When in the Philippines: How to Maximize a Day in Manila

"Boring. Skip it. Not worth it" are just some of the words I hear from travelers sharing a piece of advice to co-travelers about Manila.

From a local's standpoint though, there's s actually more than what Manila has on paper.
For one, Intramuros exemplifies the long-standing history of the past. It's perhaps one of the few remaining historical places in the ever-growing city. Literally means “within the walls” in Spanish, Intramuros refers to 16th century walled city in Manila constructed during Spanish occupation in the Philippines. It was primarily built to protect the city from foreign invasion.

To maximize the day in Manila, or in Intramuros in particular, here's a suggested route to highlight important areas and points of this walled city:

Fort Santiago

Begin the Intramuros tour by entering Fort Santiago, which, back in the day,  was the military headquarters of Spanish colonial government. Many Filipinos were held in prison in the fortresses, including the national hero Jose Rizal.
The Fort Santiago main gate is a point of interest. After passing by the moat, look closely at the carvings of the gate, which is actually similar to the official flag of Spanish autonomous community Castilla y León. 

After the main gate, Plaza de Armas welcomes next that served as a public square in Intramuros. 
Meanwhile, going west leads to Rizal Shrine, where Rizal spent his last night before he got executed. In this place, he wrote his last literary piece titled Mi Ultimo Adios (My Last Farewell).

Now, it's a small museum containing numerous items used by Rizal including 2 of the most important novels written by Rizal, the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.

After the Rizal Shrine, head to Pintong Postigo (Postigo Gate) where Rizal walked through coming off his prison  to Bagumbayan where he was shot. 

Manila Cathedral
The Manila Cathedral is one of the important churches in Manila that serves as the see of the Archbishop of Manila. This is also where all departed Manila archbishops are buried.

Interestingly, it was reconstructed 7 times due to series of typhoons and earthquake. In fact, the recent renovation took 2-3 years to get done and has proven to become resilient in the test of time.

Across Manila Cathedral is Plaza de Roma, a public square and formerly known as the Plaza Mayor of Manila. The statue of King Charles IV can be found here. Near the plaza is the Palacio del Gobernador that used to be the residence of governor-general. It's now used as the office of the Commission of Elections (COMELEC).

San Agustin Church
The grand and sophisticated San Agustin Church is considered as one of the oldest churches in Asia with a tropical baroque architecture. It was named a  World Heritage Site by UNESCO along with other 5 churches in the Philippines.

A notable area of the church is the Tomb of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi located at the left wing of the altar. De Legazpi was a Spanish navigator who led 5 ships heading the Spice Islands in the Pacific Ocean. By accident, his expedition ended up in Samar and eventually he became the first governor-general of the Philippines. He was also behind naming Manila as the capital of the country.
Another point of interest inside the church is the San Agustin Museum. Formerly a monastery, it got turned into a museum in the 1970s. This museum mostly contain religious items including huge statues of saints and the Virgin Mary. Entrance costs 200 PHP.
The Tomb of Juan Luna, a famous painter and political activist during Spanish era, can also be found inside the San Agustin Church.

Casa Manila
Nearby is Casa Manila, a typical bahay na bato (house of stone) in the Chinese parian of Manila. It's a 19th century replica house owned by a rich Chinese merchant.

Inside the house are several antique items that have been kept through the years. Entrance costs 75 PHP for adults and 50 PHP for children. It's open from 9AM-6PM daily, but closed on Mondays. 

Lunch at Ilustrado Restaurant

Cap off the day tour, Ilustrado Restaurant offers scrumptious closely authentic Spanish cuisine. They generally serve Spanish dishes where a lot of Filipino food originated and derived from. It's a mid-range restaurant with a rustic vibe located at Calle del Real Palacio in Intramuros. 

When in the Philippines: How to Maximize a Day in Manila When in the Philippines: How to Maximize a Day in Manila Reviewed by Shelly Viajera Travel on 2.11.17 Rating: 5
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