[Travel] Philippines 23 December 2010 – 5 January 2011

For the holiday, I decide to visit my family in the Philippines with my mom and my sister. We have separate departure because my mom wants to go there first and I have to wait for my work to be done and take a break from the office. My sister decide to go to Solo and Bali first before she fly to Manila, Philippines, on the 28th.

I depart on the 22 midnight and arrive at Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport 6 am in the morning. Christmas season holiday has many flights coming in on the 23rd. At least 5 planes landed in terminal 2; from LA, Jakarta, Las Vegas, Canada and San Francisco. With only one baggage claim belt, you can imagine the chaos getting my luggage. I have to wait 1 1/2 hour just to get mine <_<;

My mom is worried I got lost (mom! I’m not 7 anymore ya know =P) and call my aunts and my sister. Ahahaha ^^;;;;

Mom is staying with my aunt but I have to stay with my uncle and his family in Greenhills, Quezon City, New Manila instead. When I reach their house I sleep until noon and wake up to lunch.

My Grandmother is admitted to the hospital. Imagine the stress my mom in and take turns with with my other aunts staying with my Amma. Amma will have her surgery in within a week, so we’re praying she’ll get through with it.

I have to get medical check up to while here. Between spending time with my cousins and the family from LA, I take my blood test and book doctors from general check up to allergy to dentist. So far the check up I do, I’m in a good deal healthy and weight more =P I have severe allergy on cats, feathers, grass and dust mites, and mild allergy in anything good (like dairy, shrimp, chicken, crab etc.) though :(

But it doesn’t stop me from eating. he.he.he.

I gain weight just by eating something like this huge, huge burito @ Ristras Mexican Grill (granted, I split this /w my cousin, but still this is a big bite)

My aunt decide to make Lumpia (nyumnyum) and go to the market early in the morning. I want to get some pictures so I accompany her to the morning market near our place.

She buys some meat, shrimp, vegetables, fruits etc, while I walk along with Ziggy and snap me some photos.

Some cans assortments.

Meat market

The vegetable stall

Fruits and lotsa fruits

The thing is about fruits and vegetables with colors and shapes and sizes are fun for photo objects!

After my Amma’s successful surgery, she is in fast track recovery and can breath again, and we all can breath again. =D My grandfather (Ankong) visits her in the hospital and bring some flowers! (insert awwwweeeee so cute here).

They are still as sweet as ever!

We dine in some restaurant, like Gloria Maris (at least we eat here once every time I come to Manila), and try the local manila cuisine in Romulus Restaurant or having a ladies night out at Barcino Wine Resto Bar and having family dinner in a Greek restaurant! (unf, I have to exercise more once I get back to Jakarta).

And have a blast at Replubliq for new year cousins night! I have some shooters! Not a Jack girl my self, but I won’t say no for a shot of tequila or two, and can’t forget Tequila Rose!

New year’s dinner I meet Ankong again and his great-great-grandhild (my niece)

Not much to do one week in because of the waiting. We just go around Greenhills and see my uncle’s new office building at Stronghands, meet long time no see cousins from my mom side in Manila and from LA, do a little shopping to Changi at Greenhills and 168 mall at Binondo, Chinatown.

We call them the Divisoria because you can find anything from arts and crafts, cloths, fake bags etc. from China in such a bargain price, and bargain it again when you buy a 1/2 dozens or more. For places like these, make sure you come early and on weekdays because they are pack during weekends and Christmas. Wear comfortable shoes and casual jeans and t’shirts (get comfy and don’t worry, the malls are semi-clean and have AC for your convenient).


My sister and I prefer Changi for their upper taste and variety of style. While you can have lowest price at 158, you can find some local brands on sale in Changi.

The jewelry here is awesome too. Fake pearls, lovely corals and beautiful tones and glass.

Now for the historical sites.

Manila Central Post Office design by Filipino architect Juan Marcos de Guzman Arellano in the style of neoclassical (roman and greek influence) in 1926. The building is located in Intramuros Distric, facing Liwasang Bonifacio plaza (Plaza Lawton).

Manila Metropolitan Theater also designed by Juan Marcos de Guzman Arellano in 1931 with the style of Artt Deco, located on Padre Burgos Avenue, near the Manila Central Post Office. Unfortunately, the building is not in used anymore and fall to disrepair :(

The thing is that while I found the post office with functional design and muted color, I feel sad to see the MET lost its luster. It must be a sight to see in its former glory. Can’t really see from the faded colors and shape forming decorative geometric shape influenced by the classics, with a touch of cubism and futurism. Imagine Hollywood theater in the 20’s or the diners at that time. And now the MET is just another abandoned building.

