One Way to do Manila

Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is a densely populated bayside city on the island of Luzon, which mixes Spanish colonial architecture with modern skyscrapers.

Its popularity as a cruise destination for the larger sized cruise ships is on the increase and one thing is for sure, passengers are in for a warm quayside welcome…

 

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And that isn’t the only delight for passengers. The biggest bonus for cruise ship passengers is that the cruise ship berth is situated almost at the heart of the most interesting area of Manila,  the old  city district  of Intramuros…

 

…and all within walking distance for most folk.

Intramuros is a walled area that was the capital during Spanish rule. Intramuros has retained old dungeons and gunpowder rooms,  but added art galleries and theatres. The city is filled with museums, shops, parks and churches, a Spanish fort, plus enough nightlife to last until dawn.

Manila  can be an assault on the senses. It’s hectic, hyper­active and vibrant and but one adjective sums it up in a perfect description – the capital of the Philippines represents beautiful chaos and tourists are even encouraged to embrace the beautiful chaos. Who knew chaos could be so much fun?

For those either wishing for a guided tour, or maybe a trip beyond the confines of Manila, there are plenty of local tour  ‘entrepreneurs’ available on the quayside…

…and no need to go in search of an ATM, these guys offer a quayside money changing service…

 

But for those wishing to venture out by themselves my recommendation would be to start at Rizal Park…

You can’t miss it, the entrance is adorned by the giant flagpole landmark…

Manila’s iconic central park is spread  over some 60 hectares of open lawns, ornamental gardens, ponds, paved walks and wooded areas, dotted with monuments to a whole pantheon of Filipino heroes…

It’s an atmospheric place to take a stroll and as the place where José Rizal was executed (more about him later) by the Spanish colonial authorities, it’s also of great historical significance…

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In the middle of the park is the Central Lagoon…

 

… a pool lined with busts of Filipino heroes and martyrs, and a dancing musical fountain that erupts in colourful explosions in the evening.

Just north of the lagoon is the Open Air Auditorium…

…where the long-running (and free) classical Concert at the Park kicks off at 6pm on Sundays.

On the same side as the Auditorium and near the entrance is the site of Rizal’s execution…

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….a black granite wall inscribed with Rizal’s ‘Mi Ultimo Adios’ (My Last Farewell). Eight tableaux of life-size bronze statues recreate the dramatic last moments of the hero’s life.

Moving away from Rizal Park and following my above map, head along General Luna Street passing through the old colonial walls of Intramuros city while enjoying the architecture and Chinese influence on the Spanish colonial era buildings…

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…and don’t be afraid to pop into the courtyards of the various buildings…

…many of which are now restaurants or hotels…

 

…with interesting names…

Indeed, opposite the above establishment is San Agustin Church…

In 1993, San Agustin Church was one of four Philippine churches constructed during the Spanish Colonial period  to be designated as World Heritage Sites and well worth a visit…

 

Continuing along General Luna Street will bring us to Manila Cathedral…

The Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the cathedral was originally the “church of Manila” officially established in 1571…

Just one block further along  General Luna Street from the Cathedral will bring the visitor to the Plaza Mariones…

Historically a working-class area of Manila, Plaza Moriones served as a centre for Philippine political discourse and today many monuments adorn the sidewalks of the Plaza…

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At the entrance to the Plaza is the ticket office for the Fort Santiago Complex…

Dating back to 1593, Fort Santiago…

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…is a citadel a built by the Spanish navigator and governor Miguel Lopez de Legazpi for the new established city. It is a defensive fortress which is part of the structure of the walled city of Manila referred to as Intramuros.

The fort is one of the most important historical sites in Manila and apart from its historical defensive role it also served as a military prison where its most important prisoner was José Protasio Rizal …

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Indeed, Fort Santiago acts as a shrine to the great man whose footsteps to his execution site are immortalised through the complex…

Fort Santiago is well preserved and many of its original features are easily recognised…

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…particularly its position on the southern bank of the Pasig River…

Central to the Fort Santiago complex is the Plaza de Armas…

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…which also contains the José  Rizal  Shrine…

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The visit to Fort Santiago basically concludes the section on Manila that can be easily achieved on foot from a cruise ship’s berth. During our visit we also planned a visit to a Military War Cemetery that was some distance from Intramuros and required booking a private taxi.

This may well be of most interest to my American readers as the cemetery in question is The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial at  Fort Bonifacio…

The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial occupies 152 acres on a prominent plateau, visible at a distance from the east, south and west…

 

It contains the largest number of graves of US military dead of World War II, a total of 17,058, most of whom lost their lives in operations in New Guinea and the Philippines.

…and the Memorial…

The chapel, a white masonry building enriched with sculpture and mosaic, stands near the centre of the cemetery

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In front of it on a wide terrace are two large hemicycles with twenty-five mosaic maps recalling the achievements of the American armed forces in the Pacific, China, India and Burma…

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On rectangular limestone piers within the hemicycles are inscribed the Tablets of the Missing containing 36,286 names…

…while carved in the floors are the seals of the American states and its territories…

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Our visit to the Manila American Cemetery was for us a rewarding experience and we were glad that we had made the effort to pay our respects to fallen comrades. The visit also concluded our day in Manila which had proved to be most interesting.

 

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Duplication in part or whole without prior written consent is prohibited by international laws.

 

Disclosure to potential conflict of interest:

It is common throughout the travel industry for travel journalists and many cruise bloggers to be provided with complimentary cruises for the purpose of their reviews.

Solent Richard has no ‘conflict of interest’ as he is not an accredited journalist, he pays for his cruises, and is happy to confirm that all his reviews are his own given without fear or favour.

2 responses to “One Way to do Manila

  1. Thanks for the interesting blog as usual Richard. All being well, I will be visiting Manila on a cruise in just over a year and will use this as one of my resources.

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