D and I are starting to get to know the Philippines more, so we have been driving and exploring nearby cities and towns since last year. One of the places that’s so close to home yet we most often overlook is Manila City. See, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Manila: I’ve seen the best, and sadly the not so pleasant parts. When I think Manila, the first image that comes to mind is the city hall and the historic walled city of Intramuros. I remember going there on field trips when I was in grade school, and occasionally in the early 2000s with my in-laws.
When we decided to rekindle our relationship with Intramuros, D and I booked a room at the Bayleaf Hotel. We had dinner and breakfast at the Sky Deck restaurant at the Bayleaf, which offered a great view of the Manila city skyline. My favorite view was at sunset – it was quite busy on that Saturday night and it was a good thing we made reservations instead of just walking in. They had buffer dinner but we opted to order ala carte. Food was awesome, and the service was great.
San Agustin Church
On Sunday morning, D and I went to the San Agustin church for mass. San Agustin Church is one of the baroque Catholic churches in the Philippines (the other 2 that we visited within the Philippines are the Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte, and the Miag-ao Church in Iloilo).
San Agustin is a historical landmark, having been built by Augustinian friars in 1571, when the Philippines was still a colony of Spain. It had withstood various events like fire and war throughout the centuries so needless to say there had been several ‘rebuilding’ phases. A museum was built next to the church, showcasing relics and paintings. The only downside of San Agustin is that cleanliness needed to be improved. Sadly there was a bit of litter inside the church and in its parking area.
Right across San Agustin Church is Casa Manila, an old house built also during the Spanish Colonization era. It was later on converted into a museum.
D and I spent an hour exploring the house/museum. We were not allowed to take photos, and visitors were asked to walk only within the ‘red carpet’. The house was well preserved, and gave us a glimpse of how it was to live as an upper class in the olden days. We were amazed at how people back then imported ice and stored them at home. Another interesting discovery is there were 2 toilet seats in the bathrooms.
D and I were able to walk around the cobbled streets of Intramuros, and we saw several tour groups doing either the walking tours or the bike tours.
The Silahis Arts and Artifacts is a go-to place for tourists. They are located in a museum-like building with several floors of local and cultural merchandise good for souvenirs or home decors.
Close to the Casa Manila is the Manila Cathedral, another grand church built during the Spanish era, also in 1571. They are called ‘The Mother of all Churches, Cathedrals and Basilicas of the Philippines. I remember attending a couple of weddings there when I was a pre-teen.
For restaurants, some of the famous ones in Intramuros are Ilustrado, and the Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant. They have beautiful exteriors as well, and offer fine Filipino dishes.
A weekend is not enough to explore Intramuros. It truly is a historical heritage gem of Manila. I’m planning to go back to walk along the Fort Santiago, I reckon we will need at least a couple of hours to do this. My sister-in-law recommends we also check out the Rajah Sulayman theatre. I can’t wait!