Tag Archive: Intramuros

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.

Thought I’d line up my blogs on “walks and drives” around Manila for those who are interested. In many of these walks and drives, a good 4 hours may be enough. Likely less if you just want to concentrate on a certain area. You can walk around, hop on and off your car or some public transport, combine 2 trips and plan a good lunch in-between, or simply visit a Museum to linger for the next couple of hours. If you’re with children, I’d most certainly advise planning a good meal after 2 hours or so. Attention span and all, you know. A good meal never fails, and I’d usually have the first leg as the “more serious walk through history” and make sure the 2nd post-meal leg involves some window shopping (a.k.a. “Street desserts” and other sweet munchies) or less serious history stuff or simply more open spaces.








Say Hello to “Mi Ultimo Adios”

San Agustin Church in Intramuros

Four Hours To Waste in Manila

Some Photographs From Manila

Universidad de Santo Tomas (UST)

Baluarte De San Diego in Intramuros

Paco Park



Dummy Goes To The National Museum

National Art Gallery: Searching For More Lunas

Up Close: Luna and Hidalgo

Hidalgo and Luna: Genius Has No Country



A Preview of the Cemetery Tour: Wait Till The Shoe Lady Dies

The Old (and Dead) Rich of La Loma

A Nearly-Forgotten Panchong in North Cemetery



Angono: Art Capital of thePhilippines

Silangan Gardens and Pinto Art Gallery

Antipolo’s Suman, Kasuy and Pan Lechon?



CHINATOWN & Other sites

A Walking Tour of Binondo

Binondo Walk With Kids

The Street Vendors Of Manila

Harbour Square in CCP Complex



Urban Escapades

Weekend At The Pen

HOTEL CELESTE: A Pleasant Staycation




Just How Do You Eat Alagao?

What To Feed Your Guests (Part 1)

What To Feed Your Guests (Part 2)

Vieux Chalet in Antipolo

Pinoy Ice Cream? Check This Out!


We didn’t plan on being here. We met for early lunch hoping to simply chat the afternoon away. But why not chat while driving around Intramuros, much like those joy rides we used to enjoy when we were kids?






Then the calesa passed right in front of us. It’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon and those riders didn’t seem to mind the heat nor the sun. Well, it wasn’t particularly hot this afternoon. Pleasant enough to get off the car and walk into Baluarte de San Diego here in Intramuros. It’s a better option than the more open spaces in Fort Santiago. More shady trees too.







For only 75 pesos (less than US$2), one can get in to enjoy the “park with some history”. There were kids running around with their dog in the shady part of the Baluarte. Not many tourists. Many of them must be in Fort Santiago or San Agustin Church and Monastery. Yet this is one of the oldest stone fortifications in the whole length of the Intramuros walls.







The old stone steps lead up to the walls from where one views this circular stone formation, the length of the walls, and the Manila Hotel and other modern skycrapers surrounding the walled city. I remember being here years back when I attended a wedding of a friend’s daughter where I stood as sponsor. I would have wanted to walk atop the walls, but my long gown got in the way ūüôā Today, there is no such restriction.







Will someone please tell me how these circular stone formations were used? Surely, the good Jesuit priest who designed it back in the 16th century had some purpose in mind. I mean, I do know they’re there to defend the walled city but my simple mind can’t understand the many circular formations. From what I gather, this part of the Walls went into disrepair and were in fact only rediscovered in the 70s. Forgive my ignorance, but I’m most certainly eager to know how that circular design work.








These days, the Baluarte (Baluarte means bastion or fortification) is more popular as a wedding reception venue. I wish it could be more than that. The place has so much history and is, in fact, a lovely “park” which children would enjoy. The only drawback is it could be really hot during summer here. I sure hope the Intramuros Administration consider late afternoon and dusk tours here and around Intramuros. It will require some investment in good lighting and better security, but I’m sure tourists and even locals would enjoy the place better as the day approaches sunset and at night. Play some good music too (like in Paco Chapel and Cemetery) and you’d turn the Baluarte more magical!






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. ¬†ūüė¶

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‚Äôs 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 .

