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Published: April 29th 2013
We arrived back in Manila at the unearthly hour of 5am and took a taxi straight to a 24 hour ‘café’ where we tried to wake ourselves up with coffee and wondered what would lay in store for us today. What should we do with 12 hours to kill in a sprawling city that we had tried to avoid? Arrange to meet up with non-other than Manila expert and Travelblogger LilyRam (Tita/Aunty Lily) of course! We were so excited to finally meet her and were really looking forward to seeing what the city had to offer, and after catching up over more coffee we set off for the day.
Our first stop was the old walled city of Intramuros, a 25 minute drive from upscale Makati. This area had a strong sense of history which we didn’t expect to find in Manila, and over the centuries it has been in the hands of not only Filipino people, but also the Chinese, the British, the Japanese and the Americans. There was also a colonial aspect to it, with traditional horse and carriages dotted around the streets bringing together both Spanish and British influences.
We then went into Fort Santiago, which
is dubbed Manila’s premier and most significant tourist attraction. It’s lovely grounds are now more of a memorial to Jose Rizal – Doctor of medicine, poet, novelist, sculptor, painter, linguist, amongst other things, whom was imprisoned here in the final days before his execution in 1896 (You can actually re-trace his footsteps from his jail cell to his execution point) for inciting his revolution against the Spanish colonials. It is said, that he epitomised the Fillipinos’ dignified struggle for personal and national freedom. Within the grounds itself is the Rizal Shrine building where the national icon himself was imprisoned before his execution, inside this building you can view many types of Rizal memorabilia, including; one of his vertebrae, the first draft of his novel, translated as ‘Touch Me Not’ and the original copy of the poem ‘Mi Ultimo Adios’ / ‘My Last Farewell’ which was smuggled out of his cell, hours before his execution in an oil lamp to his sister. The last point of interest in the fort which Lily showed us was the old army barracks which has now been converted into an open air theatre which holds occasional Jazz and Blues nights. Tita Lily had a great
knowledge of the history, without her we would not have learnt half as much about such a significant event in a country that we both love.
Next on the agenda was a quick stroll, whilst trying to avoid the searing heat, 36 degrees at 10am is never pleasant, over to San Agustin Church, which is the oldest church in the Philippines and the only building left standing intact after WW2. After admiring the structure, it was time for lunch so we grabbed a quick taxi over to China Town where Lily took us to a secret, little hole-in-the-wall Chinese eatery that she knew, where we got to sample amazing Lumpia – a cross between a spring role and burrito, it was delicious. Our food tour did not stop there as next up was another small local eatery which served authentic dim-sum and steamed buns. After a wander around China Town to work off our lunches, we ended up at the Manila Cathedral which was completely destroyed during WW2 but has since been rebuilt and also passed Binondo Church. It was so interesting to see all these different religious buildings, most which looked pretty ancient but attractive none the less.
We needed to get out of the heat so took a small tricycle back to the Intramuros area where we had home baked Silvana cakes in a cute little café (Ristorante Della Mitre) with its walls depicting Archbishops’ headgear and chatted more with Lily about her life and swapped travel tales.
The time flew by and before we knew it we had to say our goodbyes and make our way to the airport to catch our flight to Puerto Princesa.
We have since dubbed her ‘Lily the Legend’, as we had a really great day and learnt so much about Manila which we wouldn’t have otherwise – there is nothing like a local showing you around. We were really grateful that she took the time out to meet with us too and hope to return the pleasure in London someday. Thanks again Lily!
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