Manila Day Trip

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San Agustin Church Museum tour. Intramuros, Manila Philippines

I recently came back from my Philippines trip with three of my friends from Singapore - Adam, an American, Elaine, a Singaporean, and Juan, from UK.  Don't ask me how we were able to form this travel group coz it really was a loooong story. 

The Philippines was not really the first choice for this weekend escape from our busy lives in Singapore.  But since, I’ve been pretty much all over Southeast Asia, I decided to invite them to come to my hometown and give them a taste of what the Philippines has to offer.  Besides, it’s also a good excuse to get my supply of groceries, do some shopping in Greenhills, drink plenty of San Miguel beer (pale/light) and of course be with my family even for just a short time since I won’t be able to spend the coming holiday season with them.

After giving them an assurance that Manila is still safe despite the recent bombings in Glorietta and Batasan, we’ve finalized our plans and agreed on a date for our Philippine trip. We've booked our tickets from Singapore to Manila via Cebu Pacific on midnight of November 16th, Friday.  Adam, Elaine and I were on the same flight that arrived in NAIA around 4am of the same day.  Juan would follow us the next day via Jetstar Asia.

san agustin church marker
  My mom's friend's who were supposed to assist us from the plane until we get pass through the immigration counters were a bit late so we ended up on a regular queue, which took us a little while before we finally got all our bags outside the airport, where my sister and her boyfriend were waiting for us.

We finally arrived home around six in the morning and decided to rest for a while before proceeding to our first destination.
I emptied my luggage and transferred some of my clothes to a small backpack, hugged my little cousins, my mom and dad (+), and my grandparents and headed off to bed to get some sleep.

Our "jump-off" time was supposed to be at 12:00 noon but before leaving home, we feasted on my grandma’s perfectly cooked “sinigang na baboy,"  which made us stay in the dining area for quite a while.  It was so good!  I really missed home-cooked Filipino food soooo much! Sarap! Even Adam and Elaine kept on asking for more.  It was indeed a good way to start our trip.  Somehow, the hot soup of “sinigang” got me so energized even if I only had three hours of sleep.

We were supposed to meet Juan around 1:00 pm at Power Plant Mall in Rockwell.

inside the church
  But of course, C5 traffic hasn’t changed a bit!  I should’ve realized earlier that it was a Friday and people were flocking to the shopping malls to do some early Christmas shopping, adding to the fact that it was raining heavily for the past few days in Manila. Hehehe! What could be worse than that?

Juan was already in Power Plant when we arrived.  Thanks to the very efficient “welcoming committee” at NAIA.  He was able to find his way from the airport to Rockwell Center.  So after grabbing something to eat at Bread Talk and bottled water at Rustan’s Supermarket, we finally started our Manila tour by finding our way to the walled city of Intramuros.

Driving towards the famous walled city was a lot harder than I expected. I took the Makati Avenue-Buendia-Roxas Boulevard route because I thought it would be less congested on those streets.  But some road works surprised me after I crossed the PNR track at Osmena Highway!  Ayos! So we had to waste another thirty grueling minutes

in the traffic.

view from the choir loft
I guess I’m just not used to seeing so many cars grid-locked in every intersection anymore.  It is definitely one of the things that will not make you miss Manila. 

At around 3:00 pm, we finally reached the parking lot of Manila Cathedral.  I figured it would be safer to leave my car in front of a church so I parked my truck

parallel to the Manila Cathedral’s fence.  As always, I commissioned some “istambay” to look after my vehicle.  That’s one way of assuring myself that my car is going to be ok.  Giving five or ten pesos tip isn’t bad for as long as you know that someone will be held responsible if something happens to your car.

ruins in intramuros

It felt so weird because the last time I visited that place was when I was in my fourth or fifth grade and yet I felt so proud that I was about to share a piece of my country's colorful history to three different nationalities.

I wasn't really sure how to start the tour of the walled city.

riding a calesa
  From what I saw in the Intramuros map that I found in Wow Philippines website, it seems so easy to walk from one place to another. Unfortunately, that map is not scaled so we decided to get the services of a tourguide/"kutsero".  A guy wearing chekered uniform and Intramuros ID then approached us and offered to give us a tour of the walled city in his calesa for P250 per person for one hour.  That was really expensive and it almost made me say no instantly when Elaine started to convert it to SGD (which is a very very bad habit by the way if you are used to spending in dollars).

"That's just S$6! It's cheap!"

"Yeah! It is cheap but that can already buy us ten bottles of SanMig Light!"

It wasn't really in my plan to get a tourguide but I was also hoping that we can ride a calesa so I finally gave in to the offer when he dropped the price to P200 per person.

baluarte de san diego
  We eagerly took our seats inside his carriage which was parked along Cabildo Street, adjacent to Manila Cathedral and Plaza de Roma.  As Erning (the "kutsero's" name) smacked his whip on the horse's back, our Intramuros tour finally started. 

The calesa went to the other side of Plaza de Roma and stopped in front of the Governor's House.  I was expecting the tourguide to be very knowledgeable about the places that he's supposed to bring us to but I was really very disappointed when I learned that Erning couldn't speak English fluently. That probably is the downside of watching too much Carlos Celdran guided tours on TV.

