“Intramuros! The old Manila. The original Manila. The Noble and Ever Loyal City…” — Nick Joaquin
The last time I was in Intramuros, I was a kid. I cannot recall anything except that we (my sister and I) were brought there once. How that can happen to someone who prides herself with great memory puzzles me. Was I disinterested at that time? Was my mind somewhere else? Oh well. I will never know.
So, when I had the opportunity to tour our visitors from Bangalore around, I was excited for it. I printed out maps and took note of entrance fees.
The thing about going to Intramuros is that you have to go there early if you want to go to every museum and tourist attraction. Having left at 1:30 in the afternoon, we only had time for San Agustin Church, the Manila Cathedral and Fort Santiago. We also stopped by Ristorante delle Mitre for lunch.
Ristorante delle Mitre looked like an antique house that was turned into a restaurant. There was an “old times” feel to the place but not so old that you will hesitate to go in. Their food was delicious and I regret not being able to take photos before we dug in.
Our first stop was the San Agustin Church that’s practically across Ristorante delle Mitre. There was a wedding that just concluded and the married couple were having their photos taken with the visitors. There was another couple outside having their photos taken. Whether that was already a photoshoot before or after the wedding. Maybe a pre-nup shoot? Anyway, I have to admit that San Agustin Church is a beautiful church to get married in not only because of its vintage facade, but also because of how solemn the atmosphere is when you go inside.
That is until I looked down and saw…
Oh…my…God! Are there really dead bodies underneath those?!
I should not be surprised because when I had my confirmation in San Miguel Church, there were gravestones along the walls and in the front yard. My own great grandfather was buried in that church. Why these gravestones in San Agustin Church still give me heebie-jeebies is beyond me. Maybe because there’s a certain fear that the dead will pull cause a massive opening of the ground and pull my leg? Hahaha…
I started asking one of our visitors about weddings in India. He told me that visitors can reach about a thousand or more when there are weddings there. He even said that it sort of doubles as a family reunion because you get to meet relatives you have never met your whole life. He also shared that the entire ceremony can take a couple of days, sometimes lasting a week. What?! A thousand visitors?! A week of ceremonies?! My introvert self would die!
Still, I cannot help but feel that all the music, the dancing, and the beautiful colors of their attires (Indians love colors, I was told) makes a wedding quite a memorable one. Our visitor said that should I get to visit India and there’s a wedding happening, they will take me with them so I can experience the “Big Fat Indian Wedding.”
Our next stop was the Manila Cathedral which was about four minutes away from San Agustin Church. It was also nice walking in the afternoon because it wasn’t so hot anymore.
There was another wedding going on in Manila Cathedral. I guess it was a day to get married as it was a long weekend and people could party out all night.
While it has a vintage facade, inside was a little bit more modern. The church has air-conditioning system so it wasn’t very warm. Near the entrance/exit doors, there was a lady selling necklaces with crosses and medallions with saints on them. There were also small statues/images that were beautifully carved and painted.
I bought a Saint Benedict medal necklace for myself since I gave my previous one to my former boss. It flips like a time turner so I never have to concern myself which is the right way of putting the necklace on. It’s also two-toned so I can pair it with my other accessories be they gold or silver.
Surprisingly, they do not sell these at a very expensive price. That is awesome because tourist attractions usually have sellers pricing goods at exorbitant prices to take advantage of tourists who still feel they are getting stuff at bargain prices. This medal only cost Php 50.00.
I love how despite only one of our three visitors is Catholic, the other two did not just stay outside the churches we visited. In fact, they showed interest on what was inside the churches! Oh yeah, gotta love diversity and inclusion!
As it was nearing sundown, we decided to go straight to Fort Santiago where the entrance fee was only Php 75.00. The site was not crowded with people so, it felt nice to walk at a leisurely pace.
We saw a lot of pigeons along the way. Thankfully, none of them flew and landed on our heads.
Alas, we have reached the main gate of Fort Santiago! Inside are prisons and dungeons that housed several prisoners. One of them was Jose Rizal, the unofficial (but very much loved) national hero of the Philippines. I shared with our visitors that he was considered a hero because despite not using violence in his fight against oppression, his written works inspired a lot of the other heroes to fight for the country’s freedom against the Spaniards.
Once inside, we went to a little corner that led us to see the Pasig River. It was not that pretty of a sight but at least it does not smell too funky anymore. I truly wish more efforts will be put into cleaning up this river to make the water clear again.
There was a staircase leading up to God-knows-what. I think that’s where soldiers stayed on the lookout for approaching enemies. Well, I did not see any, but I did see the beautiful beginnings of a sunset.
That was basically the end of our Intramuros trip. We then went to Mall of Asia to spend the rest of the evening.
On the way to Mall of Asia, we shared our experiences about learning history. Some of us loved the stories but hated having to memorize all the dates and specific places. Despite that, the lessons that history taught were what we treasured most.