Next stop, the walled city (Ciudad Murada) itself, Intramuros!


The entry gate of the city


A Calesa ride. A horse drawn carriage, an old fashion way to get around Intramuros (around 250 pesos/ride @ _ @)


Old map of the Intramuros

While waiting for our guide, I take some photos of Spanish influenced buildings

We pre-book this tour the previous night. At 1000 pesos a pop, the tour is expensive but worth it to hear the history of the Intramuros and Manila from before to today in unconventional way, I.e theatrical /w sound fx. Like in the disclaimer said, the content of this tour is slightly graphic and adult. :P More like slightly offending religious parties, culture races and general sensibility. Be open minded and take it in as good humor and entertainment value, with 20% facts. Hehehe.

Mr Carlos of Cendran Tour starts the tour by asking us to sing the national anthem and some pop quiz for the local. Like Spanish, Chinese and American street names and/or streets name from Filipino language translated into what’s common in the area. This tour is about an illusion of Manila.

Before the Spanish came, once upon a time, Manila is under the rule of Rajah Sulayman. Manila from Maynilad, is A Muslim village named after a white flowered mangrove. Then came the Spaniards 327 years ago by the Basque conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and took over this village and make it into Intramuros (from latin: inside the walls)

Basically, it’s a city inside the wall, where school, government office, churches, other buildings and apartments reside and become the capital of the Spanish East Indies for 3 centuries or so.

Before, the city is secular, as in, the Church has more power here than the government body (i.e, if the pastors don’t like you, you’ll find your self shot in the head and left in Pasig river for the fishes). The measurement of the city starts from Saint Agustin Church as 0 Km, and around the Church, the city is in tight grid street system.

Way across the Church, there’s Fort Santiago. Imagine the Spanish Government Officials have their desks facing the Church and the higher up from the Church has their desks facing the fort in a staring contest! LOL


The entry way. We don’t get in the fort except to see the inner yard and more history lesson :(

But anyway, the first Fort built in 1571 is made with logs and earth but is destroyed and built in stone between 1589 and 1592. The Spaniard military headquarters is damaged mostly during 1945 after several earthquake, attacks,war and occupation by the British and later the Japanese, but some walls are restored and carved back from the mountain ashes.

This place is made famous by the imprisoned Jose Rizal – the Philippines National hero – before executed in 1896.

As our Guide says, the Fort is important. Because lays across the river there’s Chinatown. The Chinese and the Spaniard don’t really got along but trades are important because while the Spaniard has weapons, the Chinese can work for daily life essential. But problems persist and so they live side by side, one eye at business and one eye at their weapons. Like Mr. Carlos says, they’re just a canon shot away. Keep your friend closer but your enemy closer as saying goes.


Almacenes Reales or Royal Warehouses built in 1591 as a store houses for goods from Pasig river.

After that, we ride around the city with the Calesa (included in the tour).


San Diego Garden, Baluarte de San Diego, Santa Lucia cor. Muralla

San Agustin Church

The oldest stone Church in the Philippines. Completed in 1607 under Augustinian father Francisco De Bustos, Ildefonso de Perea, made by the architect Juan Macis. The surviving Church from earthquakes, war, invasions up until today, chosen as world heritage site by UNESCO in 1993.


Christmas village at the entry of the Church


We are lucky to be able to see a garden wedding in the Church’s courtyard. My cousin tells me that to get married in San Agustin church, you need to be interviewed by the Priests and marriage counseling with a waiting list of 2 years! But it’s so worth it!


The stair ceiling inside the Church


The hallway


Carrozas (Carriages) made of silver, brass or wood. Used is religious processions of Holy Week or Feasts of Saints. Built in time of Fr. Manuel Delgado O.S.A., Circa 1770.


The back courtyard.


And here we go again :P after a brief tour with the calesa, Mr. Carlos takes us into a history lesson again when the Spaniards is replaced by the Americans.

Before, the Spanish Government urge the priests the learn the local dialects so the integration and conquering Manila is as easy as eating a pie. That way, apart from the names and some fortunate souls able to study abroad, many Filipinos can’t learn or write Spanish at the time.

Things change when the Americans arrive. Because of the lost of war, the Spanish sold Manila for 20 millions to the US. Hence, changes! Americanification! Consumerism (coca cola, toothpaste, telephones!)! But most importantly, ENGLISH language!

Here the locals are taught how to write, read, calculate etc. and be American! Fact is that almost 98% Filipino even to the provinces, can read and write and understand English thanks to these folks. The Philippines is #3 literate country of the world.

