Intramuros is a historic city that all visitors to the Philippines should not miss, even for those who are only in Manila for a day.
With its huge walls, cobblestone streets, and old stone houses, it is so different from the world outside that it’s easy to forget you’re in Asia when you’re inside it.
You can appreciate Philippine history better too, by visiting its numerous attractions like Fort Santiago, the baluartes, Bahay Tsinoy, and 16th-century churches like the Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church.
Aside from sightseeing though, there’s also another way to appreciate Philippine culture; and that’s to eat local food. A perfect place within the walls of Intramuros is Barbara’s, a restaurant that not only serves excellent Filipino food, but has nightly cultural presentations as well.
I love old stone houses, and Barbara’s is very strategically located in front of San Agustin Church. Its outside facade gives the impression of an über-expensive restaurant where only gown-clad women and men in tux eat, but it turned out not to be the case!
The interior was cozy and warm, reminding me of old Spanish homes with its wooden floors and sliding capiz windows. There were a lot of customers too, ranging from prettily-dressed women to people in jeans like us.
As part of a group of bloggers who were invited to visit Barbara’s Restaurant, I was amazed to realize that there was a place within the walled city that could provide not only good food but an insight into the richness of Philippine culture in one go. They serve the buffet dinner at 6pm. At only P545 (net), it was a great meal indeed!
They had soup, a salad, some pasta (Linguine Alessandro), roasted chicken, lumpia (spring roll), fish (baked red snapper), and a number of truly Filipino desserts like ginataang halu-halo, rice cakes, and gelatin, among others.
Before the buffet, a piano player provided the soft music, and during the meal, a quartet also played.
It was just too bad that the seafood was limited (just the fish), so I ended up with this very filling dinner of soup, pasta, fish, spring roll, and dessert. According to owner JC delos Reyes, the menu is changed every day, so even if you can afford to eat here nightly, you’ll never tire of the food.
But what I really loved about eating at Barbara’s Restaurant was the cultural presentations that followed. There were folk dances one after another, ranging from the dances in the north to the Muslim dances in the south.
There was a tinikling (hopping and dancing over bamboo poles), a kuratsa (courtship dance), a cariñosa (flirtatious dance using handkerchiefs), among others.
The most exciting was the binasuan (see video below), where three women dancers showed off their balancing skills. They moved, gyrated and rolled around the floor with glasses on their heads and hands. The drinking glasses were half-filled with colored liquid, and none fell off during their number.
They immediately took it down after the dance, showing that it wasn’t in any way glued to their heads or hands. Originally from the Pangasinan province, the binasuan dance is said to be commonly done (at least before) during weddings and fiestas.
So if you’re looking for a place where you can take your family or your group of friends to an entertaining and educational night out, you can’t do better than to go to Barbara’s Restaurant where good food and good entertainment come hand in hand!
Gen. Luna St. (across San Agustin Church)
Plaza San Luis Complex
Telephone number: (+632) 527-3893