Manila Sight-Seeing: When an Intramuros Walking Tour Turns into a Pedicab Tour
Who says one cannot travel with an injured foot? Well I did…but with a little help of a reliable pedicab. If biking sounds too exhausting ( like when I biked around Angkor Wat wearing my blue dress) then pedicab tour is a great alternative. I wonder why we have no pedicab tours here? I’ve seen lovely yellow pedicabs decorated with flowers in Penang and Melaka pedaled by locals touring visitors around the city despite the unforgiving sun. Pedicab experience allows in-depth touring that’s otherwise seen only in bike or walking tours.
If my memory serves me correctly, it was back in March of 2009 when I did this Manila sight-seeing tour. A few days after my ankle got sprained during my solo trip to Sagada, I decided to revisit Manila. It was the height of my solo domestic traveling, I had an itchy foot back then (I still have but I can control it now), I felt the need to travel weekly those days.
I was born in the province but I moved to Quezon City to study in a university in Diliman and spent most of my 4 years in college inside the campus because I was either stuck in the dorm doing my papers or working part-time at the Main Library. So while my siblings experience Manila at it’s worst (they lived in Makati with my aunt because they studied in Manila), I was lucky and thankful that I never got the chanced to experience its flooded street (except for its traffic and pollution) or worse, encountered pickpockets (like my poor brother) or worst, got robbed at gunpoint (like my poor sister). However, I was also deprived of seeing the best of Manila, the only travel memory I can remember here are the bus rides to and fro my campus during weekends.
“Padjak po Ma’am 10 pesos lang”, the pedicab drivers swarmed me one fine sunday. Despite my aching ankle, I ignored their humble offer, determined to do my own version of the Old Manila Walk. Padjak is the Tagalog term for pedicabs in Manila. A pedicab somewhat operates like a rickshaw, it’s a bicycle with an attached seat for 2 passengers.
So I walked past the golf course then further into what seemed like the entrance to start my Manila sight-seeing tour. I know this is not the typical way to start the walking tour of Intramuros but it’s the only entrance I knew of that time. Then came the unexpected, I don’t know where to head to, and my injured foot is starting to hurt real bad. I turned around and spotted a pedicab driver waiting for passengers, then he drove towards me. ” Ma’am, estudyante po ba kayo? Gusto nyo po, ako na lang mag-tour sainyo? Php150 po lang po sa unang oras tapos Php100 per hour after the 1st hour”, his sales pitch then started. He showed me a list of the places with photos that we can tour around. I was surprised to see that Intramuros is quite huge and has a lot of interesting places to offer unlike Fort Cornwallis in Penang, Malaysia. I later found out that the pedicab tour is somewhat done discreetly because as the driver said, the normal tour is that of the kalesa (or calesa), a horse-drawn carriage and he illegally copied that list from one of the kalesa drivers.
Intramuros is referred to us the walled city. A Spanish-style fortified city where churches, government buildings, museums, plazas, schools, stately houses, etc, are all enclosed in its massive walls. It is said to be one of the old world’s poster cities for discrimination. Reason behind is, only the Spanish ruling classes were allowed to live here . Unfortunately, the World War II heavily destroyed the once powerful city,yet still, walking through the remnants of its past gives tourists that nostalgic feel. I’m no history buff and this tour was back in 2009, so let me breeze through my trip with short historic details from the Intramuros administration.
Armed with my old digital camera and my injured feet, I started my walking tour at the road to MAPUA University. I got there by getting off the jeep at the Manila City Hall (the building with the clock tower) and crossing through the underpass. This was the only route I’m familiar with at that time.
Some Places to Visit in Intramuros:
Walls, Gates and Bastions
Puerta (gates) Del Parian , one of the earliest entrances to Intramurus and Revellin del Parian which was built in 1603 following Chinese uprising. The gates here have drawbridges giving access to the outside world.
Baluarte (bastion) de San Gabriel, the Walled City’s most important defense in the north that protected the riverside.
Puerta de Isabel II , said to be the last gate built in Intramuros. (see photo above.)
Revellin de Real de Bagumbayan was used as prison cells during the Japanese occupation.
Baluarte de San Diego noted for its circular fort is one of the oldest fortifications in Intramuros.
Fort Santiago is perhaps the most famous part of Intramuros where Rizal (The Philippine’s National Hero) was imprisoned before his execution. It is originally the site of Rajah Solayman’s settlement prior to Spanish occupation and rule. The US destroyed the fort during the Battle of Manila and was soon restored. It houses Rizal Shrine where the life and works of Jose Rizal are displayed. I paid Php 75 for entrance fee while children and students are charged Php 50.
Plazuela de Sta. Isabel- I find this unforgettable because it contains a moving monument dedicated to the civilians victims of the last war.
Plaza de Sto. Tomas , the replica of the founder of the University of Sto.Thomas (the oldest university in the country)- archbishop Miguel de Benavides can be found standing here.
Plaza de Roma is located in front of Manila Cathedral where the statue of King Carlos IV of Spain is proudly standing.
Anduana building (19) – We passed by this beautiful old colonial ruins en route to Fort Santiago. A once impressive government building which was damaged by an earthquake, with the outside walls left standing to date.
Ayuntamiento is another colonial building ruined by the earthquakes, it was the Seat of City Council of Manila.
