THE GRANDEUR OF INTRAMUROS
At the turn of the 20th century, the great American architect and
city planner Daniel Burnham noted that "the old walled city
of Intramuros at the mouth of the Pasig River is one of the best
preserved medieval cities anywhere in the world." But the Pacific
War of the 1940s took its toll.
Faithful reconstruction goes on today in Intramuros. A few of the
gates and ramparts have been turned into parks and performing venues,
including Puerta Real and Baluarte de San Diego. Chambers found
along its gates are now occupied by art galleries, souvenir shops,
restaurants, even a cyber café. Fort Santiago, the site of
torture chambers and dungeons where political prisoners from Spanish
to Japanese times were kept and executed, is now a lush park with
flowering trees and homing pigeons. Here, one may enjoy a leisurely
ride aboard a horse-drawn carriage.
At the center of Intramuros is the grand Manila Cathedral with
its detailed stone carvings, stained glass mosaics and rose windows.
San Agustin Church, completed in 1606, has withstood all the fires
and earthquakes that have hit Manila through the centuries. One
of the four Philippine Baroque Churches inscribed in the World Heritage
List, its monastery has been turned into a museum housing priceless
religious artifacts. Adjoining it are the restored gardens of Fr.
Jose Blanco who studied Philippine botanical life during the Spanish
Barrio San Luis along Juan Luna Street is made up of five faithfully
reconstructed colonial houses - Casa Manila, Casa Urdaneta, Casa
Blanca, Los Hidalgos and El Hogar Filipino.
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BEYOND THE WALLS
Manila has since expanded beyond Intramuros to become the nucleus
of the countrys largest metropolis, Greater Manila, made up
of 11 other cities and five towns. But before it spread out of its
confines, history saw Manila figuring prominently in the Galleon
Trade, the first trans-Pacific commerce between Asia, America and
Europe for some 250 years.
The city was also scarred by many foreign invasions, ravaged by
Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese and British marauders. Shortly after
the country declared itself Asias first democracy in 1898,
the Americans invaded its shores and ruled for 50 years. And after
the Pacific War of the 1940s, when the Japanese Imperial Army
reigned for four years, Manila was the second most destroyed city
in the world. The rubbles of the past have seasoned and strengthened
Manilas character today.
Just off Intramuros walls is the world-class Club Intramuros
which offers day and night golfing. Adjacent to it is the 58-hectare
Rizal Park, which runs from Taft Avenue up to the seawalls of the
fabled Manila Bay. In 1902, Burnham designed a U-shaped government
complex within Luneta. Only three buildings were however constructed:
the Executive House occupied by the National Museum, the Department
of Finance Building which now houses the Museum of the Filipino
People, and the Department of Tourism Building envisioned to become
the future Museum for Natural Sciences.
Across the Pasig River from Fort Santiago is Binondo, or Chinatown.
Not much has changed in terms of lifestyle in this quaint district
although, now, high-rise buildings have started to appear in its
skyline. A stones throw away from Rizal Park is the Ermita
district which, together with the Malate district, forms what is
known as Manilas Tourist Belt. Ermita is antique and art galleries,
curio and souvenir shops while Malate is cozy cafes, music lounges
and performance theaters.
At the heart of Manila is Quiapo. What has caught the fancy of
many bargain-hunters is Ilalim ng Tulay - literally, "Under
the Bridge" - where stalls sell an array of handicrafts at
prices that are practically a steal. Near Quiapo is the genteel
San Miguel district, with its ancestral homes and Malacanang Palace,
seat of the Philippine government. A museum of presidential memorabilia
is open to the public.
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A SAMPLING OF THE COUNTRY'S
Manila mirrors the best of this countrys 7,000 times more
islands. A few minutes away from the Ninoy Aquino International
Airport and the Fiesta Duty Free Shop in Paranaque City is Nayong
Pilipino, or Philippine Village, which features the countrys
famous landmarks in miniature.
Weekends are good days to visit, when the park assumes a barrio
fiesta (village festival) atmosphere, complete with traditional
games, indigenous music, songs and dances, and craft demonstrations.
