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The Walled City: The toast of Asian trav­el­ers

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Afor­eign tourist’s trip to the na­tion’s cap­i­tal al­most al­ways be­gins with In­tra­muros, a spe­cial his­tor­i­cal district of Manila, which was the seat of gov­ern­ment, cen­ter of re­li­gion, ed­u­ca­tion and the econ­omy dur­ing the Span­ish pe­riod. De­stroyed in most part in 1945 dur­ing the Lib­er­a­tion of Manila, its post­war restora­tion tried to recre­ate a throw­back look and am­biance of the colo­nial-era way of life.

With a land area of less than a square kilo­me­ter, the so- called Walled City is punc­tu­ated with build­ings in­spired by the typ­i­cal Ibe­rian stone house ar­chi­tec­ture, mas­sive fortress walls, cob­ble­stone streets, and land­marks such as Fort San­ti­ago, San Agustin Church and Manila Cathe­dral, which have been main­stays in tourism pro­mo­tion cal­en­dars since time im­memo­rial.

But be­yond the iconic im­ages, it is a trea­sure throve of pocket parks, mon­u­ments, in­trigu­ing his­toric nooks, and com­mem­o­ra­tive plaques chron­i­cling lesser-known events.

De­spite its prox­im­ity to most

parts of the me­trop­o­lis, this “city within a city” seems to be a fron­tier that a huge num­ber of ur­ban­ites haven’t set foot on this unique district.

If there is a com­pelling rea­son to visit In­tra­muros very soon, it was rec­og­nized by the pres­ti­gious 27th World Travel Awards as Asia’s Lead­ing Tourist At­trac­tion last Oc­to­ber. This is proof that its eclec­tic char­ac­ter never fails to charm the con­ti­nent’s trav­el­ers from all walks of life.

Over the years, the In­tra­muros Ad­min­is­tra­tion has en­cour­aged var­i­ous modes of ap­pre­ci­at­ing the won­ders within the walls at a slower pace— from plain walk­ing, horse- drawn kalesa, pedi­cabs, Seg­way elec­tric two- wheeled ve­hi­cle, and more re­cently, bi­cy­cles.

In­ter­est­ingly, the area has be­come a haven for bik­ers in re­cent months, due to the GCQ- re­lated out- of- town re­stric­tions.

On top of the usual must- sees in the district, there are scores of equally in­ter­est­ing spots, which are both his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant, and for the younger gen­er­a­tions, In­sta­grammable.

Of­ten over­shad­owed by the taller ed­i­fices in the area is Plaza Sam­palu­can, a tree- lined park along the Real de Pala­cio or Gen. Luna St. Now known as Me­morare Manila 1945, it memo­ri­al­izes the hun­dreds of thou­sands who per­ished and were bru­tal­ized by the Ja­panese troops dur­ing the siege for the city dur­ing World War II. Its cen­ter­piece is the black mar­ble sculp­ture in­spired by Michelan­gelo’s mas­ter­piece “Pi­eta” de­pict­ing the grief of a mother over the death of her chil­dren.

A block away from the main road are the ru­ins of Cuar­tel de Santa Lu­cia, which was built in 1781 for the Span­ish ar­tillery and was used in 1901 as the head­quar­ters of the Amer­i­can- era Philip­pine Con­stab­u­lary. In 1905, it was opened as a mil­i­tary school and be­came the first site of the Philip­pine Mil­i­tary Acad­emy be­fore it was trans­ferred to Baguio.

Be­side it is the Ga­le­ria de los Pres­i­dentes dela Repub­lica Filip­ina, a gar­den gallery where bas re­lief sculp­tures of past Pres­i­dents are ex­hib­ited. Canopied by trees, it pro­vides a cool and breezy shade to prom­e­naders and bik­ers seek­ing shel­ter from the heat of the sun.

Plaza Es­paña is a diminu­tive tri­an­gu­lar open space fac­ing the ru­ins of the then Bureau of the Trea­sury. Its cen­ter­piece is a monu

ment to King Felipe II af­ter whom the Philip­pines was named af­ter.

