Saturday, November 13, 2010

Intramuros, Manila's Old Quarter

It has to be done. I have been to quite a few places in and around the country and yet, I have never really explored the history of the city I was born in, at least not in recent years. I have seen and photographed remnants of the Spanish occupation in other parts of the Philippines. I guess it was time that I did so in my city, the country's capital, Manila.


Intramuros, Latin for within the walls, is a small territory located in the western part of Metro Manila, right by the bay and on the southern banks of the Pasig River. Back in the day, this walled city was considered the whole of Manila itself. Over the years, the territory covered by "Manila" expanded to the chaotic urban sprawl you see today.

Manila Cathedral, Intramuros

Manila Cathedral, Intramuros

The most prominent landmark of Intramuros is, of course, the Manila Cathedral, our first stop. The original church was erected here in 1581. It has taken quite a number of beatings over the years, including a world war, and so what we see today is actually the sixth incarnation of the church.

Manila Cathedral, Intramuros

Manila Cathedral, Intramuros

The cathedral interiors are palatial to say the least, the kind of place a lot of couples would want to be married in. The church is notoriously booked though. We're talking years, not just months. In fact, in the hour or so that we were there, we saw at least three set of wedding entourages pass by. Crazy.

Cobblestone Streets, Intramuros

After the cathedral, we walked the stone-covered General Luna street onto Casa Manila. It is basically a museum, a showcase of the architectural style and design popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. It costs 75 pesos to go inside the house itself and cameras aren't allowed. Needless to say, we contented ourselves exploring just the exteriors, including the courtyard, which were enough really.

Casa Manila, Intramuros

Casa Manila, Intramuros

For our final stop, we went back up the road, past the Manila Cathedral and the Palacio del Gobernador, into Fort Santiago, a defense fortress which was a necessity and thus a staple of Spanish colonies founded at the time. The fort forms part of Intramuros' actual walls but to get in, you need to pay 75 pesos.

Dreams (Words to Mi Último Adiós)

Most of what Fort Santiago is right now is a well-manicured park/museum which houses memorabilia and other historical artifacts in the life of Filipino national hero Dr. José Rizal. It is a widely known fact that Fort Santiago served as Rizal's final holding prison before his execution on December 30, 1896.

Lotus Pond

We came to Intramuros in the afternoon. By the time we finished, it was already getting dark and we were getting really hungry. So we did the natural thing to do. We crossed the river into Binondo, Manila's Chinatown. After about a fifteen minute walk into Binondo's busy streets, we settled for a place that served all kinds of Chinese-Filipino dishes. At that point, we all knew we had a very good day. A very very good day.

For my complete gallery on Manila: Intramuros, please go to my Flickr set here.

Does your home town have its own old quarter? Where is it and what's it like?

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