THE SUNSET STRIP
Roxas Boulevard, which extends from Paranaque City to Manila, is
the Bay Area from where one can have a view of the famed Manila
sunset. Many landmarks are found in this area, including the Department
of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Senate buildings. Within the
stretch is the International Trade Center complex, the Philippine
Trade Training Center and the World Trade Center. Further back is
the Government Service Insurance System building which houses an
art gallery by the bay.
The boulevard is also home to the countrys premier performing
venue, the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Within its complex
are the Philippine International Convention Center, the Product
Design and Development Center, the Folk Arts Theater, the Coconut
Palace and the Westin Philippine Plaza Hotel. Adjoining the complex
is the Manila Yacht Club and the Philippine Navy Headquarters. A
little farther is the US Embassy.
Across the Yacht Club is the Bangko Sentral (Central Bank) complex
which houses the Money Museum. The bank has Asias biggest
and finest gold collection at the Metropolitan Museum, a home for
the modern masters. Roxas Boulevard is lined with posh hotels, casinos
and lively nightspots.
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Greater Manila is where the countrys most prestigious business
addresses and the trendiest leisure establishments are found. By
day, it hums with the bustle of commerce and, by night, throbs with
the excitement of varied, high class entertainment. Makati City
is the countrys financial center and the most prestigious
business address. Many foreign embassies and multinationals call
it home. Fashionable hotels, restaurants, discos, music bars, boutiques
and specialty shops converge around the sleek Ayala Center.
In Makati is Forbes Park, home to the rich and famous. The most
elite country club, Manila Polo Club, and golf course, Manila Golf
Club, are nestled within the village. Giving Makati a run for its
money is Mandaluyong City, with Ortigas Center an impressive alternative
to Ayala Center. Home to the Asian Development Bank and the Philippine
Stock Exchange, it is also the site of three of Metro Manilas
gigantic shopping malls - SM Megamall, Robinsons Galleria
and Shangri-la EDSA Plaza.
San Juan is built on a hilly terrain, a drive along the old residential
section can be a pleasurable diversion. Its Greenhills Commercial
Center houses some of Metro Manilas vibrant music halls. Quezon
City was envisioned by the late President Manuel L. Quezon (after
whom the city was named) to be the countrys government center.
Many of the national government offices are located here as well
as the countrys leading educational institution, the University
of the Philippines.
Dominating Cubao, Quezon Citys commercial center, is Araneta
Coliseum, the countrys biggest enclosed entertainment arena.
For nightlife, the Quezon Boulevard, Timog Avenue, Tomas Morato
Avenue and West Avenue strips offer varied, colorful fares. Marikina
City is the Shoe Center of the Philippines. The city takes pride
in its 75.6-hectare River Park.
Paranaque City is generally associated with its dry goods and seafood
market and restaurants, and Redemptorist Church, a pilgrimage site
which houses the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Las Pinas
City has retained much of its provincial appeal. Visitors flock
to this city to see the worlds only bamboo organ, housed at
the picturesque St. Josephs Parish Church.
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Metro Manila is one big gastronomic trip of many cuisines. In Intramuros
is Illustrado Restaurant with its colonial ambiance and Spanish
provincial cuisine. The old Malate district, with Remedios Circle
at its core, is the favorite watering hole of artists, designers
and the café society who are only too willing to try the
varied international flavors offered by the many restaurants in
Authentic Chinese cuisine can be had at the old financial district
of Binondo. Aside from Ayala Center, many fine and theme dining
establishments line Jupiter Street and Pasay Road in Makati City.
From theme restaurants to beer-and-grill gardens, Tomas Morato Avenue,
Timog Street, Quezon Avenue and West Avenue in Quezon City have
them all. Interesting clusters of restaurants and bars are found
in San Juans Greenhills and Mandaluyong Citys Ortigas
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
Manila is the main gateway to the Philippines and is readily accessible
from the travel capitals of the world.
Traveling time to Manila from Hong Kong is an hour and 50 minutes;
from Singapore, 3 hours and 10 minutes; from Bangkok, 3 hours and
50 minutes; Tokyo, 4 hours and 15 minutes; Sydney, 10 hours and
20 minutes; London, 20 hours and 45 minutes; Paris, 21 hours and
15 minutes; Frankfurt, 19 hours and 40 minutes; San Francisco, 16
hours and 15 minutes; Los Angeles, 15 hours and 20 minutes; and
New York, 25 hours and 20 minutes.
source: Department of Tourism
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