I am back in the super sunny UAE. It is summer here in contrast to the relatively rainy season in the Philippines. Thanks to our weeklong holiday due to Eid celebrations that I managed to have another whirlwind trip to the Philippines. It was in 2008 when the holiday had been this long. We can say that it is a once in a decade occurrence.
Would you like to explore Intramuros by calesa (horse carriage)?
I thoroughly enjoyed the short stay at home, catching up with family (aiming to catch up with some friends in my December trip this year), the raindrops, food, and more. I cannot emphasize enough how happy I am that I was able to revisit Intramuros in this trip and that the weather cooperated that day. I particularly nurtured my interest to revisit the Walled City after I had my share of visits to a number of castles and forts in the past months in the UK.
The last time I extensively wandered in Intramuros was in late 1990s. Not so surprisingly, I hardly recognized some establishments as of 2016. On the other hand, there were corners/spots that I vividly remembered no matter how much they have been restructured or replaced. It is quite interesting though that all the time I was wandering within this beloved Walled City, my eyes were seeing two frames (of the late 1990s and the present). It was a little nostalgic, so to speak.
The Intramuros that I knew used to be explored mainly by foot. But now, there are calesas (horse carriages), padyak (tribike) and even bambikes (bamboo bikes) that will aid you to go around. It was a very enriching experience as we went to the following hidden and not so hidden ‘carvings’ that witnessed the so many battles in Manila which shaped, in a way, the Philippine culture and heritage. Most of these structures kept their names during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines.
The ruins of the Customs House. This is in front of Plaza Espana. A closer look is possible through these photos.
Ayuntamiento is currently the Bureau of Treasury. Surviving the Battle of Manila and earthquakes, its restoration from 2009 to 2013 costed PhP 1.3 billion.
Baluarte de San Diego
There are several bastions (baluartes) or stone forts in Intramuros. All went through almost the similar struggles of enduring the earthquakes, British occupation and Battle of Manila. While the baluartes used to be defense structures, most of these are being utilized for special events nowadays (e.g. wedding-related, photo shoots).
Baluarte de Santa Barbara
It was built to protect the entrance to Pasig River. Most of the walls still have the canyon marks. Just like the other baluartes, the gates are closed. However, the armors and other machineries are viewable from the gates.
Baluartillo de San Jose/Reducto San Pedro
We had to climb to the so called No. 1 Victoria Street. It is one of the perfect spots to view the golf course. Apparently, this used to be the headquarters of Douglas MacArthur.
The structure with the red roof is Reducto de San Pedro (a military fort although it looks like a prison). This used to be a storage of gunpowder.
Casa de Manila
As there is no single house that survived the World War II, the Casa de Manila is said to be a result of imagination of architects and antiquarians. Hence, it is actually a museum that showcases the Spanish colonization.
At least an hour should be spent in Fort Santiago to better appreciate it. It is more popularly known to students as the prison for Jose Rizal (national hero of the Philippines). However, this fort used to be a major defense for the Spanish Government when they ruled the Philippines. Since it is near the Pasig River, it was also used for over 300 years as the main channel for trading between the Americas and Europe.
Few meters away from Fort Santiago is Manila Cathedral. Facing Plaza de Roma, it went through renovation from 2012 to 2014. It was visited by Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis in 1981 and 2015, respectively. It is also the resting place for former Manila archbishops.
Padre Burgos (accused of mutiny by the Spanish authorities and was executed in Bagumbayan/Luneta together with other 2 priests) used to live in this area. His name is still kept along with this residential building, with a 711 (convenience store) now.
The used to be location of an old bank is now Bay Leaf hotel.
The old McDonald’s (probably the first and only one in this area) which used to be a hangout of the students in Intramuros is still alive and almost unrecognizable. However, there are plenty of branches now within the Walled City .
Plaza de Roma
Who would have thought that bullfights used to happen in Plaza de Roma? Fronting the Manila Cathedral, this used to be the main public square during the Spanish colonization. Apparently, there is Plaza de Manila in Italy.
Plazuela de Santa Isabel/Plaza Sampalucan
It has been said that this plaza was named after the plenty of Sampaloc trees in this area. The padyak (tribike) drivers told us that some of the Japanese tourists that they have accompanied apologized in front of the sculpture which was built as memorial for the lives lost during the Battle or Liberation of Manila.
Plazuela Madre Francisca
Infront of Colegio de San Juan de Letran is the statue of the founder of he Beaterio Mother Francisca del Espiritu Santo (currently known as Siena College in Quezon City).
Puerta del Parian
This used to be the access point of Chinese traders since they were not permitted to do business within the Walled City. That meant that Intramuros residents had to go in this area for Chinese-related products/trading. Currently, a portion of it is used as an entry point for students of Lyceum of the Philippines.
Puerta Real/ Ravellin dela Puerta Real de Bagumbayan
There used to be cannons at Puerta del Parian. Stories say that those were targeting the then Chinese quarters (i.e. the current location of Post Office in Lawton and Metropolitan Theater).
On the other hand, the Ravellin de la Puerta Real de Bagumbayan used to be a defense for the Puerta Real which was constructed to be used exclusively by Gobernador General and archbishop when exiting the Walled City.
Puerta Real Gardens
This garden is frequented by students and is particularly a neighbor of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (University of City of Manila). No wonder that visitors are now asked to log their personal information at the entrance.
For someone like me who have not visited Intramuros after late 1990s, I was so pleased and shocked to see that there are now guardia sibil (rather, they are dressed like the old era Spanish guards) all over Intramuros.
San Agustin Church
During our visit, there is a big shout out in front of San Agustin Church that says “444 years of Augustians in Intramuros”. This church is the oldest building in the Philippines and is considered the last genuine heritage symbol of Intramuros since it is the only one of the original seven churches in Intramuros which survived the Battle of Manila in 1945. Aptly honored as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1993.
San Ignacio Church Ruins
Since its destruction in Battle of Manila in 1945, there is hardly a trace in its current form of its neoclassical, baroque and renaissance styles of architecture throughout its 300 years of glorious existence. It is said to be the second Jesuit church in Intramuros. The City of Manila used to offer it for leasing as office space and warehouse. Further, it used to be a basketball court. During our visit, there are ongoing works. We were told that it will be part of an ecclesiastical museum to house all the artifacts which had been collected by Intramuros Administration. Across the San Ignacio Ruins is the first location of Ateneo de Manila (now in Quezon City).
Santo Domingo Church (old location)/currently the BPI building
Dormitories near schools
How to go in and around Intramuros (Walled City)? You may explore it by foot, by calesas (horse carriages), padyak (tribike) like we did, bambike (bamboo bike) or a combination.
Tourists in front of San Augustin Church with their rented bambikes (bamboo bikes).
I cannot wait to revisit Intramuros and Extramuros (those outside the Walled City or other areas of Manila) on a lengthy phase as there are so much to discover and re-learn. I am appreciating more details now that I have been away from the Philippines for quite a number of years. The truth is — being away let me look at things now with more appreciation and pride of being a Filipino.