Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Manila Trip '07 - Day 3 (Part 2)

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

After spending quite some time at the Rizal execution site, we decided to break for our picnic lunch just a little ways down where we were. Lunch was a leisurely affair of bread, home brought packaged curries/rendang, fresh Filipino mangoes and bottled tea to wash it all down. Other than just to take a breather after the morning’s walk in the park, lunch was also to make sure that we finish up all the food that we brought with us from Malaysia on this trip. At least for me, the thought of bringing back the packages of food that I brought with me was not something I look forward to. So we had a fairly relaxed lunch in the shade watching the flow of Manila’s infamous traffic pass us by and enjoyed being in the company of friends.

(Scenes at Rizal Park)

At about 3pm after lunch, we left the Rizal’s execution site and made our way to the entrance of the Intramuros which was Manila’s preserved old quarter but not before I dragged the rest of the groups to the other statues at the park. The one that really caught my eye was the brilliant white marble (I think) statue that was called “Le Madre Manila”. It’s stark whiteness contrasted greatly to the muted colors around it. Close by to that statue was the Philippine Centennial Time Capsule statue that looked in dire need of a cleaning up. It was sad to see the condition of that monument especially considering what might be in it as well as the dramatic depiction used for the statues. Lastly, at the end of the park, was the iconic Rizal Monument. Unlike most of the park area, this particular spot was clearly well cared for. Visitors are not allowed to walk up closer to the monument since it was cordoned off but it was close enough to get good photos of the monument.

(Le Madre Manila on the left and the Philippine Centennial Time Capsule on the right)

(Rizal Memorial with closeup of the base of the obelisk)

From the Rizal Monument, we walked around the corner to the entrance of the Intramuros area. We passed the small golf course that now occupied what was once the old moat surrounding the area. I tried to imagine how the moat must have looked like back in the day but it was a bit difficult considering that it was all filled up and the golf course was on the same level of the street that we walked on. As we pass underneath what must have been the gate house of the Intramuros area, we could clearly see that this part of Manila was unlike the other areas outside of it’s gates. The buildings in this area had a distinctive Old World feel to it which was expected as this was the area where the Spanish elite lived back in the days when the Philippines was a colony of Spain. Looking at the architecture, it was easy to imagine the same time of buildings lining the Spanish coast of the Mediterranean especially when it could have easily been as sunny as it was on that day.

(Gate house entrance to Intramuros)

(Suddenly felt as if I was in Spain by the coast of the Mediterranean)

The Intramuros was a living part of the city which means that people were still living in these old buildings. The downside of this was a of course the tangle web of obtrusive electrical wiring that somewhat shattered the illusion of stepping back in time in the area. They could have planned it better and concealed the more modern amenities so it did not distract from the inherent beauty of the buildings. Being a tourist spot also meant that they allow the horse-drawn carriage operators to pickup passengers in this area. While the clip – clop of horse hooves on cobblestone roads made for a romantic ambiance, the physical evidence left behind, as in horse urine and droppings, by the horses was less than romantic.

(Cobblestone path in Intramuros)
Despite the less then romantic smell and sights, I enjoyed myself immensely wondering the streets of the Intramuros area. The buildings are unlike what I have ever seen else where and some opened to really beautiful private places that I wished that I could have ventured into. There was one in particular that looked like a long entrance that ended at a secluded courtyard. The doors of the entrance was so high. I could just imagine the owner riding on his horse into the entrance to reach the front steps of his house. This area practically bled history for those sensitive enough to pick up on the almost imperceptible vibe. It was like being in a museum but much better since it was outdoors. To the detrimental of the others of the group, I found myself fully engrossed in my surrounding and snapping as many pictures that I thought would help me capture the feeling of being there in case I would never get the chance to be there again.
We did finally rest for a while to look at a wedding ceremony in progress at the San Agustin and later at the much bigger Manila Cathedrals. My trusty guidebook did say that these 2 cathedrals were very popular with the Manila elite to get married in and based on the crowd that was there that day, it was easy to see why they say that. We did not want to crash the wedding so we stood by outside the cathedrals to watch as the people waited for the bride to arrive at the cathedral. Most of the ladies there were clad in very colorful traditional dresses while the men were wearing cream-colored barong Tagalog. I wished I could have stayed a little longer to see the bride arrive that day but we had quite a ways to go so we went on our walkabout.
(On the left San Agustin Cathedral and on the right approaching Manila Cathedral)
(Front of Manila Cathedral)
Tucked in a slightly secluded spot just before the Manila Cathedral was a solitary memorial to the people who were killed during the battle to liberate Manila from the Japanese occupation at the end of World War 2. The dramatic memorial set amongst the buildings the predate the immortalized event made it even more memorable for me. I stopped at this memorial for a while to reflect on how much history the buildings around me have lived through. What stories they could tell me if only the walls had mouths to whisper their tale. Having so few opportunity back home in KL to be surrounded by such historical buildings in one area and be so moved by them as I did in my walkabout through Intramuros that day made this excursion one of the best highlights of this trip for me.

(Manila World War 2 Liberation Dead Monument)

Next installment : Fort Santiago.

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