It is Lent. Time to go visiting the Churches. The norm for Catholics here is to visit 7 Churches, preferably on Maundy Thursday.  But I have decided to instead do the 7 during the entire Lenten Season, and to choose the 7 Churches with lots of history. First off: San Agustin Church in Intramuros, a 16th century church claimed to be the oldest stone church in the country.




Filipinos:  A Strange Race?


From Makati where I live,  we drove along Roxas Boulevard with a lovely view of Manila Bay towards the Pier.  We took the right towards Intramuros, where one finds Fort Santiago and the Manila Cathedral.  We skipped both, and drove directly to San Agustin Church and Monastery.



Standing right in front of the Church and looking around, I found how un-Asian this corner in Intramuros is. ¬†No wonder some of my foreigner friends tell me that Filipinos are “strange” in that way.¬†Strange in that most of us bear Spanish-sounding surnames. ¬†Like Ramirez. ¬†Like Chavez. Like Guerrero. Or Mendoza. ¬†Sure, we were a Spanish colony for close to 400 years, but other countries had Dutch or Portuguese or British colonizers – yet, I don’t hear of them with Dutch or British or Portuguese family names. ¬†Or am I wrong? ¬† Strange in that our language is interspersed with a lot of Spanish words and that Filipinos very readily use Spanish expletives that I do not wish to repeat here. ¬†Truth is we even coined a word for the elitist Filipinos …… “con** crowd” — which literally means a lady’s private part in Spanish. ¬†Strange in that we are so used to counting in Spanish (uno, dos, tres………) or in telling the time in Spanish ( a las tres y media, a las dose, etc.). ¬† But more than anything else, we are very “Spanish” in our faith. ¬†The Philippines does not have the temples of Cambodia, Laos or Thailand, ¬†nor the pagodas of China , Japan and Korea, ¬†but we have many Catholic Churches dotting the countryside which are worth seeing. Churches always form a central and core part of every Filipino’s lifestyle. ¬†Here in Manila, ¬†a few old Churches remain standing despite this city being the second most -bombed city during World War II.




More Than Just An Old Church


San Agustin Church at the corner of General Luna Street and Real Street in Intramuros is hard to miss. ¬†It is just a stone’s throw from the Manila Cathedral (when facing the Cathedral, take the right side and walk straight towards San Agustin Church) and an easy walk from the Fort Santiago, another tourist destination.


Inside the Church, one finds off some corner a confessional box.  The parish priest sits inside while parishioners take turns to have their confessions heard by the priest with only a small screen window separating them.  On your knees, you confess your sins!  In another corner,  there is the pulpit where the parish priest used to say his homily or sermons.   Times have changed since those days.   And the ornately designed pulpit is now simply a reminder of how grand our old Churches were or still are, if luckily preserved and bomb-spared as with this Church.  But Filipino Catholics still make their confessions to their priests in this box-like structures though modern-day Catholics are not discouraged from doing face-to-face confessions.


This Church is a favorite among brides such that “bookings” for weddings need to be arranged at least a year in advance. ¬†I have attended one too many wedding ceremonies here, and wedding receptions were held in any one of the nearby colonial-inspired restaurants and bistros just across the Church, or in the garden within the church courtyard. ¬†On weekdays, ¬†you may find school groups doing their field trips, and on weekends you would likely witness wedding ceremonies. ¬†That is how “busy” this Church is.





Yet………the adjoining Monastery which has since been converted into a Museum hardly gets a crowd. The day I visited, ¬†I walked alone along many corridors. ¬†Kind of eerie, if you ask me. ¬†I honestly felt like some statues are staring down at me. ¬†In one of the exhibit rooms , ¬†I got goosebumps finding a dark corner with 4 or 5 statues clad in black robes. ¬†They were representations of the early Augustinian friars who built this Church and established a religious order in the country. ¬†It “helped” that the room was dimly lit, such that you find the robed statues just when you are almost face to face with them. ¬†Off another corridor, ¬†I found huge paintings, some pitifully warped, and woodcarvings depicting hell. ¬†You bet my hair stood on edge and felt my heart beating out of my chest. ¬†I almost had regrets that I came when school’s over. I could have timed my visit with a school group’s field trip instead and spared myself of some palpitations.




