary in Rizal is perfect for the adventurous type. The Masungi Georeserve is home to various species of flora and fauna. Expect spectacular views that are worthy of your next Instagram shot. The giant hammock and metal spider web are unique features of the geopark that are perfect spots to bask in the splendor of nature with your barkada.
Be ready to work up a good sweat as the trail takes around three to four hours to complete. The trail also features an exciting rope course that hangs a few feet above the ground, letting you get to see a bird’s eye view of the Sierra Madre mountains and the Laguna de Bay. The Masungi Georeserve is the ultimate place to disconnect from your gadgets and instead, get in touch with the great outdoors.
Budget: Php 1,400 per person (minimum of seven people)
Historic Metro Manila
Uphold your sense of patriotism and take a stroll down memory lane by spending a day away from the industrialized cityscape and delving into the cultural relics that have shaped what makes our society distinctly Filipino.
Deep in the heart of Manila lies Rizal Park, formerly Luneta, best described as an artefact embodied into a landmark. Flaneurs of all ages will enjoy relishing the Rizal monument, as well as cruising around the other sights within the urban park. After all, there’s something particularly poetic about beginning the day with Kilometre Zero.
Revisit old-school Manila in all its former glory at Intramuros, the Walled City, with its charmingly cobblestoned streets and grandiose architecture. Brimming with nostalgia, you may opt to take a leisurely stroll around this rustic city on foot or via rentable bamboo bikes—regardless, this location is one that must be scaled from start to finish, each nook and cranny explored to register the full-on experience.
If you have time to spare, experience a melting-pot of culture in Binondo, the oldest Chinatown in the world, with its gritty and authentic aesthetic, reminiscent of 60’s vintage films. Best known for its scattering of hole-in-the-wall eateries, the aroma of Hokkien cuisine wafting through the paved streets is just one temptation to getting lost in this hub of culture. One never leaves Binondo without bringing home some sort of souvenir; from well-loved Chinese delicacies, such as sweetened ham and mooncake, to bizarre apothecaries selling exotic refineries such as love potions and enchanted amulets.
If your tastes are slightly inclined to aesthetics, a great addition to your cultural repertoire would be a deft appreciation for the arts. Drop by the National Museum, often heralded as the cradle of numerous masterpieces, and witness in living color the archive of Filipino contributions to the artistic canon, such as the Spoliarium and Amorsolo sculptures. Regardless of whichever scene you choose to grace, guaranteed, you’ll be coming home with a widened sense of worldview, and a handful of Instagram-worthy shots as well.
Budget: Entrance to the National Museum is free, as well as in public areas like Rizal Park, Binondo, and Intramuros
Sometimes a trip to the beach is all you need to forget about stress and Nagsasa Cove in Zambales is definitely worth the roadtrip. This secret paradise was devastated by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo over 20 years ago. Now, the ashes from the volcanic eruption have spawned a one-of-a-kind ash gray shoreline. Rows and rows of trees give off the illusion that you’re in a magical place in between the beach and the mountains.
With a view of the mountains and the seaside at your feet, this place is perfect for an overnight camping trip with your squad. While you’re here, the best thing you can do is to get in touch with nature—swim, trek, or paddleboard. Visitors are encouraged to bring a supply of trash bags in order to conserve the natural beauty of this place. The breathtaking medley of the mountains, forest, and sea will surely leave you longing for your next trip back.
Budget: Camping fee (Php 100) and tent rental (Php 300)
Ninja Academy Pasig
A training ground for parkour enthusiasts and aspiring ninjas-to-be, the Ninja Academy opened its doors last March 15, 2014 to the general public. The first indoor parkour facility of its kind in Manila, the academy was established by members of the Philippine Parkour Freerunning Association as a means of incorporating the vigorousness of strength training along with the sheer euphoria of stunt performance, through their programs’ focus on muscle-building, conditioning, and overall fitness.
Adequately equipped with walls, vaults, ropes, bars, and even a gargantuan foam pit, the Academy proves to be a great launching pad for those craving that rush for adrenaline. Beyond the ass-kicking and ceaseless somersaulting, the Academy features a diverse array of classes, ranging from Kenjutsu that teaches the art of swordsmanship, as well as Tricking, a diverse combination of martial arts, gymnastics, breakdancing, and capoeira. By the end of the semester, any student will be as swift as the coursing river, with all the force of a great typhoon, with all the strength of a raging—yeah, you get the point.
Budget: Walk-in (Php 350), one year membership (Php 2,300/month)
It doesn’t take much to realize that you don’t need to spend expensive plane tickets or waste countless hours on the road to unwind. It’s easy to forget, juggling all sorts of responsibilities—academics, org work, and social life—that every once in awhile, one needs to take a step back and relax.