Changes in architecture, instead of Spanish stones and baroque churches, we have art deco and neoclassic structures. Here comes Hollywood! Gone with the Wind! and all that western movies and cultures. And they change 0 km to Jose Rizal monument in Rizal Park to avoid the Church influence ever again.

Passing that, we take on 1945, WWII and the Philippines that is caught between the US and the Nippon (insert out Guide in katana-swishing-samurai mode) as he tells us the story of 1000 nippon going house to house and killing the white people one by one.


At least 120.000 died within the city itself from the bombing and madness.

And only San Agustin Church remain, save by the Red Cross using it as a make-shift hospital.

Finishing the tour, we pass the museum part and into the Church hall

The Altar *worship* part of those ceilings are painted but it doesn’t take away the breathtaking view.


And the French chandeliers hanging high above our head. We can’t see the organ on the second floor, but I’m hoping I’ll see it when I visit Manila again.

In Conclusion, our Guide, Mr. Carlos says; just like the San Agustin Church (with its Spanish and Neo-classical architecture, Chinese lions at the gates and French Chandelier hanging off the ceiling), Filipinos is like Halo-Halo (a Filipino dessert consists of sweet beans, sweet corn, jello, flan, shaved ice, fruits and ice cream) with mix and match anything good and delicious! LOL.


Some of the street still retain the brick road.

We finish our tour at 6pm and run out of time to see the museums :( I don’t even have time to see inside Manila Cathedral.

Some photos instead :)

Manila Cathedral or the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is destroyed by earthquakes and rebuilt again, and again, and again. Influence by Neo-Romanesque stand since 1581 and gone by WWII bombing, and rebuilt again as it is today.


The gate details


Christmas Tree made by star lights :D :D

Next day, Chinatown, or what we called it Binondo

The entry way into Chinatown, Binondo

Binondo is used to be the center of commerce during the American occupation, but because of the war, most of the establishments are destroyed and/or then moved to Makati instead.

Established in 1584 by the Spaniards, Binondo is the settlement for the Chinese Immigrants (called Sangleys) from the mainland who speaks Hokkien and several other dialects, to make them easier to convert to Catholic and intermarriage with the locals and Spanish comers.

Binondo Church built in 1596, it is one of the oldest places of Christian Worship.


A wedding inside the church again. The Bride and the Groom pledge in Chinese.


The beautiful, beautiful painted ceiling, telling the story of Jesus Christ.


The Altar (click to enlarge for details)


Ongpin street, where they sell medicine, chinese herbs, shark fins, bird nests etc.


A contrast between old Chinese buildings with the modern high rise backdrop.


Chinese temple Seng Guan Temple located along Narra Street. It look small on the outside, but once we go inside, the place is pretty wide and large.


The Altar for Buddha.


Prayer tablet for the dead.

Quiapo Church at Quezon Boulevard where the Black Nazarene, the statue of Jesus of Nazarene is thought to give miracles and blessings


A lot of people are praying (I don’t feel comfortable taking photo of the Black Nazarene) ^^;


The entry way to the Plaza Miranda where you can have your fortune teller read your luck and buy charms and protections from evil


We can buy these flowers and offer them for prayer. The Sampaguita or Arabian Jasmine is the Philippines national flower. From the words ‘Sumpa Kita‘ or ‘Our Promise‘, given for tourists, graduates, celebrations and day of the saints for offering at the altar or at home. They smell good while fresh! I always love jasmine.

Across the main street, there’s also a Muslim Community and several mosque, unfortunately we have no time to explore them. I would love to see the Golden Mosque next time!

So, now for getting around Manila. I am warned not to take any public transportation (not even the Monorail) because it’s dangerous. But anyway, taxi is pretty save if you use meter and see if they carry a Rosario. The meter starts at 30 pesos.

Jeepney is a different ball game all together. I remember riding this when I was a kid at 2-3 pesos. Now it cost 7 pesos per 4 km (or per stops I guess). They are reckless drivers and often stop 3 rows in a narrow street and people get in and out in the middle of the street. Jeepney is like a Filipino. Left over from US military jeeps are lengthened at the back and put some seats as we squeeze inside. They add a metal roof and decorated it with all kinds of colors, designs, cartoon illustrations, phrases and ornaments. This one is from the anime Flame of Recca XD

Riding a bus takes 12 pesos and tricycle is depend on how much you bargain. I only see Calesa in Intramuros and Chinatown, around 100-300 pesos to get around. Make sure to ask where they’re going to take you for what price. Jeepney is still the cheapest ride to get around Manila.


Best experience is my shopping I guess :P Some of these boots are at a steal! A lot of cloths (can’t fit in the photo) and necklace made of fake peals, stones and glass. And…. tequila rose XD~~

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