HOLIDAYS IN THE PHILIPPINES
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I just came back from the Philippines. We decided to spend the holidays there because it was a chance for my seven month-old baby to meet his cousins and great grandfather. It was also my first time spending the holidays in the Philippines and in the heat, for that matter. A strange thing – Winter holidays in the heat.
It was our third trip to Manila since my husband and I got married and we still hadn’t managed to see Intramuros, the old city. Relatives and friends never seemed to boast of the old city and rather, were more keen on showing us the shopping centers and new parts of Manila. This time around, we insisted on seeing the old city regardless of the lack of enthusiasm from the locals.
PICTURE TOUR OF INTRAMUROS – THE OLD CITY
For me, Intramuros was worthwhile. There are some great views, restored lookouts, museums, old Spanish buildings, cathedrals and historical sites. You can also take a guided tour in a ‘kalesa’ or horse-drawn carriage for about 500 pesos/person for one hour. You can take a cheaper tour on a trike as well. Our friendly guide, Rey, knew his Filipino history quite well and also had no problem recounting his own personal history – very colourful indeed.
If you go to Intramuros expecting to see an old city, similar to Siena, Tuscany, you probably shouldn’t go. Even though Intramuros has many great historical sites to see, the city itself, is not as well-preserved. You will find some run-down buildings, construction sites and random chain restaurants. So, it won’t seem like you’re going back in time. It is still very much a lively area as it also has several schools, universities and government buildings.
Here we are in Plaza de Roma facing the Manila Cathedral. It was just renovated in early 2016 right before my tita (aunt) got married in it. Good timing. Across from the cathedral is the statue of King Carlos IV of Spain. To the left of the cathedral is the Ayuntamiento, or the city hall, and to the right is the Palacio del Gobernador.
PLAZA DE ROMA
Like the old city of Intramuros, this plaza has suffered an identity crisis thanks to its Spanish, British and American influences. In fact, its name changed three times before it was finally named, Roma. First, it was called Plaza de Armas, used for local bullfights; then it became a garden called Plaza Mayor; it was upgraded to a park and renamed Plaza McKinley; then in 1961, it was called Plaza de Roma in honour of the Sacred College of Cardinals in Rome. To reciprocate, the city of Rome, Italy has a Piazza Manila with a statue of the National Hero of the Philippines, Dr. Jose Rizal.
DR. JOSE RIZAL – THE NATIONAL HERO OF THE PHILIPPINES
Speaking of the National Hero of the Philippines, we enter Fort Santiago – his last holding place before the final walk to his execution by the Spaniards in Bagumbayan. I took a picture of a solemn Jose Rizal and his marked foot steps that lead out of Fort Santiago to Bagumbayan or ‘Nuevo Barrio’, named by the Spaniards. Today it is a memorial park with a monument of Rizal, better known as, Luneta Park.
HERO’S DAY – DECEMBER 30TH
Our vacation was timely because Hero’s Day, or Rizal day is celebrated on his death anniversary, December 30th. Being a descendant of the National Hero, we were invited to attend the event at Luneta Park. My grandfather is the grandchild of Paciano Rizal, the eldest brother of Jose Rizal. Together with my mother, husband and our baby, we not only participated in the event, but also met some other descendants, laid our wreath at the monument and shook hands with the head of state that is currently making as many headlines as President Trump: Philippine President Duterte.