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Saturday, February 04, 2017

Manila Half day-Rizal Park, Santiago Fort, Intramuros!

On my day 1 in Manila I had about half a day to explore the city. Rainy skies delayed us for a while. Along with a friend I made during the day, a senior woman from Holand) we headed to the famous Intramuros area. This area was about 11 km from our hostel in Makati area. We took a cab from our hostel who asked for 100 Pesos over and above the meter charge. We sat in the car for more than 30 minutes but could cover just about half the distance and the meter was already reading 125 Pesos + Manila’s traffic jams are notorious and can give tough competition to Bengaluru. At some point, we decided to ditch the cab and simply walk, even though our destination was still few kms away. It turned out to be a good move. We passed through the United States Embassy and entered Rizal Park first. 
Rizal Park
Rizal Park is the main park in Manila town. Philippines was once a Spanish Colony and a guy named Jose Rizal is believed to have angered the Spanish government for triggering anti-colonization movement through his writings. Jose Rizal was captured and executed by the Spain Government

Execution of Jose Rizal in 1896 triggered the independence movement, made Jose Rizal a national hero the the site of execution is where the current Rizal Park is located. (The park was renamed in his honor)



Santiago Fort: We could see the walls of Santiago fort but couldn’t figure out how to enter. There was a golf course next to it as well. We kept walking by its fense and eventually entered inside the fort campus.  We encountered the Cathedral of Manila

Cathedral of Manila
Cathedral of Manila had an attractive front facade. It is a 60 year old building dedicated to Virgin Mary. More history about Manila Cathedral is available on Wikipedia if you're interested.



 
The carvings on the doors of Manila Cathedral

Building next to Manila Cathedral-a Government office complex.

Next we walked on the wall of the Santiago fort, took a left turn randomly and ended in front of another church. San Agustin Church. We stopped for a coffee here at a restaurant in-front of the church.
St Agustin Church, Manila


A selfie with a senior lady from Netherlands who was solo traveling Philippines who joined me during the city tour...
The Intramuros area feels a lot European, more spacious and clean than rest of Manila. It is the oldest district of Manila city and literally means "within the wall" (of Santiago Fort). During the colonial era this was heart of Manila and this part has seen more war damages than rest of the city as foreign forces sought to gain control of the fort during various wars. Today it continues as a city on its own, with many hotels and restaurants operating here, electric vehicles encouraged and relatively well maintained than rest of Manila. I hardly saw any Jeepneys inside the fort Santiago- not sure if they are banned due to pollution related reasons.
Next we had to figure out how to get back to hostel. With help from locals we boarded multiple Jeepneys before reaching Guadalupe, from where hostel was walking distance away. I feel the Intramuros campus had more to be explored, but we ran out of time

This was my first impression of Manila- not very impressive. Similar to India, there’s lots of dirtiness all around and extreme cost cutting and jugaad practices at the expense of cleanliness, hygiene and safety is very much obvious. But public transportation using MRT/LRT or Jeepneys is very cheap and people in general are helpful and honest. If you board a jeepney and ask for help getting to your destination, at least someone will be there speaking good English and they will be happy to guide you to the best of their abilities.

In terms of food, I couldn’t locate any Indian/Veg restaurants- had to manage with fruits. 7x11 shops sell veg noodles and biscuits which sort of compensated the hunger.

I explored another part of Manila on a later day- areas around the SM Mall closer to airport- more about that in a separate post. I wanted to explore a bit around Ayala area- it has few museums, parks and war memorials, but didn't have time. From what I experienced, if you're very short of time, Skip Manila and spend more time on various beautiful islands,such as Palawan, Boracay etc

You can read all my Philippines posts under this tag.
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