Saturday, January 26, 2013

Visiting Intramuros

See previous post: History of Manila's Walled City

One of my favorite adventures while visiting Kristin and her family in the Philippines was our day spent at Intramuros. We were planning to take the Walk This Way tour with Carlos Celdran, who is supposed to be very entertaining and informative. Unfortunately, our schedules didn't match up so we decided to do our own tour. 
We quickly found out that we could create our own tour, covering more of the city and saving money at the same time. Upon arrival, we parked our car near the Manila Cathedral and quickly found a friendly pedicab driver named Mac, who offered to drive us around for 200 pesos per 30 minutes (about $5 USD). Instead of spending 1,500 pesos each for a 3-hour tour, we spent 1,200 for a 4-hour tour with a personal pedicab driver (view from our pedicab pictured below right); others choose the more traditional calesa, a horse-drawn carriage that runs for 350 pesos per 30 minutes. Mac had a map of Intramuros and knew all the spots, and he drove us around while providing some history of the sites and waited for us while we walked through buildings and other areas.
With so many wonderful attraction to see at Intramuros, you can easily spend an entire there. Here are a few of my favorites:
  • Manila Cathedral, known as the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, is the seat of the Philippines' archbishop. Originally constructed when the Spanish first colonized Manila, the cathedral has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over its 400-year history; unfortunately, it was under repair during our visit and we couldn't see the inside. It is the Prime Basilica of the Philippines and the seat of the country's archbishop.
  • Fort Santiago is probably the most historically significant site within Intramuros due to its strategic location. It was the first citadel built during the construction of The Walled City by Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, situated at the mouth of the Pasig River. Thousands of prisoners died within Fort Santiago during the Spanish colonial rein and the Japanese occupation during World War II; even the Filipino national hero Jose Rizal was imprisoned here prior to his execution. Check out the Rizal Shrine Museum, the classic building structures,the adjacent Plaza Moriones, and the views over the river from the Santa Barbara cavalier (pictured below right).
  • San Agustin Church is rather unassuming from the outside (pictured below left). It is one of the only structures in Intramuros that survived World War II (the only of the seven churches within the complex to remain standing) and considered the oldest stone church in the Philippines. Construction was completed in 1607 after the two original structures of wood burned down in fires. You can walk through San Agustin as long as a wedding isn't underway (its gained the reputation as "the wedding capital of the Philippines"). The adjacent monastery has now been renovated and turned into the San Agustin Museum and contains relics of the Spanish colonial church and culture.
Check back again for some more photographs!

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