One night, I saw a deal for Barbara’s restaurant in Intramuros. I sent a message to Dai and bought two vouchers even before she replied with her approval. We went lunch time only to be told that our voucher was eligible for dinner so we decided to go around the city within the walls while waiting for 7PM.
Intramuros is the oldest district of Manila. Known as the Walled City, the original fortified city of Manila was the seat of the Spanish government during the Spanish colonial period. The walled part of Manila back then was called intramuros, which is Latin for “within the walls”; districts beyond the walls were referred as the extramuros of Manila, meaning “outside the walls” (Source: Wikipedia).
After the second world war though, virtually all of the structures in Intramuros were destroyed (including the original Univeristy of Sto Tomas campus).
Walking through the area, Dai and I couldn’t help but imagine what it would have looked like today if it was properly maintained. I once read a comparison between Intramuros, Manila and Warsaw, Poland. According to Douglas McArthur, the two were the most heavily damaged cities during the second World War. However, what happened afterwards made all the difference. Despite near-total destruction, Warsaw was heavily and meticulously reconstructed for the next five years up to today leading up to the place’s declaration as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Intramuros, on one hand, together with other old districts of Manila, are subject to articles with titles “A Pearl in Need of Polish” and “Saving our Vanishing Heritage“.
San Agustin church is one of the only two remaining churches located within (down from eight) and also the oldest building in existence in Manila being completed in 1607. Before the war, there is an adjacent monastery but it was totally destroyed during the battle of Manila. It is later rebuilt as a museum in the 70s which houses some of the order’s as well as private individual’s collections.
Many couples still get married in the church. In fact, when Dai and I were there, we were able to witness three weddings, one after the other, and we can’t help but smile and feel hopeful whenever the groom takes the hand of her bride.
Most of the art housed inside are religious in nature. In some areas of the museum, taking of pictures is allowed as long as there is no flash. On galleries where privately-owned collections were present though, any form of photography is prohibited. According to the guard, seeing the sculptures they donated to the church for safekeeping on the internet might not make the owners happy.
The Escalera Principal (main stairway) leading to the second floor of the monastery and the choir loft is believed to have special acoustic characteristics. Also, it’s nice to know that the steps are made of granite blocks 3 meters long bought from Canton, China in the late 1700s.
In the choir loft is an ornately decorated organ. Nothing quite shouts “old” like this part of the church. The wooden chairs looked majestic with intricate designs and there’s even a lectern and music book in the middle from the 1800s with matching hymns in Spanish. From the choir loft, we were able to watch the wedding ceremony taking place. San Agustin Church truly is, just like what their website claims, the “Wedding Capital of the Philippines”.
If you’re feeling lazy, you can rent out one of the many pedicab drivers roaming around for a complete tour of Intramuros (if you find horse-drawn carriages too expensive). But bebe and I wanted to burn some calories so we walked our way to Manila Cathedral, the seat of the Archdiocese of Manila.Unfortunately, the structure is under construction during our visit.
Forst Santiago is well-maintained compared to other parts of Intramuros.Different Kalesa designs. I remember memorizing “Kalesa” by Levi Celerio when I was in elementary. Yay for public school education!
On one of the walls leading up to the dungeons, I saw this vandalism and I’m actually partial on whether to hate the artist or not because the drawing gave the wall character. Though technically, it’s still vandalism.
Since our trip was only DIY, we mostly just strolled and took pictures of the scenery while talking about personal life. I’d love to go back with a proper and knowledgeable tour guide (or friend) to explain to me the importance and history behind. I think one of the reasons why most people are uninterested with history is because it can be boring when only the dates and names are given importance. But no, the stories are actually better than the plots of the soaps on our televisions today. A good tourist guide’s job is not getting it’s proper credit (though I still don’t like being talked through a megaphone).