Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Manila Trip '07 - Day 3 (Part 1)

Dateline : 4th Feb 2007.
To read the previous entry, click here.

After the less than thrilling night, I woke up fairly early on the 3rd day. I was actually looking forward for this particular day since we will get to go to places that I was really looking forward to see. The plan for the day that we had set up yesterday was to have a brunch picnic at Rizal Park then a walkabout through the Intramuros which was the old part of Manila. Since I had woken up so much early before the rest of the group, I had time that morning to do some chores before we went for brunch.

First thing was to repack my bag with everything that I bought from Ilalim ng Tulay Market to see if I need to buy another bag for my other stuff. I normally like to travel light so I have extra space in my luggage for anything that I buy on these trips. On the very rare occasion, I have found myself having to buy another bag to fit everything that I bought on the trip. Those trips would be the ones that I would bemoan later for breaking the bank. Thankfully this Manila trip was not one of those. I was able to fit everything in the bag that I brought with me with some space to spare for more things to buy.

First thing on the agenda for me that morning was finding somewhere to have a proper breakfast. I have not had a proper cup of coffee since the day I landed in Manila due to the fact that they didn’t have coffee making facilities in the hotel room. After taking another lukewarm shower, I’ve stopped hoping that the hotel would fix the water heater, I went out to see if there was anything good to get for breakfast around the hotel. There were few places that looked like they may have some breakfast potential along the street but I was in the mood for something more familiar. Which was exactly what I found when I turned the corner to the Robinson’s Place Mall.

(Caramel Macchiato & Ensaymada at Starbucks)

It may be superficial to some but it was quite a relief when I stumbled into the Starbucks at Robinson’s Place Mall that morning. I have been craving somewhat fierce for a good cup of coffee and there I was at my favorite place for a coffee drinks. It was somewhat comforting to find something that I was familiar with and more comfortable to order knowing what I can expect to get. Getting my customary Grande Caramel Macchiato, I also decided to get an ensaymada in honor of me being in Manila. Ensaymada (recipe at CookbookWiki) was a local type of soft bread/muffin that had a buttery filling and a cheese crust baked on top. I was told about this local delicacy by another from our group and finding it in that Starbucks was an added reason for me to have breakfast there. The drink and the ensaymada only put me back 185 pesos which was more than half of the cost of the same in Malaysia.

(Interior of Robinson's Place Mall)

Since I still had time to kill after breakfast, I decided to walk around the Robinson’s Place Mall to see if there was any bargains to be bought. The mall looked pretty much like the malls in KL with the exception that it was not as busy as the malls back home for a Sunday morning. It was later that I realized that the reason that the mall was not as crowded was that most people there was still in church for Sunday services when I was at the mall. While there were some bargains for the locally made items, imported items on sale were priced comparable to the same items in Malaysia. I was hoping that they might be cheaper but it was not the case in Manila. The Levi jeans that I have been eyeing hungrily in KL was the almost the same price in the Levi shop at Manila.

I was about to give up on buying anything at the mall when I stumbled into a local comic shop. The Comic Odyssey in Robinson's Place was quite spacious and well stocked with both new releases and back issue comics. They also had quite a large selection of figurines and action figures for sale as well. What really made my day was the prices of the back issue comics which was much cheaper from the ones in Malaysia. I don’t know if they bought their collection from private collectors or if they were just simply surplus shipments but I could not believe my eyes when I saw the prices for the comics that I have been searching for years to complete my collection. It took all the willpower I had not to blow my whole travel budget in that one shop! In the end I decided only to get a copy of “Powers vol. 1 #6” and a first print copy of “Rising Stars #1” which has been on my to buy list for the longest time as well as the only one that I still needed to complete my “Rising Stars” series collection. Both were priced as 500 pesos each which as way cheaper than the asking price for the same issues in KL. This shop would definitely be on my visit list if I ever go back to Manila.

(Interior of Comic Odyssey at Robinson's Place Mall)

After spending almost 2 hours in the comic shop and leaving it as giddy as a school girl for having found it, I rushed back to the hotel since we were suppose to go to Rizal park at 11am. Stopped at the Korean grocery store next to the hotel because I totally forgot to get the paper plates that I was suppose to get for the brunch that day. Once I reached the hotel lobby, I saw that the other guys hadn’t come down from their rooms yet so that gave me time to hustle up to my room and stow away the items I recently purchased before coming down again to find the rest of the group already waiting for me. After checking that we had everything we need for brunch, we left the hotel and proceeded to the Mabini St corner to get a jeepney to go to Rizal Park. By this time, we were almost seasoned jeepney veterans and finding the right jeepney to the park was quite easy.

Getting off near the intersection of a busy road quite close to the park was a challenge since we were right in the middle of the road and had to deal with jeepneys whizzing by us to get to the other side. Thankfully we were able to get past them safely and go to one of the side entrances of Rizal Park. The park itself was a large rectangular grassy clearing with leafy trees on each side. It was lucky for us that it was slightly overcast the day that we went there since there was actually little shade to go there if the sun got too much. Much like the rest of Manila, the park could have used a bit of sprucing up since everything there, including the grass, looked a bit worn down. We saw more bronze bust of notable Filipino historical figures by the pathway that ran along the field but without English descriptions, I could not tell what their contributions were.

(Rizal's “Mi Ășltimo adios" poem on marble)

Off to the side of the pathway, we found the area where Dr. Jose Rizal was executed by the Spanish troops back in Dec 30th, 1896. They had put up a beautiful stone carved diorama on one of the walls outside the entrance to the area that told of the story of Dr. Jose Rizal. On the other side of the entrance was an impressive gleaming block of reflective marble that had Rizal’s last poem “Mi Ășltimo adios (My Last Farewell)” etched on it. It was quite moving to be standing there reading this poem and thinking about how it would impact other people who stood where I stood reading it. I initially thought that the place that I stood was the location of the execution but it was a bit later when one of the caretakers of the area called down to me from the top of the wall to tell me that the actual execution spot was inside. Paying the 10 pesos entry fee, we found ourselves in an area set up for what seemed to be a light and sound show if we had came here at night. They had auditorium style stone seats that all faced into the area where at least 7 feet bronze statues stood arranged in scenes from Dr. Jose Rizal’s life and death.

(Wall to Rizal's execution spot site)

Since I think it was setup to be a night show with live commentary, there was almost no descriptions that explained the scenes that were there in front of us. By that time, I really wished that I had studied up on Dr. Jose Rizal’s life and times so I can make sense of what I was seeing around me. The only plaque that they had there was the one marking the exact spot where Rizal fell after being executed by firing squad which was replicated with the bronze statues in the main clearing. Walking around the statues and taking pictures of them was a bit surreal as they were so big and the area felt as it I was on holy ground. I had to take a breather to let it all sink in that I was actually standing on the same place where such an important figure in Philippine history breathed his last breath. It was quite the overwhelming experience for me.

(The firing squad)

(Death of a hero)

Next installment : Lunch at the Park & Intramuros

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