Intramuros – A City within a Wall within a City
Took a trip here to check out the Immigration Dept, but didn’t realise it’s the No.1 tourist attraction in Manila. We ended up doing a self guided walking day tour round the walled city and inside it. Spent almost the whole day here exploring the oldest district and historic core of Manila.
Arrived Intramuros about 10.15am. Loads of tricycle touts here, outside the Central station waiting to bring you on a cycle tour around Intramuros for P100/hour. Horse carriages (Kalesa) for P350/hour. We decided to walk and explore ourselves. Besides, the main purpose of our visit was to find out where the Immigration Bureau is.
Touts kept on tailing us, unrelentless in their quest to convert us into their passengers. Must be low season here. Tricycles more than tourists.
Intramuros is a pretty interesting Spanish-colonial fortress town. Inside a wall with a perimeter of about 4.5km, the city itself is only about 700 square meters. But of course, the tricycle touts will tell you that it is so huge that you would never manage to walk it on foot.
L-R : One of the entrances into Intramuros; walking above the wall of Intramuros
Fort Santiago, 16th century fort next to Passig River, is dedicated to the Philippines hero/martyr Jose Rizal. Everything is Rizal here… the park, the shrine, the museum, the furniture and books and genealogy, portraits, statues and even his footsteps to execution…
L-R : Fort Santiago’s iconic gate with a wooden base relief of the patron saint of Spain (St James the moor-slayer); The moat in front of its entrance; A tricycle tout awaiting passengers in front of the Palacio del Gobernador (refurbished building of the former Spanish Governor-General’s official residence); a haunting statue of Jose Rizal at the place of his imprisonment prior to his execution and his footsteps pathway leading all the way from Fort Santiago out to the Rizal Park where he was executed; The dungeons of Fort Santiago
Manila Cathedral (Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception)
L-R : San Agustin Church (early 17th century Spanish Baroque church, the oldest stone church still standing in the Philippines), Intendencia Ruins (Spanish colonial government’s custom offices/ administration units/ Central Bank)
Baluarte de San Diego – oldest stone forte in Manila. An enormous, round round thing which looked impressive from the bird’s eye view… consists of 3 layers of walls, that pretty much covers it.
As we were walking out the exit of the wall at about 4pm, tricycle touts started to make different offers. Instead of offering to bring you round the city, they now offered to bring you to Rizal Park, which is only about 500 meters away, for P50. Or if you like, to Chinatown too. That’s the two logical places tourists would want to visit after leaving Intramuros.
Rizal Park – Huge park area with a lake in the middle and lots of greens on both sides, where the locals spread out their picnic mats and sit and talk and chill out with their entire extended family. You can see tonnes of colourful people dotting the grass from far. With Christmas songs playing in the air, not a bad place to chill on a Sunday evening.
Then the rain came and spoil the party. Everyone packed up suddenly and scooted faster than you can say “rain!”. And then suddenly tricycle touts became umbrella touts, in less than 5 minutes after the rain started….. walking around everywhere with dozens of umbrellas hanging on their arms, big and small for adult and children alike, asking everyone to buy one. Instead of shouting “Intramuros!” or “Chinatown!” now, they shouted “Umbrella!” or “Payung!” Hmm….. the Filipino touts are really unrelentless and entrepreneurial….. this you got to give it to them. 😉
Second trip to Intramuros
There are several ways to get into Intramuros – outside the wall, inside the wall, or on top of the wall. As I’ve tried walking on top of the wall before, I took the outside road today, and lost my orientation a little. Nobody knows where the Immigration Bureau is apparently. Tried asking at least 4 people in various age and uniform, all I get is a shy or blank look, with a standard answer “I don’t know”. In the end, I decided to ask someone who holds a gun. I figured that he surely would know where the immigration is! Well I wasn’t disappointed. My deduction was correct, he not only knows the direction but he speaks good English too. He was a tourist police.
Walking outside the Wall was such a different experience from walking inside it, or on top of it. The “city within a wall within a city”. Well the second “city”, the one outside the wall (Extramuros), is kinda horrendous. Or at least, the pathway which I walked. Dirty, smelly, wet, full of bums sleeping on the roads everywhere, and filthy-looking children trying to get money from you (Oh gosh, keep those black hands away from me please!!) And, will someone tell me why, why do the Pinoys especially the guys, treat the roads like a public comfort room??? Adult and children, they simply pee everywhere!! The streets all smell of pipi and poopoo (not sure they belong to dogs or humans!) It’s revolting!
The roadside foodstalls occupied the width of the entire sidewalk, with low ropes hanging to hold their tents together. I have to bend and duck all the way through the entire stretch. And the highway was so wide and busy with nonstop traffic, there are no traffic lights so impossible to cross the road (That was exactly what we did the first time! Dangerous!) Well actually, you need to use the Underpass which was quite far away from one another, so it’s kinda hassle if your destination is in between those 2 underpasses.
Intramuros looks so different on weekdays too. Not like the last time when i went , that must have been a weekend. Full of tourists then. And unrelentless tricycles trying to get your ass onto them. On a normal weekday or school day, it seems that Intramuros is full of college kids! There are a few colleges and high school within the walls of Intramuros, including the historical Colegio de San Juan de Letran.
Pics : General Luna (Calle Real del Palacio) – the main street of Intramuros. Close proximity to Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church, hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, museums, all in colonial style buildings.
The other day I was walking on top of the wall itself, so I didn’t see what was under it. Today I walked next to the wall at the bottom. The whole stretch was full of little cafes and shops selling food! College students patronise these stalls for lunch. So is the path leading back to the Central MRT Station. Full of little stalls , like a pasar malam. Won’t run out of food here definitely. But, I was in a hurry as usual, so no food stops for me.
Typhoon Yolanda (Typhoon Haiyan)
I have the luck to encounter with the Super Typhoon Yolanda (a.k.a. Typhoon Haiyan internationally) while I was here. Surpassing all the typhoon measures and Dvorak scale… it’s been termed the Perfect Typhoon. The biggest and most ferocious one of 2013.
I woke up one morning to a Type 2 alert in Manila. Means all schools are closed. Maybe colleges and universities too. But not LSTI of course. LSTI will close for nothing short of Type 4 Red Alert, means when the city gets totally flattened like Tacloban! When I will likely get blown off while walking to school.
Walking out the balcony, I see the changes in the skyline over Quezon City. From bright to cloudy to very cloudy, and sudden rain…. All in 5 minutes.
Walked to school in the rain, anxiously anticipating a Type 2 typhoon, which supposedly come with winds of up to 100kmh or more. Was anticipating to get blown off. Surprisingly, the rain was just a slight drizzle, not much wind. The temperature was rather low though. I was quite breathless when I reached school. Could be due to the low pressure in the air or my lungs were too congested due to the bacterial infection.
Quezon City skyline on a normal clear day :