Isn’t’ traveling all about getting lost? I have accomplished that and it’s frighteningly good!
I’m not entirely sure where I am and I am, in fact, lost. They say it’s an achievement to get lost during travels, or do they just say that so they don’t feel ashamed of getting lost? At any rate, how does one not get lost when looking for treasures?
To enliven an unsatisfying journey, I dared to venture farther away and make my journey historical. Worries aside, a self-applause in the decision to venture into Intramuros: The Walled City! A once safe haven of the Spaniards during their regime is now a glorious tourist destination for everyone today. I just love traveling and I have nothing to lose!
I’ve concluded the temple hopping journey once I was rejected again to enter Ching Leong Temple along Abad Santos Ave. This is how far I was able to reach coming from Chinatown. On board a tricycle, I was ready to continue the second part of the journey.
Lucky Chinatown’s ChinaTown Walk
The driver drove straight until he dropped me off at a mall called Lucky Chinatown along Reina Regente Street. Starbucks, Cotton On, and cinemas. A one stop shop and entertainment for tourists. For an explorer like me, there’s no need to go malling but to experience ChinaTown Walk.
The real Chinatown brought itself the 50’s ambiance. It was, in some aspect, a ‘golden age’ that never went forward in time. However, ChinaTown Walk recreated it in a colorful present-day attraction. Various Chinese figures like a statue of Buddha and such helped tone the place up. There are also some food kiosks serving Chinese food! They hinted a smell that reminded me of the restaurants we passed by in Hong Kong. The nostalgia! However, nothing else here seemed to catch my attention none other than the colorful lanterns that cast off colorful shades! It’s an attraction that only made me plead over more wonders of China.
Minor Basilica of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish
Walking a few distance away from Lucky Chinatown, after crossing the bridge, was a plaza with some monuments. From here, I noticed a stunning stone brick church in the distance.
Binondo Church, as it’s more known for, had to be the most stunning church I’ve ever seen on this trip! Old materials and dark colors, two appealing features of the church. The burgundy roofs combined with the deep brown hue of the walls gave the church the stone bricks an eye-catching maroon. A color I’m slowly falling in love with!
Fun fact, the street beside the Church is Ongpin Street. Not familiar? Well, it turns out that it’s the end of Chinatown. How did I end up so further way? I guess I was just really really lost… Lesson learned. I rode to Intramuros via jeepney in front of McDonald’s from Juan Luna street.
Welcome to Intramuros
This is a special historical district within the City of Manila… or, at least, that’s what the sign says.
For a helpful map of Intramuros, click here.
During the 1800’s, the Spaniards needed to be protected by ongoing invaders. For the same reason, they made the walled city of Intramuros. During that time, many historical events occurred as well as spreading their influence to Filipinos. Now the place stood as a historical landmark.
It was like an amusement park only it’s an urban and yet historical one. Buildings are styled to look 1800’s despite years of maintenance. Bricks and stones are used to present just the perfect tone for the era. Riding a Kalesa (horse-drawn calash) here is the complete way to travel in style! Also, it’s not a bad choice to walk and see the structures face to face.
Minor Basilica Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Walking towards God… well, I meant to say I was following a cross coming from a huge church nearby. I walked one street to the other until I reached the front of the astonishing Cathedral of Manila.
It’s one of the biggest and grandest churches in Manila. Stood right in front of me was a church that looked like a giant sculpture. For a moment I thought I was in Rome. Inside the church, I felt an ambiance of Notre Dame. The chandeliers and other designs gave a dark and gothic tone. Everything was designed perfectly even the intricately designed door. The best church I have ever seen in my life. It was a standing masterpiece for all the right reasons.
Jose Rizal, our national hero, had his own astounding moments and achievements but he also had his tragic ones. It is within this walled city that he had once been exiled inside a place called Fort Santiago. The entrance costs ₱75 (a dollar and a half most likely) and ₱50 for children. A fitting price for a perfect experience.
The entrance garden alone was big. The vast empty openness provided an area to relax physically and mentally near the large doves. Further, the passage to the citadel presents yet another portal to the past. The plunge into a deep history. As I passed through it, the national hero stood. With the sun shining behind him, he was glorifying.
Museo ni Rizal (The Museum of Rizal)
I entered the museum first. The first steps were simple. Photos were displayed in order to present the story. However, the place provided a dive deep into our hero’s darkest days. Further inside was his prison cell.
In exile, he continuously wrote and wrote using his quill pen. The small box never ceases his imagination and creativity. A small man he was but a big head he did really have. A pacifist that ranted so creatively and beautifully. He fought with knowledge, not bloodshed. He’s our hero.
Money, stamps, old photos, and diplomas, these are some of his displayed belongings. His old clothing was displayed and he’s quite a fashionable man! In one room displayed a portion of his backbone which was shot. Beside it was his old clock showing the time 7:03 am. The time of his death and execution. Truly a sad reminder.
