Posts Tagged ‘ Philippines ’

Open City, Intramuros, Walled City, Manila…

P_20180116_134215This heritage spot has varied nicknames, seen varied colonizers, has been bombed, has burnt to ashes, has been rebuilt, has been a place to teach foreigners the past of the Filipinos. It was built by the Spaniards in the 16th century. I wouldn’t be caught wandering around past 11pm here. I’ve accepted it has many ghosts, so I don’t want them triggered.


I once worked at the Ilustrado Restaurant, a famous restaurant here, as a food taster. Well, sort of. My editor in a previous gig took me under her wing when she worked here, so back then, I was tasting new menu picks, writing PR kits, ushering the TV presenters, coordinating the photo shoots of food and writing the text for Ilustrado’s recipe-postcards.

It was a 9 to 5 job, my day off was on Sundays. I worked in a tourist-y block, so on my lunch break I would wander into the nearby art handicraft store Silahis Center, with the art gallery within, Galleria de las Islas.

El Amenecer    Silahis CenterP_20180116_120217P_20180116_120821P_20180116_120932

Or walk down the road to Manila Cathedral to hear mass. Since my job was fulltime, I rarely walked on the actual walls, and if ever there was a friend visiting or a play to watch, I always headed straight for the Fort Santiago citadel.

Manila Cathedral  Manila Cathedral

P_20180116_124506Plaza Roma   Plaza de Roma

Fort Santiago

Fort SantiagoRizal Shrine Dr. Jose Rizal, National heroFort Santiago

I had my own history with this place, but more recently, I just wanted to walk the perimeter wall. If I hadn’t decided to walk the wall, the top parts, I would never have discovered that some parts of it are seriously worn out and some of the top parts are closed off and you can’t walk it completely.


I began my 2018 walk within the walls of Intramuros here in the area of Baluarte de Dilao, that area beside the universities of Mapua and Lyceum. On top of the wall, there are many original cannons. And the ramps leading to them are the ravelins that aided the transport of platoons, cannons and ammunition on the fortress.P_20180116_114005


Having climbed off the Baluarte de Dilao, I continued to walk within the walls towards Muralla Street, that area known as the  Baluarte de San Andres. A few steps along the street and I climbed onto another part of the top of the wall.


Then I walked off this wall again to walk towards the next university, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila to reach Revellin de Real de Bagumbayan and Puerta Real, both built in 1663, used exclusively by the Governor-General for state occasions, according to a site marker in that spot of the wall.

Destroyed during the British invasion, 1762, rebuilt in 1780. Transformed during the American occupation into the Manila Aquarium. Used as prison cells during the Japanese occupation and subsequently damaged in the Battle of Manila 1945. The youth in this photo is my godson, who was with me to explore.


We skipped Plaza Real Gardens to return to the top of the wall on Baluartillo de San Jose, the one beyond the gated part. Curiously, this next spot was where US Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters were during the American occupation.

As the Japanese were bombarding Intramuros heavily, Gen. MacArthur was the one who decided that Manila be demilitarized, then he declared Manila an Open City, in December 1941.


We walked a lot in the four hours we were within the wall. Bring water to hydrate. We did. But you can see the rain clouds in the above photo that made us quit our walk suddenly. Note that we didn’t join any of those 10-20 US$ tourist group walks. You can get by using this blog, if you have less than a full day.

I was aware of the Manila Biennale Open City 2018 (scheduled February 3- March 5) passport tours, but it’s not for me. It’s very expensive, 3-5k pesos I think. Anyway, that was it for the day, we walked out through the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila Gate, crossed via the underpass and saw the monument dedicated to the Philippine Revolution against Spain waged by Andres Bonifacio (shown wielding a bolo).












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Chillin’ at Villa Escudero

Villa Escudero straddles the border of Laguna and Quezon provinces south of Manila. The entire place is owned and managed by the Escudero family. The motif includes rural life in the Philippines, Castilian and turn of the century collections both local and foreign. You have to see it yourself.

Since 2008 when I last visited, they no longer allow cameras into the pink church/gallery of collections. The collection contained in the church/gallery is virtually a hodgepodge. Stuffed animals and petrified butterflies and insects above, life-sized Catholic saints below. However. it’s not accurate to say they’ve put the heavyweight articles on display on the first floor and the lightweight ones on the balcony, because there’s a vintage deep-sea diving suit and helmet which resembles an astronaut’s gear rather than a diver’s up there. It looks as if it might weigh a ton (Sealab 2020, an animated TV show decades ago, had this aqua gear).

The pink church looks Castilian, but the garden in front of the church seems Victorian in contrast.

The carabao, named Madonna, pulls this thing on which guests travel from one area to the next in this vast place. Guests are assisted by Filipino-costumed usherettes.

One of the usherettes sat beside the guitar man who played familiar Filipino folk songs, some I learned as a kindergarten student. You half expect these two musicians (the usherette sings the melody) to play Filipino love songs and then end up surprised that you know the tune and some of the lyrics of their songs, so I ended up singing second voice.

You get to Villa Escudero presumably hungry so they have a Filipino buffet al fresco dining, feet dipped in water falling from a man-made dam. Some tables are sufficiently covered by leaves of trees, but the part where a waterfall forms, is uncovered. The current from the waterfall is gentle but the area is very slippery so it makes sense actually to wear aqua shoes to lunch.

The right side is where the one buffet table is situated, so there’s quite a long line, but you can go back to the table for more food. No spoons and forks, you get chopsticks. You may also want to bathe beneath the waterfall, or skip doing that and just opt to go swimming in their pool.

We went rafting in the man-made lake that fed the waterfall. It looked easy to maneuver the bamboo rafts, but the execution was harder than we thought. Technique was still necessary to be able to paddle away from the platform and get the raft back. The men who handed us paddles and life jackets did not provide the technique so we had to figure it out before we melted under the heat of the noon sun.  Oh by the way, those lakeside huts are for rent in case you want to stay longer than the usual day trip.

P.S. I’ve watermarked my photos here with O.V. as the owner of these images for my Villa Escudero blog.


Hovering Over Paradise (November 2014). Elevation Elation!!!!

Spelunking then superman ziplining in Puerto Princesa Palawan. These were my stunts last week!

Spelunking then superman ziplining in Puerto Princesa Palawan. These were my stunts last week!

Top of the morning! Overnight at the Acua Verde, San Juan Batangas

Photo by Onnah ValeraTop of the morning! Overnight at the Acua Verde, San Juan Batangas

Wake up in Iloilo City, head off to La Paz Market for Madge Cafe and smell the coffee in the oldest cafe in Iloilo and certainly the darling of its most influential and its tourists!

Photo by Onnah Valera Photo by Onnah Valera Photo by Onnah Valera2687_725793675_n