Sunday, November 21, 2010

[MANILA] Time Loops and UFO Landing Pads

You should not believe a kalesa driver at Plaza de Roma when he says that the Bahay Tsinoy is so far away that you need to ride his horse-drawn carriage to get there. The road to the left of Manila Cathedral is called Cabildo Street. Walk down that path and you will arrive at Bahay Tsinoy after three street corners in five minutes, under ten minutes if you are not a brisk walker. If you love museums because they are so cool you’re gonna die then make sure you know the opening hours. Most museums in Intramuros are closed on Mondays. The Bahay Tsinoy is only open to the public from 1 PM to 5 PM. It is a museum dedicated to the Filipino – Chinese community and their contributions to the country. The entrance fee is 100 pesos for adults; 60 pesos for students and children. Lying about your age is optional, but you just came from the Manila Cathedral. Later on you will be visiting yet another church. Well, two, in fact. Do you really want to risk going to hell over 40 pesos?

The Bahay Tsinoy is in Anda Street. You go west to reach the ruins of the San Ignacio Church. It is directly in front of the building where the Ateneo de Manila once was, both facing the Baluarte Plano Luneta de Santa Isabel. There are life-size sculptures of saints hanging around in front of the ruins. Cameras ready, camwhores. Religious-themed photo op!

Walk down Santa Lucia Street and turn left at the first corner to Real Street. You will find the San Agustin Church and Museum at the corner of Real and General Antonio Luna. Time loop alert! A portion of the street stretching from and to the corners of Real and Santa Potenciana, respectively, is actually paved with what seems to be cobblestones. On the same stretch of road is the Casa Manila which houses a museum, a souvenir shop, and two restaurants: Barbara’s and Bistro Marinero. Add the Baroque architecture of San Agustin Church to the picture and you would think twice if you are still in 2010.

Of course you are still in 2010. What with the street kids playing Badminton and that red Honda CRV that just passed by. Still, you can imagine that they're not there! You're in 19th century Manila! Just don't get carried away. The last thing you want to do is look for Basilio and Crispin, and then get hit by a tetanus-infected tricycle. Now that would be just tragic.

Entrance to Casa Manila according to Wikitravel is 75 pesos but from what I remember, the poster there said 100 pesos, which is why I did not go in, HAHAHA! It is said that what you see inside is what wealthy life felt like during the colonial era represented through furniture and works of art. The San Agustin Museum is just around the corner and the entrance fee is also a hundred pesos. Many claim that the collection of artifacts inside is quite impressive. The church itself is on the UNESCO World Heritage List of Baroque Churches in the country.

Turn right when you reach Victoria Street. At the corner of Santa Lucia and Victoria is the Light and Sound Museum. Again, 100-peso entrance fee. The building used to be the Beaterio de la Compañía de Jesús. Going straight to the dead-end in Victoria Street leads you to a part of the wall which you can climb. You will see yet another open space with benches, on one of which two statues of ilustrados are seen, as if engaged in a very interesting conversation. One could only imagine the many social gatherings that had been held there. Towards the end of Santa Lucia Street one sees the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila to the left and the Baluarte de San Diego to the right. Entrance to the baluarte is 75 pesos.

To some, Baluarte de San Diego is just a garden but it actually contains the ruins of the round fort of Nuestra Señora de Guia, quite a peculiar piece of architecture. There is a round wall at the center surrounded by more walls that seem to form a maze. Honestly, it looks like a UFO landing pad, or perhaps that was where the Spaniards kept their dragons. There is no warning as to whether you can or cannot go on the said wall, although the barricades surrounding it state the obvious. Besides, the thought of falling down one of those dungeons, dying, and not being found until they smell the stench of your decaying flesh is just morbid. So just go and have a look-see of the outer wall where you have a clear view of the Manila Hotel, in fact a bird’s eye view of that side of Metro Manila. Again, be careful of flying golf balls.

This is where your Intramuros trip ends. You can still roam around the city if you want to. No one will bring you to Luneta and shoot you for doing so. Taking this route leads you back to the westernmost side of Muralla. As you may have noticed, most of the tourist attractions are located near the walls. The center of the district is mainly residential. For a tour of Intramuros, half a day should actually suffice. Going to Ermita is as simple as crossing Padre Burgos Street.

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