9 Things for Kids to Discover in Old Manila

If you've lived in Manila for a few years, there's a big chance that you joined a city tour with Carlos Celdran or Ivan Dy. We did, and loved it! Very enjoyable and informative, but to be honest, not really a tour I would take my kids to. Too big of a crowd, too many hours walking in the heat, resulting in crying, bored and hungry kids. No, thanks.

Yet, last Sunday, we braved bringing 3 kids to Quiapo to try out a tour and this time we went with Smokey Tours.

Smokey Family Tours

Carriedo Fountain in front of Sta. Cruz church

Smokey Tours

Smokey Tours trains people from underprivileged communities to run eye-opening tours around Metro Manila.  The Smokey Mountain tour born in 2011 was their signature tour, the first and only tour of its kind offered in the entire South East Asian at that time.

Today, Smokey Tours offers five different tours: Slum Tour, Bicycle Tour, Cemetery Tour, Market Tour and the latest addition: The Family Tour. Their tours consistently rank #1 on TripAdvisor. 

New! Family Tour

The Family Tour is especially designed for families with children who would like to know more about the city, their residents and local customs. You'll walk through the Market area of Old Manila to get a taste of true Filipino culture.

Smokey Family Tours

This tour will give visitors a glimpse of a vibrant part of Quipo's streets under the watchful eye of your own tourleader, who is familiar in the area.

The Family Tour doesn't take as long as the regular private tour, is more affordable, and since this is a private tour, there is more flexibility to adjust to your needs during the tour. Whether you need several bathroom stops, a slower pace or just some more action. No problem!

Here is a list of our highlights!

1. HAGGLE IN CARRIEDO STREET

You start at the famous Carriedo street, filled with all kinds of merchandise, clothes, digital gadgets, toys, shoes and much more. All super cheap! The tour guide can teach you how to even haggle more off the price, just like the locals do. We also bought medicinal herbs to make tea to get rid of our nasty cold.

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Local medicine. In the bag is Pito Pito, a blend of medicinal leaves and anis.

Smokey Family Tours

Stall with local goods

2. TOUCH THE BLACK NAZARENE

Once we passed the shopping stretch, we reached the interesting Quiapo Church area which is a vibrant and busy place, especially on a Sunday. The church is well known as the home of the Black Nazarene, considered miraculous to many Filipino Catholics. Have you ever heard of it's miracle story, arriving on a boat all the way from Mexico? You'll hear it during the tour...

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Entrance Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene

Smokey Family Tours

The replica of the Black Nazarene just outside the church

3. LIGHT A CANDLE

Need good fortune? Pick a brown candle. Or try pink, for better health and love! We couldn't decide on the color so we lighted a bunch of rainbow wishing candles, and made a wish for our loved ones.

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Candles in all colors and its meaning

Smokey Tours

Smokey Family Tours

Smokey Family Tours

Lighting the rainbow wishing candles

4. TASTE LOCAL DELIGHTS

Our guide Tessie bought us some local rice cake delights like suman and sapin-sapin to taste the local flavours. She also got us various well known and lesser known local fruits like sweet yellow mango, Indian mango, santol, longan and lansones. Whatever is in season, you get a taste of it! If you want to really go local, try some sour fruits with salt or bagoong, a fermented shrimp paste.

Smokey Family Tours

All kinds of rice cakes

Smokey Family Tours

Smokey Family Tours

This boy loves suman

Smokey Family Tours

Tasting sweet Rambutan

Smokey Family Tours

5. ANIMALS

The kids really wanted to bring home all the birds and bunnies they saw during this tour. On Plaza Miranda, in front of the church, we spotted the bird man from Palawan with his beautiful green birds. We admired their beauty and songs but felt so sad they were locked up in a cage.

These birds need to stay in the Palawan trees. I know the vendor also needs to make money, but please do not encourage businesses like this one. Don't buy.

Smokey Family Tours

Palawan birds

6. VISIT THE FORTUNE TELLER

Tessie told us about another local custom, to visit a fortune teller! Our eldest was asked to pull some cards and the fortune teller laid out her bright future. We know now that she'll get very rich at age 23, and she'll live to be a 120 years old.  She's a true believer now! This alone was worth the trip.

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Pull the cards and I will tell you your future!

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The fortune teller has a sharp eye

Smokey Family Tours

7. SEE THINGS YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE

The most fascinating for the kids was the chicken butcher. His chickens were nicely folded open with all organs intact. They have never ever seen this before and couldn't stop looking and asking what all the different parts were.

They learned that Filipinos don't waste anything, everything gets eaten, even the intestines and the butt end up on barbecue sticks! 

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Fascinating chickens

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Nothing gets wasted

Smokey Family Tours

Smoked fish

8. SPOT RECYCLED ART

Around the corner we saw the creativity and resourcefulness of a lady selling beautifully cut out plants, made from recycled Mountain Dew bottles. Isn't it lovely? Look around and you'll see more creative ways of vendors upcycling trash and other waste products. 

Smokey Family Tours

9. HISTORICAL BUILDINGS

After a quick stop to taste hopia - a local version of the Chinese moon cake - we were getting towards the end of the tour. We walked passed the very first SM store on Palanca street and the children were super impressed to learn that the richest man in the Philippines today, made his fortune selling secondhand furniture starting in this building.

Smokey Family Tours

The very first SM store

Smokey Family Tours

The iconic BPI building

Smokey Family Tours

Hopia from Vienna Bakery's

This tour was exactly right for our kids. Not too long, filled with interesting activities and they saw a side of the Philippines that they never experienced before. We were happy to introduce to them to this real and raw Manila life. We've met the nicest people, and felt safe with our tour guide. Just be vigilant at all times.

Fee Smokey Family Tour

The cost for the Family Tour is Php 4,850 per family of maximum 2 adults and 4 children (the regular private tour is Php 7,200 for 6 people).

There is no minimum group size.

Payment needs to be made at the start of the tour.

Please know that 100% of the profit from their tours go back to help the local community; from the opening of the Health Center where people finally have access to clean water and medical services, to the tour guide's salary who are now able to support their own family.

Inclusions Smokey Family Tour

An English speaking guide, 1.5-2 hrs tour and food tasting during the tour (drinks excluded).

Smokey Family Tours

How to Book a Family Tour

Book your Family Tour online, at www.smokeytours.com kindly mention ManilaForKids upon booking!

Tips

Be aware that it can be crowded, hot or rainy, so come prepared.

Bring a hat, umbrella, tissue paper, water, hand sanitizer.

There is no parking at meeting point Green Earth Plaza, try to park near the Carriedo fountain and Sta. Cruz church.

Use the clean toilets downstairs at Green Earth Plaza before starting the tour.

Be aware of your children and things, don't wear jewellery and keep an eye on your kids at all times.

Wear closed shoes.

Try all the food and fruits your tour guide will buy for you!

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