  You tend expect that all tourguides in Intramuros are as witty as him.  But I didn't let that spoil our trip so I ended up translating everything that Erning was saying in English for very obvious reasons.  I should've asked for a discount since I was practically doing half of his job. 

We proceeded then to the San Agustin Cathedral but the main church was closed and the museum was packed with grade school pupils in P.E uniform.  Erning suggested that we visit the Casa Manila first and then go back to San Agustin Museum when the crowd is gone.  Good idea! So we proceeded to the courtyard of Casa Manila where we saw some people preparing the garden for an event.

elaine, juan and adam at the fort santiago moat
  Elaine was amazed when she saw the courtyard at Casa Manila. She couldn’t wait to have her picture taken by the fountain.  The shadows casted by the afternoon sun on the courtyard made the ambience so perfect and that magnificent showcase of Filipino-Spanish architecture in Casa Manila made us stay there for more than half an hour.  However, we weren’t able to check out the second level of Casa Manila because it was already 3:30 pm and we thought there's still more to see than just hang around inside a museum.  We realized eventually that it was a wrong decision.

.

We went back to San Agustin Church via Real Street.

fort santiago
  Erning was already out of sight.  Thinking that he's gone or he's found new customers, we proceeded to San Agustin Church.  Luckily, the church was open for a scheduled wedding ceremony so we were able to get inside the church and be amazed by the elaborately decorated interior walls and ceilings of San Agustin Church.  The altar, pulpit and bas reliefs were astonishing.  I was really very surprised that I was starting to appreciate the details of its interior and a little guilt-stricken when I began to realize that I am a Filipino architect and I should’ve known about San Agustin’s magnificence a long time ago.

Inside the church I spotted Carlos Celdran, the famous tourguide in Intramuros who was featured in different travel magazines and blogs because of his enthralling guided tours of Intramuros and Chinatown area.

mi ultimo adios by dr. jose rizal
  It would’ve have been nice to join his tours but when I checked the schedule on his website, he’s only available in the morning during Fridays. 

After some photo ops inside and the church and at the main entrance, we proceeded to the museum and paid the entrance fee of P80.  Mmmm… not bad, if P80 = S$2.5! Ooopps! We did it again! Hehehe!

We spent almost an hour checking out the San Agustin Museum, admiring the rich collection of Pre-Hispanic artifacts and religious memorabilia.  Elaine remarked that it felt like she’s in Rome while going through those collections.  Although a lot of the items on display in the museum are obviously restored to their original state, some of the original artifacts are surprisingly in good state.

We ended our museum tour at around 5:00 p.m.  Erning was still missing in action so I checked if I could find some random “kutsero” who’s willing to take us to Fort Santiago.  To my surprise, I chanced upon the famous Carlos Celdran on Gen. Luna St. and hurriedly introduced my friends to him.  He’s really nice and very articulate too!  We told him about Erning.  He said that we don’t need to take the calesa just to check the sites in Intramuros.  Since we’ve been to San Agustin and Casa Manila, the only two remaining sites worth seeing are Baluarte de San Diego and Fort Santiago.

So we didn't waste so much time and hurriedly went to the Baluarte and climbed the walls where we had a perfect view of the Intramuros Golf Course and Manila Hotel.  Erning was still there. Unfortunately! We left the walls and proceeded to Fort Santiago so we could still get in the museum before 6 p.m. 

You know what happens if you're with three people who don't know a single thing about Dr.

Jose Rizal? Good thing I still remember what I learned in P.I. 100!

We took some time taking photos of the Pasig River and checked out the souvenir shops because Juan was looking for some items to add to his collections.  I discouraged them from buying since the items there are ridiculously expensive.  I told them that we'd find other places where they can get those items for cheaper price.

I asked Erning then to drive me back to Manila Cathedral in his calesa to get my car while Juan, Adam and Elaine waited for me at the Fort main entrance.  I checked my truck if everything was still intact and paid the tourguide before I drove off to fetch my friends at Fort Santiago.

It was a long and tiring day for all of us but everybody was happy with the tour of the walled city.  We then realized that we were all so hungry because it was already dinnertime.  I didn't have any idea where to bring them so I used my "lifeline" and dialled my friend's number to asked him where we could have a nice seafood dinner. 

The next thing I knew, we were heading south of Manila to a seafood place called "Dampa."
abubu says:
hoi aldrich ang takaw mo kita ko pics mo! hahahaha. enjoy dampa!
Posted on: Jul 17, 2008
aanders9 says:
You prophesied my story! joke. 3 friends are coming for 3 days very soon, too. And yes, we're dining at Dampa. I should just change your names =]
Posted on: Jul 17, 2008
jennethm says:
ganda ng mga pics :)
Posted on: Feb 25, 2008
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San Agustin Church Museum tour. I…
san agustin church marker
san agustin church marker
inside the church
inside the church
view from the choir loft
view from the choir loft
ruins in intramuros
ruins in intramuros
riding a calesa
riding a calesa
baluarte de san diego
baluarte de san diego
elaine, juan and adam at the fort …
elaine, juan and adam at the fort…
fort santiago
fort santiago
mi ultimo adios by dr. jose rizal
mi ultimo adios by dr. jose rizal
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photo by: Deats