Miguel Lopez de Legazpi Rests Here: A Short History Lesson

Filipinos all know that Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Philippines. But Spanish colonization and the subsequent Christianization of the Philippines didn’t start with the discovery of Magellan in 1521, who incidentally was slain by a local tribal chieftain named Lapu Lapu in the island of Mactan in Central Visayas. While Magellan captained the very first ship to sail completely around the world, ¬†Magellan never lived to tell his tale of discovering the Philippines and to prove that the world is indeed round. However, his discovery led to Spanish Expeditions led by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos in 1541 (who was driven away by hostile locals) ¬†and then by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1565. Legazpi befriended a native Bohol chieftain called Datu Sikatuna ¬†in a ceremony called “Blood Compact” and from there, established Spanish colonies with the aid of ¬†local allies starting with the island of Cebu. With the colonization, came Christianization of the natives who earlier practiced nature worship. ¬†And as pagans converted to Christianity, they were baptized and given Christian names. ¬†So. ¬†Now you know why many Filipinos have Spanish family names. Right?


Legazpi was a diplomat more than he was an explorer.  In Manila, he befriended both Rajahs Lakandula and Sulaiman and with some help from Augustinian and Franciscan friars, established a governing city council in 1571. At the same time, he ordered the construction of Intramuros, proclaiming it the capital of Manila and seat of the Spanish Government in the East Indies. He died in 1572 and was laid to rest right here in the San Agustin Church.


Now, enough of history and back to topic.




Father Blanco’s Garden

After doing the rounds (actually the “squares”) in the Museum, ¬†it is refreshing to go down and spend some time within the garden. ¬† If you have a book with you, ¬†you can take over one of the benches and while away the time while resting your legs and feet in Father Blanco’s garden. ¬†The garden can do with more flora, but you can enjoy the afternoon breeze here before venturing out of the Museum grounds. In my case, ¬†I found the time to check out the “Binondo Food Wok Map” while here in the courtyard garden. ¬†This is the map I bought (for 100 pesos) in the Bahay Tsinoy (literally means House of Filipino-Chinese) one block away from San Agustin Church. ¬†(Facing the Manila Cathedral, one can take the road on the left side till you hit the 2nd corner. ¬†This is Cabildo Street corner Anda Street) ¬†Of course, if it is too sunny, you may simply have a drink and some chips or biscuits in a corner stall (can’t even call it a cafe) within the Museum. ¬†There are tables and chairs where you can sit, facing some huge paintings. ¬†Not bad in terms of scenery, but the corner stall can certainly offer better drinks (like a good brew?) and better wafers or local rice cakes.




More Time to Spare?

If you have more time to kill,  you may head straight for the Walls by taking Real Street (the Church is right at the corner of Real and General Luna Streets) , passing by a good bistro called Ristorante delle Mistre and remembering to have a cozy dinner there on the way back.  There is an option to walk along the walls or ON the walls.   There are stairways to get on top from where one is afforded a view of the nearby Manila Hotel and the sprawling golf links which get all lighted up at night.  On this visit, I found many young couples on a date here.  Good choice.  It is quiet, breezy and has good views.


As I trace my steps back to the Church, I passed bronze representations of ex-Presidents in what is dubbed as Gallery of the Presidents. ¬†I cannot help but feel amused to find those of ex-presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Joseph Estrada side by side. ¬†Even in bronze, it is kind of strange and quite amusing to find them together. ¬†Can’t wait till 2016 when that of incumbent President Noynoy Aquino joins them. ¬†Oh, I do not mean to be disrespectful. ¬†Just that it is no secret in my country how these 3 ‘adore’ each other. ¬† Enough said. ¬†Go drop by Ristorante delle Mistre and have that mango cheesecake (less than US$2) ¬†to go with your brew. ¬†If you have the appetite for lunch or dinner, order their set menu. Come, visit and enjoy Manila!


Better still, enjoy the many islands of the Philippines. ¬†I am a local living here and must admit I still have a long list of must-visit destinations around the country. Like Mount Pinatubo. ¬†Or Puerto Galera in Mindoro. ¬†Or Sagada. ¬†Plus many more. ¬†Now, that’s a confession!


For more photos, check out my TravelBlog site.