If you are in Manila, Philippines and looking for a cool day trip, then Intramuros – the historic walled city of Manila – is a cool family and friends destination that you can try.
I have been to Intramuros, years ago. I remember it was a time when I was a member of what we called ‘ Tribung Bagong Silang’, a local group of young people who participated during festival competitions. (Yep, you read it right. I have danced for the Pintados- Kasadyaan festival in Tacloban City. It’s synonymous to the famed Sinulog Festival in Cebu and Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo).
We were invited as guests during one of the Department of Tourism’s Wow Philippines which aimed to entice tourists to visit the Philippines. We have danced through the streets (or maybe just a portion of it. LOL) and performed a 3-minute dance showdown at one of the open fields in the Walled City.
Fast forward a decade or more later, I returned to Intramuros with some of my good friends in college for a day trip, or rather, for a quick walking tour.
The walking tour only lasted for a few hours. We had our own personal guide (one of our good friends) who took us to the spots that we needed to see.
We did not have the luxury of time to check out all the spots, however. The walking tour was just one of side trips to our Ilocos Tour.
Our plane arrived in Manila at around 9 AM. After a quick breakfast and meet-up with some of our friends who are based in and around the city, we headed out to Intramuros for our walking tour.
Despite the limited time, we were able to visit some points of interest in Intramuros. As all of our trips together, the afternoon spent with them is fun and can make me feel young! I guess that’s the effect old friends have on you. They make you feel years younger! 😉
We still had hours of free time before we checked in to our accommodation for the night. It was spent doing the Walking Tour and our Binondo Food Crawl later in the afternoon.
Before I proceed, let me clarify that Intramuros occupies around 0.67 square kilometers of land. There are several museums and historic buildings inside it including some of Manila’s universities. It will take you an entire day to visit them all should you wish to. Of course, it will depend on your pace too.
Here’s a quick rundown of the places we saw (in order) and the delicious late lunch we had!
Our ride dropped us off at the entrance of Fort Santiago where we paid an entrance fee of 75 Php (1.45 USD). This particular area has several places that you can visit which I will enumerate below. After payment, you will be greeted with an open field including some souvenir shops and snacks center.
We were pretty full at this time so we decided to skip it and proceeded to our first stop:
Table of Contents
Fort Santiago is a defense fortress originally built in 1571. Like most defense structures the entrance of Fort Santiago is imposing. It reminds me vaguely of Fort San Pedro in Cebu (one of the places we visited during our Cebu DIY Tour).
The fort has undergone major changes over the years before finally turned over to the Intramuros Administration in the year 1992.
Passing through the entrance of Fort Santiago, you will notice this public square at the centre of the military barracks and storehouses.
Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas is a open green area where a lone statue of the Philippines’ National Hero: Jose Rizal is erected at the centre.
It was a bit gloomy when we visited Intramuros, so despite the open spaces, the air had a cool feeling to it and was not hot.
After a quick appreciation of the area, we moved forward and came upon the Memorial Cross.
The Memorial Cross is a structure erected in memory of the 600 Filipinos and Americans who died in a dungeon. All of the bodies had signs of starvation and suffocation. They were found during the last days of February 1945.
The dungeon where the bodies were found had inner doors of massive iron bars and outer doors of iron plate on wood.
Ironically, just nearby the cross is an underground structure called the dungeons.
There was no mention whatsoever if this was the same dungeon where the 600 Filipinos and Americans were found. As per the signage on the entrance, these Dungeons used to be the storage vaults and powder magazine of the Baluarte de Santa Barbara. Because of certain conditions wherein the structure was no longer fit to store the items, it was then converted into prison cells and storerooms.
We did not went down to the entrance as it was a bit eerie.
Near the Dungeon is the Baluarte De Santa Barbara and the Media Naranja. Before proceeding to explore the aforementioned places, we noticed a man wearing the old Guardia Civil uniform. He is in fact a member of the Security Guards of Intramuros. And of course, we could not resist taking a picture with him!
Looking dashing there! 😉
The Media Naranja (or half orange) is a semi-circular platform that forms part of the fort’s river defences. From this area, you can see the Pasig River and some of Manila’s skyline.
Taking the stairs, we were given a much better view of the city’s skyline and of the fort’s defences.
Baluarte De Santa Barbara
Baluarte De Santa Barbara was built in 1592 to protect the entrance to the Pasig River. From where we stood at the top, we can see the dungeons from below. It is said that the area served as vaults at one time, then as a quarter of the artillerymen; the house of the commandant before it was finally turned as a dungeon for prisoners.
Walking at the ramparts of the fort, we found ourselves back at the Plaza de Armas.
We chose not to enter the Rizal Shrine Museum as our schedule was a bit packed. We proceeded however to the Rajah Sulayman Theater.
Along the way, we noticed some footprints on the concrete floor: Rizal’s Last Walk To Martyrdom which traces his walk from his cell to his execution site in Bagumbayan.
Rajah Sulayman Theater
Rajah Sulayman Theater, otherwise called as Dulaang Raha Sulayman, is an eighteenth-century building converted into the venue of seasonal performances by the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA). Formerly, the area was a Spanish military barracks.
