Part 1 of our Manila Field Trip last December. Nope, we are not students, we just decided to hit the road, travel and see some of Manila’s top tourist destinations. First stop of our Manila day tour itinerary is Intramuros and the churches and old buildings within its wall. If you want to know the detailed history of the walled city, pick up your history books or well, you can google up Wikipedia entry on Intramuros hehheh
How to go to Intramuros?
I will be updating this section with direction and guide in commuting to these popular Manila tourist destinations.
Why visit Intramuros?
Intramuros is where Manila’s most influential and wealthy citizens of the Spanish colonial period lives. It’s the seat of power, it’s where the Spanish fortified themselves against threats and it’s where they lord it over the natives or the indios. Much of the infrastructures in Intramuros have been lost to wars and calamities like earthquake. But we are still lucky as there are buildings that survive up to this day that reminds us of our colonial past.
The culture of the Philippines is a mashed-up of many influences, foremost of which are those from the Spanish occupation. Their more than 300 years of colonial rule has left significant and lasting influences on the nation, on our culture, on our traditions and the general Pinoy psyche.
The area of Intramuros which is located along Manila Bay and on the east side of the Pasig River belongs first to the sultans and rajahs. Its strategic location also attracted the Spanish conquistadores and when Manila was conquered and the Islamic Sultanate ‘driven’ away, the Spanish fortified the defense, build strong walls and created Fort Santiago together with several bulwarks, bastions and ravelins.
What to watch out for in Intramuros?
Manila Cathedral is the usual first stop as this church building is on the entrance. This church is also known as the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. We were blessed because when we were there it was December 8, the Celebration of the Immaculate Conception, the Philippines’ patroness.
Manila Metropolitan – Cathedral Basilica
Facade engravings of the stone church
Manila Cathedral Marker
Feast of the Immaculate Conception
By the way, the Pipe Organ inside the cathedral now plays again. The native organ will not be used on every mass and that there will be schedule of playing.
Pipe Organ in Manila Cathedral
Read on the history and developments of the present day Manila Cathedral on this mounted pics and info display on the right side as you enter the church.
Get to know the Manila Cathedral-Basilica
You can ride a kalesa to tour Intramuros and Fort Santiago or you can just walk.
We were leisurely walking when we came upon this memorial, the Memorare – Manila 1945. It is a memorial and a tribute to all those defenseless civilians who suffered and died in World War II during the Liberation of Manila. Manila was left in ruins after being extensively bombed despite the declaration of Manila as an “Open City”. Manila was near pulverized to the ground, the main reason only a few old buildings are left.
Memorare – Manila 1945
Manila and the Philippines has been known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, this was especially evident by the grandiose buildings all around the city and the abundance of its natural resources, then the Second World War happened coupled with political instability in the years after the war … things dramatically changed for the capital city. But I guess if you look hard enough and feel your surroundings, and notice … Manila will still charm you. It maybe difficult to see especially if it’s your first time in Manila but give it some time the place will grow on you.
If my sister reads the above lines, she’ll probably protest vehemently as she had a hard time dealing with the traffic, congestion and chaos that Manila has become known for today. As I’ve said the uniqueness and charm of Manila take some time to notice. There are times that I too want to get out of Manila the soonest I land in the airport, but there had been moments when I have also seen and feel that ‘string’ that pulls you to the capital city.
I am a Proud Filipina and I love Philippine History so writing blog posts about the past can sometimes gets me carried away.
Anyhow enough of seriousness hehhehe, our main goal for our field trip in Intramuros were the two famous churches – the Manila Cathedral and the Church of San Agustin and Fort Santiago.
The San Agustin Church is the oldest stone church in the Philippines, its façade may look very ordinary, but enter its doors and you’d be amaze by the intricate designs of the altar and the ceiling of the church. The ceiling decorations as well as the chandeliers are a sight to behold, no wonder the church is also popular as a wedding venue.
San Agustin Church
San Agustin Church Doors Open
Ceiling and Chandeliers of San Agustin Church
Design at the top
San Agustin Church also holds the distinction of being one of the 4 baroque churches in the Philippines that has been inscribed to the UNESCO Heritage Sites list.
San Agustin UNESCO Heritage Site Marker
*Please click this if you want to visit the other Philippines sites and destinations included in the UNESCO Heritage Sites.
The other thing which makes the church real popular among tourist, visitors and fieldtrippers to Manila is that inside the church you will see the burial place of the Spanish conquistador and the first Philippine Governor-General Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.
Here Lies the Remains of Gov.-Gen Miguel Lopez de Legazpi
Take notice of your surrounding and you’ll see that there are tombstones on the walls of the San Agustin Church as well on the floor near the church’s doors. Underneath the tiles are burial grounds of the rich and influential people of Manila back in the days of Spanish occupation, mostly either Spanish or Spanish descent.
Tombstones on the floors and walls inside San Agustin Church
The old architectural styles of surviving buildings inside the walled city also draw in tourists. There are 7 churches inside Intramuros as well as universities, government and commercial offices.
Old building inside Intramuros
You can definitely have a do-it-your-own Intramuros walking tour for a day trip in Manila. But if you are an OFW or a foreign tourist or even Pinoys who know little about Philippine History, signing up for the walking tour organize by Carlos Celdran is a very good option to get to know Manila and the country in just a short time.
After checking out the churches, we would have wanted to enter the San Agustin Museum but it was close at that time and will reopen by 1:30pm. So we decided to head to Fort Santiago. Entrance rate to enter Fort Santiago, the place made more famous by the imprisonment of the Philippines’ National Hero, Dr Jose Rizal, is at P75 for adult and P30 for children. Fort Santiago is open to visitors from 8am to 6pm everyday.