Saturday, January 31, 2015

Intramuros and the Ramparts of a Walled City (Manila, Philippines)

The day before a foreign guest comes for a visit, I decided to check out Intramuros, Old Manila's famed wall city. I've been to Intramuros several times before, but only to Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church to attend weddings and to sing songs for a couple of friends and a relative. I haven't done anything touristy, thus most of what the Lonely Planet mentions, I am a blank. This was why I decided to see the area. Otherwise, how can I be a guide if I haven't partaken the role of a tourist myself.

My destination wasn't the cathedral so I had to take the entrance that leads to the walls of Intramuros; the one near Manila City Hall. I of course was clueless. I didn't read up or google away. I decided I could wing it, like I sometimes do on a foreign land. I walked through one of the entrances near the golf course and found my way to a bevy of esquinitas. There was a school, Lyceum, then the walkways that lead to several ramparts (broad elevations serving as bulwark or defense) on top of the walls.

These ramparts weren't narrow crests but wide open spaces that mainly function these days as a park or a square with nothing  else but cannons and cobbled open spaces. The gates and walls span 4.5 kilometers so there's a lot to cover all the way to Fort Santiago.

Lonely Planet describes thee ramparts as "weedy and seedy". I am not exactly sure for the latter description. The area is after all part of old Manila and thus must cover a bit of urban decay. There are schools nearby. Young people - and lovers - populate the surroundings. There are guards that roam the towers, all decked in katipunero garbs which reminds one that this is still considered a tourist area, though most of the tourists concentrate their meanderings from the side of Fort Santiago. This area is mostly ignored by them.

Elsewhere, there are derelict buildings and horse-drawn carts. There are heritage restaurants and shops near San Agustin Church along General Luna and well preserved establishments along Anda Street. Likewise, there are several museums in the vicinity.

Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi chose to build this fortress where remnants of an Islamic settlement was - by the banks of the Pasig River. It was 1571. Can you imagine what life was like in those incipient epochal years of colonization? Intramuros' cloistered sprawled on an area of 64 hectares. There must have been thousands of untold, albeit colorful tales from hundreds of years spanning its history. The area itself was constantly invaded by Chinese pirates, Dutch forces, British troops, American regimen, Japanese colonizers, etc. Intramuros stood strong and proud until the Battle of Manila.

I was glad to have given this area a visit. Intramuros includes Fort Santiago, Manila Cathedral, Chinese Filipino Museum (Bahay Tsinoy), the shops along the streets of Anda and General Luna, and San Agustin Church. Do they even constitute half of the 64 hectares?

This is the Eye in the Sky!

The way to one of the ramparts.

This is what's above those walls - the ramparts.

Cannons surround the ramparts.

National Hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal

Manila City Hall

A kalesa, horse-drawn cart.

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