Three years ago, I never thought I’d be living back in Manila as a vegan. In fact, I didn’t even know the word vegan. And yet, here I am, living a life full of plants, with no looking back.
It didn’t always start out that way. I live in the Philippines, a meat-loving country. People loved their meat so much that it was the star of every meal. There’s cured pork and salted fish to start the day, and chicken and pork are the stars of the plate. Fruits and vegetables were thought of as an alien life form and were always thought of as a side dish or, worse, as decoration.
When I went vegan, everybody was surprised, mostly because they don’t know anyone who gave up meat. They also cannot imagine eating just fruits and vegetables all day, every day. Every time I was with meat-eating family and friends, “Where do you get your protein?”, “You can eat fish, right?” and “What do you eat?” always filled the conversation.
I stuck to my guns though and continued my education about veganism, animal rights and our food and the environment. The more information I found out, the more I knew I was doing the right thing.
And what validated it more was the fact that I found a supportive vegan community in the Philippines. It’s still pretty small but super supportive. It just makes you think, “why didn’t I turn vegan earlier?”.
Because it is a challenge for vegans and non-vegans to become vegan in Manila, I wanted to show them how easy it can be to be vegan in Manila. I started an Instagram account called @vegansofmanila, inspired by @vegansofsydney on Instagram. In @vegansofmanila, I feature different restaurants, vegan, vegetarian and non-vego places, and indicate which of their dishes are vegan or can be veganized (and how they can be veganized). Some of my favorite features have been:
Tucked in a small street in the heart of Makati (the business hub of Metro Manila), Wabi-Sabi is a small vegetarian noodle house that asks the questions: Are you Team Pho or Team Ramen? Wabi-Sabi is a vegetarian restaurant with lots of vegan options, including their Ramen and Pho. Personally, I am on Team Pho. The vegan Pho is comforting and tummy-soothing. The noodles melts in your mouth and you just can’t help but slurp the soup. My only complaint is that the bowl is too small. They also serve Fried Springrolls that come with this amazing sauce of soy sauce with mustard. It’s simple but tasty. They have a lot of other dishes that are so cheap, you can order all of them at the same time. It’s the best place to go to when you want to hang out with friends and just let loose.
Corner Tree Café is one of the original vegetarian restaurants in Manila. Located at one restaurant streets in Makati, Corner Tree Café is a small place that looks like someone’s living room converted into a restaurant. Their menu is pretty extensive but they also have weekly specials featuring vegetarian and vegan dishes from other countries. Almost every dish can be veganized and they even have dishes that are gluten-free. My current favorite is their North African Stew, a combination of potatoes, eggplant, zucchinis and carrots cooked in a myriad of Moroccan spices and served on top of red rice. My favorites change every time I visit Corner Tree. I wonder what my next favorite dish will be.
Agico serves vegetarian Japanese cuisine with vegan options. I haven’t tried their rice dishes but did try a lot of their sushi. I love how they used simple ingredients, like mushrooms, zucchini, and cucumber and made our dining experience a little fancier than usual. Their juices are tasty and refreshing and it’s a perfect place to bring the family for quality time over a simple, satisfying meal.
Currently, more and more plant-based restaurants are opening in Manila and in the Philippines. And it’s been pretty great because more Filipinos have been more mindful when it comes to healthy eating. Hopefully, this trend will become more permanent and people will continue to demand for healthier food to accompany their lifestyle.