After Fort Santiago we headed to the next destination of our Intramuros Walking Tour: The Manila Cathedral.
The Cathedral is blocks away from Fort Santiago. We came across several Kalesa, a horse-drawn calash used as a means of transportation in the old times. These Kalesa’s are accredited by the Intramuros Administration to take tourists on a tour around the Walled City for a price.
At the time of writing, a tour will cost you around 600 Php (11.71 USD). Another transportation option in the Walled City (that is aside from the private cars) is what we locally call as ‘Pedicab/ Padyak’. It’s a pedal-operated tricycle and way smaller than the regular tricycle. Cost is around 300 Php (5.86 USD). Please note however, that prices may vary. Might as well check before hiring one! 😉
Fronting the Cathedral is another public park called Plaza Roma. This park is considered to be the centre of Intramuros and is in close proximity to three (3) important landmarks: Manila Cathedral to the south, the Palacio del Gobernador to the west, and the Casas Consistoriales, also known as the Ayuntamiento de Manila, to the east.
Manila Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Basilica dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, the Principal Patroness of the Philippines.
The church is also the home to one of the replica of Michelangelo’s ’La Pieta’. This replica is said to be created using the mold that was produced from the original and is made of the same material from the same quarry as the original.
After saying a little prayer inside the church, we proceeded to our next destination of the Intramuros Walking Tour: the Casa Manila Museum. Along the way, we came upon another memorial.
Plazuela de Sta. Isabel
The Plazuela de Sta. Isabel is a small park where a memorial was built in dedication to the non-combatant victims of the Battle For Manila in 1945.
After a fairly short appreciation to the site, we headed to the Casa Manila Museum. To our delight, the street fronting it is somehow similar to the famous Calle Crisologo in Vigan with its vintage look.
We also came upon this cute Bambikes. We did not get a chance to inquire, but from what I hear, the bikes are handmade by Gawad Kalinga villagers and are the mode of transportation if you wish to join the Bambike Ecotours around Intramuros. Definitely a unique alternative for an Intramuros Walking Tour.
Just beside the Bambikes, is the museum that we were looking for: the Casa Manila Museum.
Casa Manila Museum
The museum showcases the social history of Manila during the Spanish Colonial Era. We did not get a chance to explore the museum however (again the limited time.. 🙁 ) But we were able to appreciate it’s gorgeous structure.
San Agustin Church and the San Agustin Museum
Just across Casa Manila Museum is one of the Philippines’ World Heritage Site by UNESCO and is a National Historical Landmark in the country: the San Agustin Church.
Sadly, we were not able to enter as there was a ceremony inside (it looked like a wedding), thus we contented ourselves admiring its structure from the outside.
Just beside the San Agustin Church is the San Agustin Museum. As of writing, the entrance fee was around 200 Php (3.90 USD).
We were pretty hungry at this point (note that the time was about 2 PM in the afternoon and we haven’t had lunch yet. LOL). So we again skipped the museum and headed to the nearest restaurant in the area.
Fortunately, Ristorante delle Mitre was just across the church and we were immediately ushered in.
What’s truly unique about the restaurant is not the design or the statues on display (they did have an impressive display of Saints and Catholic artifacts) – but the menu in itself.
Printed on paper that somehow reminds me of old books/ pamphlets that I’ve seen before though I really can’t remember the name, the menu are uniquely named after Bishops. After all, the restaurant is the where Bishops dine.
We each had selected a few delicious food from the menu and settled in. Here’s a few photos of our delicious lunch!
Once we were full and watered, we then proceeded to our 2nd to the last stop for our Intramuros Walking Tour. The catch though was that we weren’t walking at that
time. LOL. We had the car picked us up and took us to San Diego Gardens. Before heading there, we did a brief stop to the Philippine President’s Gallery.
Philippine President’s Gallery
The Philippine President’s Gallery is small park where sculptures of the faces of former Presidents of the Republic are on display. To be honest, there’s not much to see here. Just something that might interest people who love history (although we did not find any inscriptions).
After the gallery, we were taken to Baluarte De San Diego Gardens. This particular area holds two (2) places that we were visiting: the garden and the fort.
Baluarte De San Diego Gardens
Baluarte de San Diego Gardens serves as the entrance to the fort. You’ll have to pay an admission fee to get inside. Ours was 75 Php (1.46 USD) each. We saw old canons displayed within the area plus a vintage-looking fountain greeting you from the entrance.
The garden is quite popular for couples as it can be reserved as a wedding venue as well.
From the fountain, the entrance to the fort can be seen with its circular stairs.
The Baluarte De San Diego is one of the oldest stone fortifications in Intramuros. The circular structure can be seen once you climbed the stairs and I must admit it was pretty unique. Like Fort Santiago, Baluarte De San Diego has also seen several re-constructions and restorations.
After roaming around the gardens, we finally left Intramuros feeling happy and accomplished!
Despite the limited time, I must say we covered some interesting places and fascinating history. It’s always great to look back and know some significant part of Philippine history.
Here’s a really quick video of the sights we saw. If you liked it, don’t forget to hit that ‘Subscribed’ Button on our YouTube Channel!
Have you been to Intramuros? What did you liked most? Tell us in the comments below!
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