Baluarte de Santa Barbara
There’s a baluarte here which is a stronghold for people to find shelter during a war. In english that’s bulwark. It’s like a short blocked tunnel. The brick walls have enclosed the area and only small windows and the entrance provided an entrance. At a glimpse, I imagined the intense rain in the middle of a war. People carried lamps and grouped around for shelter and warmth. Around them, stacked boxes of artillery, cannon balls, and other long weapons. The floor must’ve been muddy from the rain and incoming people. It’s weird and probably sadistic of me to be fascinated with such a flashback.
An old storehouse for the weaponry. I was excited not for the imaginative flashbacks but the experience. The underground dungeon was open for the public to explore. The dark descent was man made and short so it’s impossible to get lost. The hot humid temperature gave it a fitting ambiance. A perfect cheap thrill.
Update: Click here to see how I traversed the underground dungeon!
Rajah Sulayman Theater
I had no idea that people still had the luxury to enjoy watching live performances during the old days. I mean, this is a citadel. I used to picture dark days with ongoing pressure from the government. Nonetheless, they have this open air theater that’s rather small. I pictured guests used wooden seats and actors had all sorts of large props and costumes in the backstage. I’d try to imagine as much but this place just stood flat from its former glory.
Intramuros provided a gateway to the past but confused with the present day modernization. With that, I meant the presence of modern vehicles and new businesses. Despite kalesas being an awesome mode of transportation, electric trikes are also a cool option. I rode one in front of the church to get to my next destination for just ₱25 (half a dollar).
San Agustin Church
Another beautiful church and the last church for the trip. It’s old like all churches on the list but this one kept an aged image despite years of renovation. It’s flourishing, unlike any church. The huge stone bricks create simple walls but made superior with the tall columns and intricate door designs. The glass stained windows provided the additional colors that gave it a fantastic finish. The church is only open during masses and I only had a few minutes to see the highly embellished interior. It’s an overall masterpiece! I can never have too many amazing churches!
Just across San Agustin Church is my most favorite place in the whole of Intramuros. I give all my love to Casa Manila and for good reasons. It’s cozy and welcoming. The place maintained the perfect ancestral dwelling. In the courtyard stood a fountain and a view of the most wonderful traditional home. Complete here are some interesting features:
I would solely suggest dropping by and checking out the items here in the shop. Brown and wooden themed items are sold at a neat price. From wooden figures and antique looking items, the touch of Filipino creativity is one of a kind. I especially love the notebooks and boxes designed after Intramuros.
Casa Manila Museum
The main feature of this place is the Museum. Sadly, I was out of time when I arrived. The museum is the only way to get inside the house for the cost of ₱75 for adults and ₱50 for children. Our family owns an ancestral house in the provinces so I know what was inside the house. Long wooden planks for the flooring. Capiz shells for the small square window panes. Vases, artifacts, and other old Filipino furniture on display. Everything inside the old wonderful house.
Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant
What I loved the most in this place. I could enjoy the luxury of Filipino dishes or relax with a coffee in the comfort of the foundations of the house. There are two areas of the restaurant. The main area is located on the second floor where the daily buffet is held. For ₱699 a person, you’ll be eating scrumptious Filipino dishes while enjoying a cultural show. I’ll probably try it next time but for now, I’ll just enjoy enjoying coffee beside the well. I found their coffee better than Starbucks in my opinion!
White Knight Hotel Intramuros
Besides the house stood the hotel. I haven’t explored much of the place but I bet the theme of the hotel would also be traditional Filipino, so I have little to none to say about the place. However, I bet booking a room here and booking a buffet at Barbara’s would be the perfect combination for a night!
As I exit I was able to check the other areas. There were areas with cannons used during the war. The wall is also accessible to walk around on the higher ground. I did also saw a Starbucks! I exited using General Luna Street going to the final destination.
I did a lot of walking until I finally reached the end of Rizal Park. The dusk was about to arrive so I hurriedly walked to the front of the park to see the Rizal Monument. This park was the site where the National Hero was shot to his death on December 30, 1896, just 100 meters away. It was a sad time. The setting sun, again, gave the national hero another glorifying image with the lush blue sky.
I passed by the Chinese garden just nearby the monument. I only had to pay ₱10 for the entrance. To think ChinaTown Walk was beautiful, this place completely fulfills the perfect outdoor oriental ambiance. The entrance had the most stunning Chinese arch the whole day especially with the lights. There was a small tranquil lake that I crossed using a Chinese bridge. There was also the walkway that’s fully decorated. The red lanterns were, of course, hang up to complete the experience. It’s completely peaceful and quiet. Fulfilling as I ate my snacks after the heat of the day.
The nights grow dark as I walk towards the nearest train station in United Nations Avenue. What completes this journey was the big Filipino flag proudly swaying in the breeze. It made me feel proud being Filipino and to successfully end the amazing Manila tour.