I discovered that the best way to avoid being harassed constantly by tour guides, wanting to give me a tour of Intramuros, was to give in and take a tour from one of them! So I jumped into the small horse-drawn carriage (called a calesa) operated by Nestor Cruz and his son and allowed them to show me around this old walled section of Manila.
I arrived in Manila last night and didn’t venture far from the hotel. Today, I wanted to explore the historical old part of the city that is known as Intramuros (within the walls). This is the oldest part of the city and was the entirety of the city during Spanish rule between 1571 and 1898. Much of Intramuros was destroyed in the Battle of Manila in the Second World War.
I walked about 2km to Intramuros from my hotel, fielding several offers of rides and tours from horse drawn carriages to guys with sidecars attached to their pedal bikes. But once I got inside the walled city, the attention of the tour guides intensified significantly. I’d intended to just walk around the place but I agreed to the calesa tour and it turned out to be an enjoyable experience. Nestor, my guide, shared a lot of information about the places that we visited and wanted to take several photos of me at every stop. So you’ll see more than the occasional selfie of me in this post.
The first stop was at the Manila Cathedral, the 8th church to be built upon that spot. This one was constructed between 1953-1958. Its predecessor had been built in 1879 but was totally destroyed in the Battle of Manila.
Next up was a memorial to over 100,000 men, women and children who were killed during the Battle of Manila. Many of the victims have no individual graves as they were consumed by fire or crushed beneath the rubble of the ruins. So this memorial serves as a gravesite for them.
Casa Manila is a museum inside an old Spanish house that gives an insight into the affluent lifestyle at the turn of the 20th century.
At Casa Manila, there is an eco bike tour company that makes ‘Bambikes’ – bicycles with frames constructed from Philippine bamboo.
Across the street from Casa Manila is the San Augustin Church and Convent, the oldest church in the Philippines and a UNESCO Heritage Site. It is the fourth church to stand on this spot, the first being built in 1571 and this one being built between 1587 to 1604.
Then Nestor took me to the Skybar on the roof of the Bayleaf Hotel, to get an overview of the Intramuras. Something I wouldn’t have known about had I self-guided my visit to the area.
I’d initially committed to a one-hour tour, but it was extended to two hours to include the visit to Fort Santiago. I had Nestor drop me back at San Augustin Church afterwards, so that I could eat lunch and potter around Intramuras alone for a while.
After spending a little more time in Intramuros, I walked back to my hotel, through Rizal Park, which offers some green space, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
It was an interesting first day of sightseeing in Manila and I learned a little about the history of the city.