San Ignacio Church nothing much remains of this old church except for some few statues of the Jesuits who built it in 1889.
Palacio del Gobernador a striking edifice that was reconstructed sometime in 1976 to house government offices. As the name suggests, it used to be the residence of the Governor- General of the Philippines during the Spanish colonial rule and was also heavily destroyed by an earthquake.
Plaza San Luis Complex another striking old colonial building which serves as a commercial and cultural complex composed of replica houses of Philippine- Hispanic architecture. It houses Casa Manila museum. One of my favorite parts of Intramuros reminiscent of Calle Crisologo in Vigan, Ilocos Sur.
Casa Manila is an opulent museum built by the controversial Imelda Marcos and located inside the Plaza Luis Complex. It’s a replica of a Spanish colonial house that gives tourists a glimpse of the posh lifestyle of the ruling class during the Spanish colonial period.
San Agustin Museum is adjacent to the San Agustin church and gives visitors a glimpse of the luxuries of old Manila.
Rizal Shrine is a building inside For Santiago that contains the life and works of Jose Rizal (the Philippines National hero), most notable pieces are the original copy of ‘Mi Ultimo Adios’ (My Last Farewell) and the first draft of his novel ‘Noli Me Tangere’ (Touch Me Not).
Bahay Tsinoy is a museum dedicated to the roles played by the Filipino-Chinese (Chinoys or Tsinoys) in the growth of Manila.
Bagumbayan Light and Sound Museum I didn’t enter here but it is a major tourist attraction being the first of its kind in Asia. For a mere Php 100 entrance fee, it journeys visitors through Philippine history under Spanish rule.
San Agustin Church – the oldest church in the Philippines and the only building left intact after the fall of Intramus was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. This old Spanish church inside Intramuros has magnificent ornate interiors, and well-known for its vaulted ceiling with intricate designs.
Manila Cathedral – this ancient church with a Neo-Romanesque façade is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila. It was a Sunday then, a mass is going on so I wasn’t able to take a photo of its magnificent interiors.
I don’t know if this still exists today but Wow Philippines is one part of Intramuros that I enjoyed the most which houses cultural displays, different types of Philippine houses and proudly Philippine made products especially those coming from Mindanao.
I ended up having to pay the pedicab driver and his wife (the wife came during the Fort Santiago trip to bring luch to his husband) Php 500 for my pedicab tour. I know I would’ve had saved a little if I had just hopped on and off a pedicab, but I guess given my situation that time – my injured foot, it was a better option. Besides, it’s not everyday that I meet a pedicab driver, let the man earn more than he normally does.
Intramuros is just one of the many places Manila has to offer. During my Sabah travel, I was delighted to encounter tourists who have gone ( or will be going to Manila), because it’s not all the time I meet foreigners who wanted to visit Manila. Except maybe for the 2 young European teenage girls I’ve met in Cameron Highlands who wanted to go to Manila because their dad said Manila is the best city for cheap shopping but all of them had bad experiences and impressions of the Philippines’ infamous capital city. “Manila is a hole, skip it, head to Boracay or Cebu-Bohol”, they all said. No, they’re not even blaming traffic nor pollution because they’ve kind of encountered that in every SE Asian countries but pickpockets and thieves. They either lost their cellphones, iPod or laptop to thieves while in Manila. While I cannot defend Manila’s crimes, I can guarantee you that it can happen everywhere.
I guess to truly experience Manila’s nostalgic charm, or savor it’s mouth-watering food and indulge on its cheap shopping, one needs to sacrifice a little – throw out your fears and inhibitions out of your luggage and walk into her bosom but don’t forget to bring an ounce of extra care and tons of common sense! Manila is Manila, love it or hate it, this city maybe dangerous but it is a beautiful temptress. Besides, isn’t the most challenging trip oftentimes turns out to be the most memorable? To discover Manila, you have to see its beauty in all it’s imperfection. Oh please, impeccable is boring!
Author’s Note: Since the pedicab tour rate is per hour. (Php 150 on the 1st hour, and Php100 per hour there after) , it is advisable to start it after Fort Santiago where you may have to spend a little more time. There are many pedicabs waiting outside anyway who can take you to your next destination. But for photographers, walking tour is still the best option. Kalesa tours is also a great way to explore the city but be ready to shell out extra bucks.
Should you decide to do the walking tour by yourself, do drop by at the Intramuros Visitors Center which hands out maps and information about Intramuros they are located inside Fort Santiago at 5F, Palacio del Gobernador, General Luna cor. Andres Soriano, Intramuros.
phone #:+632-5272961 (Intramuros Visitors Centre)
operation hours : 8am-5pm
Recommended Walking Tour of Intramuros: www.oldmanilawalks.com by Ivan Man Dy.
*This is my entry to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers Blog Carnival entitled “Manila in Focus” hosted by my bro Angel Juarez of Lakwatsero
About the Blogger : Gael Hilotin is a travel blogger and freelance travel writer who has been to all 81 provinces in the Philippines. Her work has appeared in local and international publications and she is a contributor of Yahoo Southeast Asia News (Travel). She was the winner of the travel writing contest at the Blogfest Asia 2012 held in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Follow her on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram. For advertisements, sponsorships and partnerships, you may reach her at thepinaysolobackpacker (at) yahoo (dot) com. **********************************************************************************************
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