Tag Archive: Fort Santiago

How often do we entertain foreign guests and balikbayan (returning Filipinos) family and friends?



I’ve done quite a few — from long weekend trips in mountain villages up North or to some beach destinations down South to whole day together-ness via roadtrips north or south of Manila. And for the briefest encounters……. There’s THE DRILL. A glimpse into over 300 years under Spanish rule (Fort Santiago y Intramuros) + the heart and core of Chinatown (a.k.a. Binondo Walk cum Foodtrip) + end-of-day relaxation along Manila Bay interspersed with brief food tripping episodes.




Rizal Park


Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila



By itself, the Rizal Park-Intramuros-National Museum can take a whole day already. But who wants to do long walks at 39 Celsius in humid April? I say the Museum can wait and the Park can easily be a “drive-thru”. We were first driven to Fort Santiago (entrance: 75 pesos, 50 pesos for students) passing Rizal Park (Dr. Rizal is the national hero), and then walked from Fort Santiago towards San Agustin Church, the oldest surviving church in this predominantly Catholic country. If there’s time, you can visit the Museum housed in the Convent adjoining the Church or visit Casa Manila (showcasing Filipino-Spanish lifestyle) just off the church corner. Or you can choose to sit on a horse-drawn carriage (the cheaper calesa or the pricey caruaje) sightseeing for the next hour or two. The choices depend on how much time you have. In some instances, I totally skipped Fort Santiago and instead visited Baluarte de San Diego. More trees there. Ergo, more shade!




The National Art Gallery which used to be Legislative Building


Baluarte de San Diego in Intramuros, Manila



From Intramuros, you can either take a cab or a jeepney or drive past the Museum and City Hall across Jones Bridge overlooking the lovely Postal Office to reach Binondo. Hungry or not, a Binondo Walk is never complete without dropping in on those “hole in the wall” spots. My personal favorites are Po Heng Lumpia House and Dong Bei Dumpling House. Need I tell you what they serve?




Chinese Lumpia (Vegetable Roll) from the best : Po Heng Lumpia House in Binondo, Manila.


Dumplings or Sio-Mai. Freshly Made!


Kutchay Siomai or Dumplings with Chives Fillings. Only from that hole-in-the-wall, Dong Bei Dumpling House in Binondo, Manila.



Finally done with Hispanic Philippines (Intramuros) and Chinoy Philippines (Binondo Chinatown)? Maybe it’s time for a cup of Cappuccino in Harbour Square within the reclaimed area housing the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Folk Arts Theatre and Philippine International Convention Center. It’s your modern Philippines complete with junk food outlets lining the Bay. Grab a bite here, if you like. Many choices across a wide price range. This is also a superb place to unwind or chill while waiting for the famous Manila Bay Sunset.




Manila Bay, viewed from Harbour Square in the CCP Complex near Cultural Center of the Philippines.


Roxas Boulevard near Manila Bay. At Twilight.

I wasn’t meaning to write about our national hero and join the PTB Blog Carnival , thinking I needed to clear my backlogs first. But as it turned out, a couple of friends from TravelBlog visited the Philippines and had an extra day to spend in Manila. Thought I’d give them the drill:  Spanish-Philippines in the morning,  Chinatown-Philippines for lunch, and Hollywood (American)  cum “Urban/Modern” Philippines late afternoon till early evening.  The “Philippines-Philippines” episode can wait till they get their walking feet to Bicol starting with an off-chance,  late-in-the-season Butanding Interaction in Donsol, Sorsogon.

I enjoy meeting new friends.  Jan and Polona are from Slovenia and belong to my other “community” at TravelBlog. Young, full of energy, and eager to know the Philippines .  And I was just as eager to introduce our country, our culture to them. So we began the morning with a tour of Fort Santiago and a drive-through Intramuros.  The latter deserves another leisurely afternoon.

Fort Santiago

There are heaps of good write-ups on Fort Santiago.  And blogs matched with stunning photography of this “walled city”.  I brought my rusty Point & Shoot Camera just so I can take souvenir shots with my young Slovenian friends.   My young Slovenians surprisingly did their homework and knew enough about our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, and about his last days in Fort Santiago.  No need for any history lessons.  These travelers, as opposed to tourists, know their stuff.   It was I who was sufficiently surprised.  Inside the Rizal Shrine ,  they took their time reading “Mi Ultimo Adios”.   I must confess I never went past the “Adios Patria Adorada, Region del Sol Quirida”  stuff.  😦

Amazingly, there was a translation of Mi Ultimo Adios in other languages.  Jan and Polona painstakingly read through some, especially the one translated in Czech.   Even as translated,  they were quite impressed with the many talents of our national hero.  Having visited many other countries,  they were pleased to find that our own is a man of peace.  And not another military chief or warrior who liberated the country from oppressors.  This gave another perspective of allowing one’s self to be impressed about the power of the pen.   How a philosophy, an ideology can move people . How it can enlighten and liberate an entire race to think on its own.   Of his many talents,  Dr. Jose Rizal certainly used the power of the pen to give life to common sentiments heretofore repressed.

There are times when I feel sentimental and wax poetic.  Moments when I find myself reading and taking pleasure in reading poems.   No favorite poets for me.  I read whatever takes my fancy.   But “Mi Ultimo Adios” ?  I never gave it a chance.  I do not know why.  Perhaps because it was part of the school curriculum and I associated it with the obligatory history lessons.   Thanks to Jan and Polona, I rediscovered the beauty, the wisdom and the rhythmic beat of Rizal’s patriotism in this farewell poem.

“I die when I see the sky has unfurled its colors 
And at last after a cloak of darkness announces the day; 
If you need scarlet to tint your dawn, 
Shed my blood, pour it as the moment comes, 
And may it be gilded by a reflection of the heaven’s newly-born light.”

Shame on me.  To have someone from a foreign land teach me a lesson on appreciation of one’s own.   This stanza was nearly “alien” to me. As I said,  I hardly went beyond the “Adios Patria Adorada” line.  Yet Rizal’s passion and patriotism resonated with these lines of poetic candor.

“If upon my grave one day you see appear, 
Amidst the dense grass, a simple humble flower, 
Place it near your lips and my soul you’ll kiss, 
And on my brow may I feel, under the cold tomb, 
The gentle blow of your tenderness, the warmth of your breath.”

Lovely. Simply lovely.  He may be a doctor of medicine. A hero.  A painter.  A sculptor. An engineer.   And more.  But in my book, he is  a poet par excellance.

This is my entry to the PTB Blog Carnival celebrating Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s 150th birthday with the theme “Rizal and Travel”, hosted by Ivan Henares .