Monday, July 25, 2011

Two Days in Manila

Our visit in Manila started out with a trip to the Intramuros, which is a walled historic city from the Spanish colonial times. There are museums, cathedrals, and overall beautiful architecture. Surprisingly, there are a lot of universities within the walls as well, and we saw lots of students and canteens where they can grab a quick and cheap meal.

We were able to walk around on top of the walls, which were once fortified with cannons.

It is the wet season for the Philippines, so on this morning it was raining on and off. The bright side was that the light drizzling fended off the hot weather. Below is a museum called the Manila House, which showcased a mansion in which a wealthy family would have lived, with traditional Spanish-influenced decor and opulent furniture.

The San Agustin Cathedral is the oldest in the Philippines. It is an absolutely gorgeous structure, and there are tons of portraits and sculptures which are placed a bit randomly in the hallways.

There was a wedding taking place in the cathedral, which we were able to observe from the upper balcony in the back. The ceremony was breathtaking, and we saw the bridal party walk up the aisle in pairs.

Then the bride arrived, and everyone started taking pictures. The train of her dress was very long. It was beautiful but seemed very awkward to handle, especially when she got up to the altar and needed 4 helpers to assist in arranging and managing the fabric. Both her mother and father accompanied her up the aisle and "gave her away" to the groom.

Later we visited Manila Bay to watch the famed sunset. There is a small amusement park located on the bay, with activities such as a zip line and merry-go-around. We rode the zip line - it was really scary but fun! The experience was a bit surreal, and I was screaming the whole way. No wonder everyone on the ground was staring up at me.

The sunset lasted a long time! It probably started around 5:30 and the last rays of the sun did not disappear until 7.

Apparently the Bay is popular with the locals too, because there were tons of people crowded along the sidewalks, just sitting around with friends and family to enjoy the beautiful view. We barely were able to find an opening on the wall alongside the water to sit.

Later that night we went to a shopping area called "Tiendesitas," translated as "little shops," from Spanish. There was a whole row of shops that sold animals, from tarantulas and rabbits to dogs and cats. It was really sad how cramped some of the conditions were. A large golden retriever shouldn't be living in a small cage. Here is an adorable chow chow that the shopkeeper took out to show us. It's fur was unbelievable puffy and soft.

Later that night we went to a karaoke place - my first time ever! The place offered American, Chinese, and Filipino songs. I mostly stuck to the American songs, though I did try part of a Filipino song, failing miserably.

On Sunday morning we visited the Legazpi Sunday Market, which is comparable to a farmer's market. Locals sell food, arts and crafts, jewelry, and fresh produce here. The food will be detailed in the next post! I also bought a cute hand-painted wrap dress.

Later during the day we went to Rizal Park, which is where many historical moments took place. The gaining of Filipino Independence took place here, as well as the execution of Rizal, who was a leader in the movement for Independence. It's a great place to relax on a Sunday - there were many families here walking around and enjoying the greenery. Tourists also are common, hence the many individuals who tried to sell us photos, tours, and rides on horse-drawn carriages.

We finally rode in a jeepney. You can really experience the exhaust fumes when riding on one - my lungs definitely did not enjoy the ride. The jeepneys run on a set route, and you can flag one down when you see one. People entering in from the back will pass the 8 peso fare up one by one until it reaches the driver, on the honor system. Whenever you want to jump off, you just tell the driver, "para ko!" and he will stop and let you down. In the photo below, here is a almost empty jeepney (a rare sight!), followed closely behind by another jeepney.

What a fantastic weekend - I felt like I was able to experience a very well-rounded view of Manila. I really like the city and the people, and two days was not long enough! Next time I'm in the region I am definitely visiting again.

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