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Exploring the charms of Old Manila
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Arlene Dabu-Foz
Date: 0000-01-31
INTRAMUROS, Manila - The Old Manila Tour may evoke mixed emotions: pride for our national heritage,

nostalgia for pre-war days, hatred against the

oppressors, rage and torment for the victims of war,

and a flood of unexplained passions, woven and tangled

around the lives of people of a bygone era.

But what really is the Old Manila Tour all about? Rajah Tours,

one of the country?s pioneers in inbound/outbound tours, has

come up with such a package to educate both local and

foreign guests alike about the rich heritage of Filipinos ? to

show-off the fine and delicate fibers of Philippine culture.

Last Saturday, Rajah Tour?s director of sales Nadia Trinchera,

together with the company?s three seasoned guides, Marilen

Mapa, Arnie Caluen and Tommy Soria, launched the dry-run

of sightseeing the city by coach.

The tour?s very interesting itinerary includes Fort Santiago

and the Walled City of Intramuros, Casa Manila, sections of

Rizal Park, Roxas Boulevard and Port Area, Chinatown, and

the quaint Quiapo market?s underpass native crafts stalls,

more popularly known to locals as Ilalim ng Tulay (under the

bridge) shops.

?While other tour operators are offering the same package,

we have added the Bahay Chinoy (Filipino-Chinese house), a

museum of the Chinese in Philippine life, as added feature for

the first time,? said Trinchera.

The tour, which costs US$25.00 per person, starts at 8:30 a.m. and winds up at

exactly 12:30 p.m. Light snacks are offered while on board.

We started along Roxas Boulevard (formerly Dewey

Blvd.) and stopped for a few minutes in front of the

Rizal Park, also known as Luneta Park or the pre-war?s

Bagumbayan. Marilen essayed bits of Rizal?s life, his

Chinese roots and the changing of his surname from

Mercado to Rizal, so he can move in and out of the

country freely before and during revolution days. The

5?2? hero was also a sculptor, a boxer, swordsman

and eye doctor, a passionate intellectual and lover of


The guide said, tourists are allowed to linger around the park?s several gardens for

photo opportunity before returning to the coach.

Also cited were the National Museum, one of the city?s newly spruced-up galleries, a

relief map of the Philippines, a skating rink, the Luneta Grandstand on the opposite

side where public celebration usually takes place, and the classic architecture of the

Departments of Finance and Tourism buildings, all within Agrifina Circle.

Marilen particularly mentioned the Manila Hotel, dubbed as the Grand Dame of all

hotels. Established in 1912, the property is made more popular for having distinguished

guests such as Gen. Douglas McArthur, other Hollywood celebrities and great political

leaders such as US President Bill Clinton.

Next stop is the 16th century Fort Santiago, another historical site that boasts of

beautifully manicured gardens, a small amphitheater, a house turned into a museum

for Rizal?s memorabilia where he also stayed as a prisoner, and a promenading area for

horse-drawn carriages (caruajes), the Mercedes Benz during the Spanish period.

Near the Fort?s entrance is Mananzan?s Handicrafts, a store showcasing

Philippine-made products from native trinkets and accessories, semi-precious stones,

woodcarvings and furniture, paintings and wall decors, to a host of novelty items

hand-picked from all over the country. These are the stuffs that tourists love to take

home as souvenirs.

Marilen said the store sells authentic native products such as fine jusi (banana) and

pi?a (pineapple) cloths that tourists from Western countries adore. ?We bring the

tourists here so they will get to know the big difference from what?s real and

imitation. That way, they will not be shortchanged when they buy native goods

somewhere else.?

The nearly hundred-year-old Walled City, or Intramuros, was once a residential

district of the Spanish upper crust. Its moated area has been converted into the

city?s only day-and-night golf course, the Intramuros Golf Club, now being managed

by the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA).

Within the walls, as Marilen related, echoed a checkered past, with the city as a mute

witness to an unrivaled discrimination and oppression, a most savage treatment

rendered by the Spanish upper class to the hapless Filipinos and Chinese, called indios

and chinos on equal footing ? that of an uneducated class.

?The old Manila was the second most battered, war-torn city in the world, next to

Warsaw, Poland,? the guide said. The most bitter battles fought within Intramuros

were during the Spanish and Japanese occupations. ?The latter never knew the word

?surrender? that the Americans were forced to pulverize the city to make them


However, the disreputable past was somehow tempered with an heirloom that the

conquistadores left behind ? and its more of a status symbol, rather than anything

else. Casa Manila is a living testament to the somewhat pompous lifestyle led by the

Spaniards and other mestizos. The tapestry, hand-carved and painting ceilings,

intricately designed furniture and furnishings, and other fanfare of the Spanish ?good


The high-ceilinged ancestral house has various cuartos (bedrooms) laden with antique

furniture such as lace-covered four-poster beds, aparador (cabinet), lavandera (wash

stands), tremor (dresser), mesa altar (altar table), a two- to four-seater latrina

(toilet) with chessboard on the armrest, a completely equipped cocina (kitchen) with

azotea (dirty kitchen) ? status symbol of a rica familia (rich family).

Manually operated punkah fan, something prestigious to have in a dining room also

signified something borrowed from the Britons during the 17th Century.

The tour?s highlight was Bahay Chinoy (House of Philippine-born Chinese). Located on

Anda cor. Cabildo Streets in Intramuros, the museum is open Tuesday to Friday from

125 p.m. and Saturday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed every Monday.

Admission fees are R50 for adult and R30 for children/students.

The museum makes a very engaging stop as it chronicles Chinese migration to the

country a couple of centuries ago. The Chinese traders, artisans, and builders made

their way through various trading ports such as Sulu in Mindanao.

Here is where we learned that the lumpia (spring rolls), buchi and siopao originated in

the 17th century. And cooks brought all-time favorite pancit canton (easy to prepare)

here from Canton, China.

A section on the second floor also reveals a lot about the famous gobernadorcillos or

Capitan de Chinos of Manila. Among those listed are Carlos Palanca (Tan Quien-Shien

? 1875-77), Mariano Fernando (Yu Chingco ? 1877-79), Antonio Elizaga (Yap Caong

? 1881-83), Mariano Ocampo (Lao Pengco ? 1885-87), Angel Aldecoa (Lim Ange ?

1888), Federico Gamir (Go Sequi eng ? 1888-89), to name a few.

To find out more about the present popular Chinoys, such as Jaime Cardinal Sin

(Amoy, China), former President Corazon Cojuanco Aquino (Zanghou, Fujian, China),

former Supreme Court Justice Claudio S. Teehankee (Amoy, China) and others, a visit

to the museum is commendable.

Rajah Tour?s four-hour ?Old Manila Tour? will have a regular run on Friday, Saturday

and Sunday.

[ Fort Santiago Wiki ]


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