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.

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We’re staying with my uncle and his family in Greenhills, Quezon City, New Manila. My cousins and I eat dinner at Ristras Mexican Grill. A humongous burrito with anything inside.

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My aunt decide to make Lumpia and we go to the market early in the morning. Good practice for some photography.

We go around Greenhills and see my uncle’s new office building at Stronghands, meet some cousins from my mom side in Manila and from LA, do a little shopping to Changi at Greenhills.

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Honestly, I go there every time because of the cultured pearls, coral accessories and other jewelries.

The next day, off to see what Manila have to offer.

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).

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

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

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

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

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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.

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Mr Carlos of Cendran Tour.

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).

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Way across the Church, there’s Fort Santiago.

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.

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Folowing the steps.

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Rajah Sulayman theater.

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Jose Rizal Shrine

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Jose Rizal Museum

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The museum is a house that held Jose Rizal in his last days.

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The painting of Jose Rizal

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Silid ng Pagninilay (Contemplation Room) where Jose Rizal books, manuscript and his writing collections

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Old book

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The view out

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Ang Piitan (Prison Cell) of Jose Rizal

Jose Rizal cell with replica desk. He was detained from 3 November to 29 December 1896 with false charge. He was excuted at 7:03 AM on 30 December 1986 on the Luneta, Bagumbayan Field, Manila.

 

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Painting of Jose Rizal

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Jose Rizal usual cloths on Silid ng Nalalabi (The Reliquary Room)

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Ang Tulang Walang-Hanggan (The Valedictory Poem). The poem was titled Mi Ultimo Adios, his last work before his excecution.

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Pasig River

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

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After the ride, we arrive at San Agustin Church

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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.

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Christmas village at the entry of the Church

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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 counselling with a waiting list of 2 years! But it’s so worth it!

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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.

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Before, the Spanish Government urge the priests the learn the local dialects so the integration and conquering Manila is easier. 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! 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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

 

Next day, Chinatown, or what we called it Binondo

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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.

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

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

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

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

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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.

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.

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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. 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. 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.

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