Met up with my friend E and without much planning, decided we make good use of our time together while waiting for her son to get off summer school.  That’s from 10am till 2pm, if you wanna know.


Almost instantly, we agreed we should check out the Pasig River Ferry at the  Guadalupe Ferry Station where we can take the ferry ride to Escolta, or all the way to Plaza Mexico in Intramuros. But alas,  the station was closed as we unhappily learned the ferry company has ceased operations. Shoots!


Not easily discouraged,  we mapped out another plan.  Something in keeping with the Lenten Season.   From under the Guadalupe Bridge where the Ferry Station is located, we drove back up to EDSA southbound and took the right at the corner where you’d find Loyola Memorial .  This street goes a few hundred meters down to Nuestra Senora de Gracia or Guadalupe Church.  Foundations laid in 1601, construction completed by 1629.  I have once attended a wedding here, and was not disappointed with how beautiful the Church is just past midmorning.



From this nearly 400 year-old Church in Guadalupe, we drove down to J. P. Rizal Street all the way to Sta. Ana, Manila.   We passed what used to be the Sta. Ana Race Track,  until we found the Church of the Abandoned.  I have passed this Church many times before,  always referring to it simply as Sta. Ana Church.  Never realized it ranks among the oldest churches around Manila.   At this hour,  there was hardly any crowd inside this  17th century-Church , more so in the adjoining halls of the church where they kept religious statues of a few saints.  We even ventured up the stairs, but was gently reminded that the convent is not open to the public.



Driving further west towards Paco, Manila, we visited the Paco Church and Cemetery only to find it closed.  Today is a Tuesday and Paco Park Complex is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.   From outside, it looks like your mini-Intramuros as the Park is closed in by this  ancient wall.   No wonder this Church is a favorite wedding  as well as concert venue.    Never mind that it is also a cemetery!  After all, it has a distinguished list of VIPs interred in its park grounds.  No less than the national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal was buried here until 1912 (errr, did you know that?) , and so with the martyred priests Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora, more commonly referred to as Gomburza.




From Paco Park,  we decided to have lunch at Aristocrat which is right beside the Malate Church.  But not without a quick visit to the San Andres Market where we found fruit stalls after fruit stalls of mangoes – yellow ripe, unripe green, smallish “supsupin” mangoes, Indian mangoes – along with racks of chicos, durian, dalandans, honeydew melons, watermelons , turnips, bananas, sweet potatoes, etc.  I even bought myself a glass of halo-halo (ice shavings with various sweetened fruits like bananas, sweet potatoes, garbanzos, beans, jackfruit, mixed in with ube yam, leche flan, gelatine,  sago and milk) for only 20 pesos.  What a refreshing drink, and all for just half a US dollar!  The same stall even offers hot chocolate and coffee for 5 pesos. Dirt cheap!  I shared the halo-halo (literally meaning “mix-mix”) with my friend E as I didn’t want to spoil my appetite for my bbq lunch at Aristocrat.



Aristocrat was doing brisk business by the time we got there.  Well, it’s noon time, but the waiter there says they get this crowd daily.  For me, Aristocrat (and another established chain restaurant Max’s) is a great “equalizer”.  Nothing fancy here, just plain good old barbecue and local dishes.  You’d be fine to allocate 200 pesos per head for a good meal. And it draws a big crowd from all sections of society.  From a table occupied by a group of students, another by working men and women out on a lunch break, to a group of nuns and yet another group of balikbayans (literally “back to country” Filipinos) having this comfort food.  It is always a yummy meal here in Aristocrat, and it won’t burn a hole in your pockets too.



And so, on full stomachs we crossed the street to visit the Malate Church.  Built in 1588 originally as an Augustinian Friar Building, it withstood a number of earthquakes and the February 3-17, 1945 Battle of Manila which left nearly the entire Malate area flattened, with thousands dead from the shelling from American forces and burning from Japanese occupiers.  This centuries-old church was left charred and roofless, and reconstruction began soon after the end of World War II.  At the time we visited, absolutely no one was inside the Church.  All quiet and peaceful . A fitting final stop for our attempt to “waste” four hours around Manila.  Call it the final part of our 7-church Visita Iglesia.  Having done Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church last week and San Sebastian Church much earlier (hmmm, that last one  shouldn’t count, really), and 4 today (Guadalupe, Sta Ana, Paco and Malate),  I have completed the mandatory 7 Churches for the Visita Iglesia.  But there is this weekend when I plan to visit Binondo , Santa Cruz and Quiapo.  Now wait, that makes 10!  And I am still agonizing whether to include Tondo Church or not.  We’ll see………….no harm in visiting a dozen churches.  Especially churches loaded with history! So , next time you have an extra 4 hours to waste,  why not put it to good use and learn bits of history while doing your spiritual duty?


And if you do have more than 4 hours,  you can cross Roxas Boulevard  from Malate Church and stroll along the Baywalk and wait for the lovely Manila Bay sunset.  Who knows?  You may even work up an appetite again and head back to the Malate Church Square and this time, try the Max’s Fried Chicken just across Aristocrat.  Both are institutions in the Philippine dining scene, so don’t miss them.  Not to worry, you can enjoy budget meals in either one of these 2 eating places, and live to go back again and again.