Sunday, the mass for the Virgen de Peñafrancia was in Manila Cathedral, so before heading over there we took a tour of Intramuros, the old Spanish city of Manila.

I’m realizing now that I can’t take pictures of nearly everything I want to take pictures of, like jeepneys and tricycles, because I don’t want to whip out my camera on the street. But i’m doing my best.

Uncle Nene doesn’t have a car, which I think is fine because commuting is very cheap and efficient here in Metro Manila. Here’s the view from inside a tricycle.

You’ll just have to google philippine tricycle to see the full view.

From tricycle, we then go to jeepney.

Ordinarily, I would never take out my camera inside a jeepney, but we were the only ones inside this time.

Then, once in Intramuros, you can hire a calesa for a couple hundred pesos to tour you around the city.

This was the one we rode in.

Me and Ate Shirley inside the calesa.

We even got to drive it! (not really)

an 1890’s-style limo.

Intramuros is a place of fascinating history – especially because through 3 waves of would-be colonizers (Spanish, Japanese, and Americans), the use of edifices has changed. We had a great tour guide who explained the different layers of history here – I videoed some of his explanations and am still editing that material. Unfortunately, my camera consumes battery like a mother, so I couldn’t tape the whole thing. But, I took pictures of a lot of plaques so you can read for yourself.

Puerta de Santa Lucia: The layout of Intramuros is pretty typical of a Spanish city. Intramuros literally means within walls, and just like the old Spanish cities – Madrid, Toledo, Granada, etc., Intramuros was city surrounded by walls to keep out Muslim invaders. Much of the original walls, however, including this dorr, were destroyed by American tanks in WWII.

Beaterio de la Compañia de Jesus:


Puerta Real

UST: This was the original site of the Universidad de Santo Tomás, my mother’s alma mater. It’s the oldest university in the Philippines and where Rizal studied for his doctorate (he was an eye surgeon). The site is basically on the edge of town, Rizal would just walk from Binondo across the Pasig River to go to school.

San Francisco Church and Convent: (i think the second oldest church in the, though that is contested)

A central theme of the tour was the atrocities comitted under Japanese rule. The Japanese took over Manila during WWII, and Intramuros witnessed their brutality.

The Wall of Martyrs:

I think our tour guide also referred to the Wall of Martyrs and the “Memory of Manila.” The sign says: “This marker is erected in memory of the hundreds of guerillas and civilians arrested, imprisoned and killed here in Fort Santiago by the Japanese Imperial forces during the Second World War. These men and women died in defense of the freesom on the Philippines during the dark days of the Japanese occupation (1941-1945).

This simple stone cross markes a common grave for 600 Americans and Filipinos found in the dungeons after Manila was liberated from the Japanese.

Right next to the stone cross, this marker also marks a common grave for 600, but Filipinos only. The marker reads: “In Memory of the Victims at Fort Santiago. On this site lie the mortal remains of approximately 600 Filipinos. Their bodies were found inside a nearby dungeon where victims of the atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese Imperial Forces were imprisoned during the last days of February 1945. In memory of all these unknown victims of Japanese atrocities will live forever in the hearts and minds of the Filipino people.”



This is an area known as the Japanese Garden. The Spanish, and then the Japanese military officers had their offices here.

Our tour guide and Ate Ikke. These structures are over 400 years old.

From this watchtower they could see coming forces.

And this is where the Japanese kept prisoners. All those little chambers are connected.

In those days this was all covered, but it would flood whenever the Pasig river rose, and of course during the rainy season.

Nowadays, there is a golf course on the other side. Way to respect history! You can also see the Makati skyline.

Our tour guide said they get quite a few Japanese tourists there. I asked if he told them the truth of the history of this place and he said yes, and they often say “I’m sorry.”

Another central theme of the tour was the life and martyrdom of José Rizal. For those who don’t know, Rizal is our national hero. He wrote 2 novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, which contributed greatly to our fight for freedom against the Spanish. Think of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, they’re novels, but written with the intention of highlighting an evil and functioned to influence public opinion. Rizal was imprisoned here at Fort Santiago inside Intramuros before he was killed.

Entrance into Fort Santiago costs 40 pesos (about $.80), though only 15 pesos for students. The guards are dressed as Katupineros and there are also people dressed as American GI’s who target American-looking tourists.

The receiving courtyard at Fort Santiago

Then, cross the rover to go into the fort proper

The Honor Roll.

You’re able to walk through the old edifices, the majority of which have been turned into museums. Like in the Japanese garden, there are a bunch of underground tunnels. The main dungeon was first constructed for arms storage. Unfortunately, the Pasig river often overflows, and the arms would get wet and damaged, so the Spanish converted the underground tunnels into dungeons.

All over the fort they have these guard statues. Notice, no shoes. Not even tsinelas.

This is the main shrine to Jose Rizal. Inside that white house in the background is a museum with some of his personal things: clothing, surgery instruments and original manuscripts of his writings.

We were taking a picture and noticed guard walking towards us. If you notice our faces, me and Ate Ikke are trying to tell Ate Shirley to hurry up before he comes over and tell us to get off the grass, so we took this and ran away. Later on we saw him taking a picture of a huge group of tourists, haha! thats what we get for being paranoid.

Those red bricks are also old walls, but they have fallen into disrepair. There is so much here in the Philippines that is not being maintained.

I’m pretty sure this is not the actual cell – it’s just a recreation. The white house in the background of those above pictures – that’s where this is. When you walk in you’re in a small room – maybe only 8×8. It’s very dimly lit, at first I thought that was where the cell was. But, one wall opens into a hallway and at the end youcan see a small room and a man sitting at a table. That’s Rizal. It’s actually really creepy. Especially because, geniuses that these Filipinos are, next to Rizal you can see bars and a light with moving shadows, as if the guards are patrolling outside the bars. (ate ikke figured out it’s a mirror)

This is, however, the real place where Rizal was kept before his death. That’s a life-size statue of him; Rizal was only 4’9. This is where he said goodbye to his relatives, only his female relatives were allowed to see him before his execution and they could not even embrace him. Within this cell he wrote his last work, the poem “Mi Ultimo Adios,”and hid it in his oil lamp for his sister to find later.

So after touring the fort we went to hear mass at Manila Cathedral in honor of la Virgen de Peñafrancia. The mass was really long haha. And there was this cutttte little girl sitting next to us who kept running around. The homily was said by the bishop of Legaspi (i think) and in his homliy I got ym first taste of the political involvement of the Church here. He was preaching about, to use his term, dishonesty, mostly in government, but also about economics. It was interesting because we were just talking to the Speaker of the Senate before the mass, and he was sitting in the front row during the mass.

After mass, everyone flocked to the image of la Virgen just to touch her, hoping to receive a miracle, the icon is known to be miraculous. Icons are really treated like movie stars here. Uncle Nene was the guardian of the icon, standing in front of it and touching it with people’s handercheifs to give them a piece of the glorious.

I need to learn mass in Tagalog.