After a whole day of exploring Intramuros, E and I were hungry and raring for food. We walked across the street from San Agustin Church and into Plaza San Luis, a white-washed building with Spanish colonial architecture. It was pleasantly cool as we stepped into the compound, which was lined with trees and wrought-iron lamps.
The historical/commercial complex is home to five houses – namely the Casa Manila, Casa Urdaneta, Casa Blanca, Los Hidalgos and El Hogar Filipino – each representing different eras in Filipino-Hispanic architecture. There is also a museum, theatre, hotel, souvenir shops and eateries.
Despite our tummies roaring in protest, we took some time to admire the beautiful compound within the complex. It was straight out of a periodical Spanish telenovela – the one where the heroine stands on the balcony listening to the hero serenading her at the bottom with musical instrument in hand (coincidentally, that’s a guy up there lol).
The Casa Manila is a replica of an 1850s San Nicolas House, and was commissioned by infamous first lady Imelda Marcos in the 1980s. Modeled after Spanish colonial architecture, the three-storey building houses a museum which depicts the lifestyle of wealthy Spanish-Filipino families in 19th century Manila. We didn’t go in because the ticket was quite pricey and we weren’t allowed to take photos. D:
By then the stomach rumbling could not be ignored, so we stopped by at a place called Barbara’s. They had a buffet lunch but we aren’t big eaters and it’d go to waste, so we opted for their ala-carte menu instead. Seating was open air at a nice patio area.
E ordered Pancit Canton without the veggies, which made the waiter roll his eyes. The portion was small but tastewise it was really good: noodles had a fragrant, soy-sauce flavour and there were bits of roast pork in it.
My carbonara was quite disappointing; it was very different from carbonaras back home in Malaysia. (I learnt this is because they use condensed milk in place of cream) The sauce was liquidy in texture, and the pasta serving was small with a sad side of limp garlic bread.
Either way, there aren’t many restaurants within Intramuros – but there are fast food chains a short walk away.
After filling our tummies, we resumed our exploration. Came across a park with a memorial statue dedicated to the 100,000 lives lost in the battle of Manila.
I often doubt the nature of God, even when I ask for his guidance. Because I do believe in a higher power – but it’s hard to question when you hear news of wars and suffering everyday in war torn countries. The innocent children who die. The lives that are lost in the name of religion, ideas, petty things. Mostly, it comes back to the evil nature of man and why if there is a God, would he allow such cruelty and horror to happen.
I’m still at that stage where I’m soul searching for my own faith. I hope I’ll find it someday.
Palace of the Governor, a grey and orange building resembling a hotel in front of Plaza Roma. Although sitting on the original site of the same name (destroyed in earthquake) , the current building was only constructed in 1976 and is used to house government offices.
Our last (but not least) stop in Intramuros was the Manila Cathedral.Dedicated to Mary and originally built from nipah, wood and bamboo in the late 1500s, it was destroyed in fire and a stone one was erected instead. This was also destroyed in an earthquake in 1600 – but no worries, they rebuilt it. In this way, the cathedral was rebuilt 8 times; after destruction from fires, earthquakes and wars. The latest version was completed in 1958.
The entrance was flanked by statues of saints sculpted in Roman travertine stone, along with Latin inscriptions.
Unlike St Agustins, which was flamboyant and bright, Manila Cathedral seemed more subdued, with white-grey marble columns supporting a simple domed ceiling.
There were smaller chambers all along the main hall, housing states of saints and other religious figures. Here we have a simple but beautiful statue of Mother Mary in front of a carved stone portrait.
In one of this chambers is a replica of Michelangelo’s La Pieta, in which Mary is seen cradling the body of Christ.
More beautiful works of art within the Cathedral.
Long story short, the trip to Intramuros was an educational one – I learned a lot about Manila and its history, albeit a sad one. As far as experiences go, I admire Filipinos because even though life is hard, they always have a smile on their faces, drawing strength from religion and family.
So take a break from those glitzy shopping malls to explore Old Manila – one that time has not forgotten and which has helped shape this country’s history to what it is today.