Pasig River was dirty. The water was brown, smelly, and you could see bits of trash floated on the surface. In a nutshell, it reminded me with Jakarta’s Ciliwung River. My friend took me on a cruise along the river. What she said a cruise was basically riding on a small ferry by paying 100 Pesos. Turned out that some Manilans still used Pasig River as one of their transportation methods. It wasn’t a beautiful sightseeing experience, but it wasn’t bad either. Passing under the highway bridge, looking at naked children jumping into the turbid water, laughing. There were slums dotting along the riverside every here and there. The slum stopped when we approached the area around Malacañang Presidential Palace, and it began again.
I unzipped my bag to take out my camera, but my friend who was with me held my hand and shook her head. Ah yes, the metropolitan city 101; never take out your belongings in front of public.
The ferry stopped in Intramuros Pier where we got out. Intramuros, Manila’s old town, kind of like Jakarta’s Kota Tua but much much more well maintained. Built by the Spanish colonial government in mid-16th century to become the centre for business and administration. The colonial government also built stone walls surrounding the area. Beautiful old buildings standing in their cream coloured facades with electric cables criss-crossing few metres above your head.
Intramuros, still actively used as part of Manilans daily lives, housed schools, government institutions, tourist spots, and places of worships. The small streets were packed with cars driving to and fro, while calesas (horse carts) and rickshaws lined neatly on the side of the road.
The defensive walls of Intramuros divided into 7 forts, or bastions. Each fort faced different directions and was built on different times. The wall shaped like a pentagon and had proven itself to be an efficient protection against threats of pirates invasion.
The gardens were clean and gleaming under the midday sun. It took an entire half a day and lots of energy to go around Intramuros since there were so many well-preserved historical buildings. My first start was the Plaza de Roma. Built in 1797 as Plaza Mayor, but the name was changed into Plaza de Roma in 1961 to honour Vatican for electing the first Filipino cardinal. A statue of King Carlos IV of Spain stood surrounded by water fountains, a token of gratitude for introducing smallpox vaccine to the Philippines.
Across Plaza de Roma stood Palacio Del Gobernador, while on the other side stood the beautiful Manila Cathedral, still an important place of worship and provide a cool solitude under the hot sun.
Another 15 minutes walk toward the end would bring you to the historical Fort Santiago. In this fort for 2 months in the year of 1896 Filipino patriot, Jose Rizal, was imprisoned before he was taken to The Luneta to be executed in December 30th 1896. Fort Santiago had became a beautiful landmark with neatly trimmed trees and shrubberies. Nowadays it is more famous as a background for wedding pictures. The dark and sad stories were now covered by blooming flowers and the sounds of calesas.
After visiting Fort Santiago we continued walking toward Bahay Tsinoy, passing seemingly interesting restaurants and other colourful buildings. Bahay Tsinoy acted as a museum of Chinese heritage in the Philippines. It documented the history and cultural impact from the first Chinese settlement until modern days. Pity it was not allowed to take pictures inside.
Too tired to walk, decided to take a rickshaw to Plaza San Luiz Complex where there were gift shops, restaurants, and Spanish mansions. The most famous one, Casa Manila, provided a tour around the house. What an impressive mansion it was. Made of thick garnites and 3 storey high. The floors were made by inches thick teak wood that could hold massive furniture. Taking pictures was not allowed inside the mansion as one of the security guards might usher you out. So below are the only images I could provide you.
Afternoon came and the temperature cooled down. We continued to San Agustin Church and Convent, the oldest church in the Philippines. Apparently it was burned down to the ground and rebuilt for 4 times, the last time was in 1604. After visiting the church we took a stroll around what was left to see in Intramuros before going back to Baluarte de San Diego to enjoy the sight of City Hall basked in afternoon sunlight.