Heroes’ holiday: Under-the-radar historical ‘staycations,’ side trips to rediscover

MANILA, Philippines — Looking for a road trip or a weekend getaway for holidays like National Heroes’ Day and the fast-approaching –Ber months?

Whether you are modern-day hero overseas Filipino worker (OFW) wanting to reconnect with your roots; a local giving Philippine history and culture 101 to a foreigner or Balikbayan friend; or simply someone who loves everything Filipino, here are some options that offer both a restful and an educational weekend for kids and kids-at-heart this Buwan ng Wika and beyond:

Scenic ‘staycation’ by historic Pasig River

National Hero Jose Rizal’s written memory of the legendary Pasig River as “pretty” can best be enjoyed by the banks of Novotel Suites Manila at Acqua.

Since Novotel Suites Manila at Acqua is located in Mandaluyong City, just minutes away from major Metro Manila central business districts, its spacious rooms, sidewalks and amenities like gym and infinity pool provide an Instagram-worthy view of the city skyline. The tall buildings’ lights glimmer and mirror beautifully over the Pasig River especially at night. 

Even as a storm approaches, a “staycation” here feels safe, with the monsoon breeze making a stroll or a swim even more refreshing and relaxing. A stay at the hotel also allows one to explore (but not use) the parks, pools and gardens of the neighboring Acqua Private Residences, whose cherry on top is the Acqua Iguazu Yoo Inspired by Starck tower, whose award-winning residences and amenities were designed by French superstar architect and industrial designer Philippe Starck.

About a five-minute drive away, just over the Mandaluyong bridge that connects the cities of Mandaluyong and Makati, is Powerplant Mall. Just behind the mall are more dining and entertainment options in the famous bar and restaurant hub Poblacion, which is near another landmark, Century City Mall.

Century City, Powerplant and Poblacion are among the rooftops also visible from the Novotel hotel. Just outside the hotel is the Catholic San Felipe Neri Church, so “staycationers” can go to mass during a stay in the hotel, or those who want to get married at the nearby church can book a function room and a private room in the hotel for the bride, groom and their wedding reception.

Known as a business hotel, the newest Accor property in Manila is also for leisure stays. Apart from the 31-sqm Standard Suites in twin and king configurations, there are three other rooms to choose from to tailor-fit your stay. There is the 45-sqm, one-bedroom Deluxe Suite for those who wish for extra privacy. 

For those who long for space (and a bathtub), there is the 75-sqm Superior Suite. The expansive Premiere Suite, the largest room on offer, has a total floor area of 91 sqm and expansive views of the city skyline. The Deluxe, Superior, and Premier Suites are also equipped with a fully furnished kitchen complete with cookware and cutlery.

Apart from a spacious outdoor pool, complimentary WiFi access, complimentary parking when available, and free access to Kiddie Corner (play area) and InBalance Fitness gym, the hotel has its own lounge café and picturesque Tempus restaurant, with a caring staff and a sumptuous spread of healthy buffet breakfast that comes with every stay. Complimentary shuttle service to and from Century City Mall is every 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. — just in time for check-in and check-out. 

Other Manila ‘staycation’ options:

  • Admiral Hotel and Rizal Park Hotel – Historical buildings transformed into modern, world-class accommodations also found along Roxas Boulevard near another legendary hotel, the Manila Hotel.

Side trip options during a Manila staycation:

  • Emilia Restaurant and Teus Mansion – Emilia is an old house refurbished into a classy Filipino-Spanish fusion restaurant. It is a stone’s throw away inside the Malacanang Palace Complex from the relatively newly renovated Teus Mansion, which is now a museum containing interactive exhibits and artifacts about the country’s presidents and spouses.
  • Manila Zoo – the relatively newly renovated zoo contains some animals, but the must-sees are a central savannah, a peacock garden, an interactive butterfly garden where one can touch and buy live butterflies, and of course, Mali the elephant who has survived the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Ocean View Seafood and Restaurant – Though pricey and quite smelly as it floats by the shores of Manila Bay, this restaurant frequented by celebrities and politicians offers a wide array of fresh seafood and intercontinental dishes – ranging from Filipino to Japanese, American and European. True to its name, it provides dining with a spectacular view of Manila Bay’s world-famous sunset.
  • Palacio de Memoria

  • Quezon Memorial Circle and Manuel L. Quezon’s memorial and museum (in time for Buwan ng Wika)
  • Presidential Car Museum (within Quezon Memorial Circle compound) houses the presidents’ automobiles as well as trivia about these vehicles and the prominent figures that rode them. By the entrance is Catriona Gray’s parol-inspired Miss Universe National Costume.


As the hometown or birthplace of National Heroes like Marcelo H. del Pilar (the “Great Propagandist” of the Philippine Propaganda Movement and editor in chief of “La Solidaridad”), General Gregorio del Pilar and Mariano Ponce, among others, the Province of Bulacan is also home to many historical events, namely, the “20 Women of Malolos” who exerted pressure for education under Filipino professors, and the Pact of Biak-na-Bato in San Miguel.

In 1899, the historic Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan became the birthplace of the first constitutional democracy in Asia.

As for “staycation,” San Rafael River Adventure in San Rafael has family-size villas, some with special features – one has its own Jacuzzi beside the bed, while another one has its own big pool – although the resort has plenty of pools and parks for exploring and picture-taking.

Other historic side trips:


As the birthplace of National Hero Jose Rizal, the Province of Laguna has many things to offer – from sights to food and adventure.

For “staycation,” a good option is Mountain Lake Resort, which offers cruises, water sports and camping by the scenic Laguna de Bay. The resort, although lacking in night lamps by its lengthy entrance, has floating villas from which you can go fishing right from your villa’s windows; as well as villas with their own private pools.

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Other notable side trips:

  • Thailand-themed Isdaan Restaurant owned by Ongpauco family of Barrio Fiesta
  • Jose Rizal’s Calamba family house and baptismal church
  • Padre Pio Shrine with the saint’s original vestments museum
  • Lumban embroidery town
  • Paete woodworks, papier-mache cottage industries
  • Cavinti church where Jose Rizal and his mom went as pilgrimage

Tayabas, Sariaya, Mount Banahaw

For staycation, try Graceland in Tayabas, Quezon, which has a deer park and a picturesque lake with a hanging bridge; or Sariaya’s heritage homes designed by Juan Luna’s son, Andres Luna de San Pedro, a Filipino achitect who built the country’s first air-conditioned building, the Crystal Arcade, in historical business district Escolta in Manila.

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