Si­t­u­ated near the banks of the Pasig River is Plaza Mex­ico, which com­mem­o­rates the 400th an­niver­sary of the ex­pe­di­tion of Span­ish con­quis­ta­dors Miguel López de Legazpi and An­dres de Ur­daneta from New Spain ( Mex­ico) in 1964, and the Manila- Aca­pulco galleon trade re­la­tions which ran for 250 years. On the other side is a statue of Mex­i­can pres­i­dent Adolfo López Ma­teos, who vis­ited the city in 1962.

Es­cuela Taller de Filip­inas might not be the typ­i­cal his­toric spot, but is an at­trac­tion in its own right be­cause of the in­volve­ment of its ar­ti­sans and crafts­men in built her­itage con­ser­va­tion.

The district also boasts of more than a dozen pub­lic and pri­vate mu­se­ums and gal­leries, such as Fort San­ti­ago’s Rizal Shrine, San Agustin Mu­seum, Bagum­bayan Light and Sound Mu­seum, Arch­dioce­san Mu­seum of Manila, Casa Manila, and the Museo de In­tra­muros. Cur­rently closed due to the pan­demic, these repos­i­to­ries will re­open soon to cater to cul­ture vul­tures for a glimpse of the city’s check­ered past.

Com­plete your time travel and grab a bite at the sig­na­ture din­ing haunts which seem to trans­port you back to the past.

A must- try is Barbara’s Her­itage Restau­rant at the Plaza San Luis Com­plex, which is known for its cul­tural mu­sic and dance per­for­mances and Span­ish- in­spired lunch and din­ner buf­fets. It opened a few months back for à la carte and take­aways at its smaller din­ing ex­ten­sions.

Other must- tries are the ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal- themed café Ris­torante delle Mitre, Ilustrado Restau­rant, Pa­tio de Con­chita, and The Bayleaf Ho­tel which has sev­eral food and bev­er­age out­lets.

A new toast of the town is the La Cathe­dral Café which re­lo­cated to a big­ger roof deck across the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Cathe­dral Basil­ica, and is tops for din­ner with the lighted view of the church.

Adding a touris­tic pull to the Walled City is the spruc­ing up of its im­me­di­ate en­vi­rons in the City of Manila— Jones Bridge, Kartilya ng Katipunan Shrine, Anda Cir­cle, and La­gus­ni­lad Un­der­pass.

With the re­nais­sance it is un­der­go­ing within and with­out the for­ti­fi­ca­tions, In­tra­muros is worth pay­ing that well- de­served bi­cy­cle trip soon.

 ?? Story & pho­tos by Bernard L. Su­pe­tran ?? Dine at Barbara’s Her­itage Restau­rant Café and get to wit­ness a cul­tural dance per­for­mance.
Story & pho­tos by Bernard L. Su­pe­tran Dine at Barbara’s Her­itage Restau­rant Café and get to wit­ness a cul­tural dance per­for­mance.
 ??  ?? ES­CUELA Taller de Filip­inas, a vo­ca­tional school ded­i­cated to her­itage con­ser­va­tion. Escu ella Taller
ES­CUELA Taller de Filip­inas, a vo­ca­tional school ded­i­cated to her­itage con­ser­va­tion. Escu ella Taller
 ??  ?? PLA ZA Mex­ico’s his­toric struc­ture was do­nated by the Mex­i­can Sec­re­tary of The Navy Ship­yards.
PLA ZA Mex­ico’s his­toric struc­ture was do­nated by the Mex­i­can Sec­re­tary of The Navy Ship­yards.
 ??  ?? ME­MORARE Manila 1945 serves as a marker for the civil­ian vic­tims of the Bat­tle of Manila.
ME­MORARE Manila 1945 serves as a marker for the civil­ian vic­tims of the Bat­tle of Manila.
 ??  ?? CLU B In­tra­muros Golf Course, one of the old­est golf cour­ses in the coun­try.
CLU B In­tra­muros Golf Course, one of the old­est golf cour­ses in the coun­try.
 ??  ?? PLA ZA Es­paña is for­merly known as Ad­u­ana Square
PLA ZA Es­paña is for­merly known as Ad­u­ana Square

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