In 1998, I started taking up B.S. Journalism at Lyceum of the Philippines University, one of the schools that can be found inside the Walled City, Intramuros. Because I spent practically four years of my life within its walls I never really viewed Intramuros with awe or curiosity the way a tourist would. Back then it was just regular place to me, the one where you can find my school. It’s not until eight years later I’d walk Intramuros with an interest it so richly deserves.
I’d always found it amazing that through the years, Intramuros managed to remain to co-exist with modernization. The walls that the city has been known for have been well-preserved, so were the old buildings like the Palacio Del Gobernador. To maintain the Spanish-era theme, the guards that were scattered about the place wear uniforms reminiscent of the guardia civil. Even present-day establishments like restaurants, coffee shops, souvenir item stores made an effort to look like they too have been built in the old days.
Plaza San Luis Complex
In Intramuros there are five houses that are replicas of those that were built in the Spanish period. This infrastructure is named Plaza San Luis Complex. Inside this complex are five houses: Casa Manila, Los Hidalgos, Casa Urdaneta, Casa Blanca, and El Hogar Filipino. This is where my friends (Tina, Bethel, and Dan) and I began our one-day Intramuros adventure.
Barbara’s Coffee Shop
Barbara’s, one of the restaurants in Intramuros has its own cafe called Barbara’s Coffee Shop. This is where my friends and I started the day with a quick lunch. To see my review of this cafe, follow the link below. [Read: Barbara’s The Coffee Shop]
The Papier Tole Shop
While waiting for our order to be served, we had fun checking out this small shop that sits right across Barbara’s Coffee Shop; The Papier Tole Shop. This cute little store sells trinkets, decors, and souvenir items at a fairly cheap price. Most of the products were made of recycled paper like bracelets, book mark, wallet, coaster, fan, secret book, rosary, etc. There are also other items like post cards, dolls, key chains, cellphone charms, soaps, notebooks, coin purses, among others.
After our lunch, we went to Casa Manila for that quick going-back-in-time tour. We walked through the cobbled stone corridors, saw old carriages, and photographed it all through to our heart’s content. We wanted to check out the Casa Manila Museum but decided against it when we found out cameras are not allowed.
San Agustin Church
Back in the day, Intramuros is home to seven churches: Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Church, Santo Domingo Church, San Francisco Church, Recoletos Church, Lourdes Church, and San Ignacio Church. Out of the seven, only two can be found in Intramuros today; Manila Cathedral and San Agustin. The others were either moved to another location — as in the case of Santo Domingo Church that is now in Quezon City — or is now being used for other purposes — as in the case of Recoletos church, which is currently the office of local publication, Manila Bulletin.
San Agustin Church was built in 1570 by the Spaniards. Its façade has a touch of Baroque style characterized by the intricate carvings on its huge wooden doors and carved niche between the columns. Aside from holding masses, the church has a museum with an entrance fee of PHP 100 (USD2.13). Unfortunately, just like Casa Manila, they don’t allow picture-taking inside so we no longer bothered and moved on to our next subject, the much beautiful Manila Cathedral.
Rumor has it that it is bad luck to hold your wedding at Manila Cathedral. People say that many couples who exchanged vows in this church have separated. I’m not sure where this rumor come from or if there is any truth to it. All I know is that Manila Cathedral is the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen. It was built in 1571 and was originally called the Church of Manila. It wasn’t until 1579 that it would become a cathedral. Inside the church are seven (7) chapels that also function as mini galleries.
By the time we left Manila Cathedral the sun was at its highest. There, under the scorching heat of the sun we began our walk to our ultimate destination, the Fort Santiago. It was built by the Spaniards as a defense fortress in 1571. Aside from its tall walls and mysterious dungeons, Fort Santiago is also famous for being the last place where the Philippine National hero, Dr. Jose Rizal was detained before his unfortunate execution in 1896.
Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Entrance fee for adults is PHP 75 (USD 1.60) and PHP 50 (USD 1.06) for students (with valid ID). When we got inside the first place that we visited was the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is quite small with only the windows for its source of light. Two old nuns were attending it and they were very gracious to us. We stayed for a moment to light a candle and to say our prayers.
Rizal Shrine houses the memorabilia of Rizal like old photographs, medicinal equipment, small sculptures, the clothes that he used to wear, among others. We also saw the cell where he was detained. For some reason, it is off-limits to the visitors. The last part of the shrine is the Galeriya sa Beranda where Rizal’s last poem “Mi Ultimo Adios” (My Last Farewell) is on display.
As usual it was “no camera allowed” in Rizal Shrine, not so with Rizaliana. It is a small gallery of the furniture of the Rizal family like a four-poster bed, dining set, sala set, cabinet, etc. It has a separate entrance fee of PHP 10 (USD 0.21).
In Intramuros you will see the prison dungeons where over 600 Americans and Filipinos were imprisoned and killed by the Japanese in 1945. They looked beautiful in a creepy kind of way, if you know what I mean. It is hard to imagine that many lives were wasted in those cells that are actually located below high tide level.
I have almost forgotten how much I loved the place, the one that was witness to four years of self-destruction, frizzy hair days, and my seemingly campaign for all-black fashion. A place made beautiful by its cobble stones, tall walls, dungeons, and old Spanish architectures. I can’t believe it’s been 8 years since I’d left the place. I realized that its beauty has been lost in my recollection. All of a sudden, I wanted so much to remember. My return has been met by a great wave of nostalgia. It felt so nice to be able to revisit this place that has always owned a special spot in my heart.