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Heritage walk of Manila
Source: Inquirer
Author: Augusto Villalon
Date: 2002-03-10
WE ARE so attuned to the subtle nuances of tropical seasons that as soon the rains dry out and we pick up the first cool breeze of October, we instantly go into Christmas mode. When February winds blow Christmas weather away, the mode reluctantly slides into summer.

Summer in the city is far from the languid, tropical summers that are associated with seaside cities. Having forgotten that it is a seaside city, Manila has shut out the breezes from the sea, replaced the green from its open spaces with concrete, and choked its shade trees along avenues and streets to death. Summer in the city is a killer.

Summer scorches, bathes city folk in pools of perspiration, makes them think of taking refuge in beaches, in the mountains, or, for those who can, in provincial home towns where there is less asphalt, where nature cools the earth and clean air makes breathing less labored. Summer is a time to think escape, but the city holds most of us captive. The easiest way out of city heat is behind the doors of any of the air-conditioned malls.

It is not the Sahara Desert outside of the malls. Forbidding as Manila may be, it holds many secrets. These are the forgotten places that make life in Manila interesting, and give meaning to life in Manila. Beat the summer heat by joining a Heritage Conservation Society walking tour.

So what to do this summer in Manila?

One thing to do is to walk the city with the Heritage Conservation Society tours. The HCS tour series has invited experts and scholars to lead walks through the San Beda Chapel, the Art Deco Far Eastern University campus, University of Santo Tomas campus, and the Luneta. Provincial tours have been organized to Malolos and San Miguel de Mayumo in Bulacan. Three tours are offered for the summer.

Climb the walls!! The HCS walking tour of the Intramuros walls takes off from the front of the Manila Cathedral on Plaza de Roma. Intramuros comes to life as you walk the streets while hearing the story of Intramuros, becoming familiar with its landmarks (existing and vanished), and taking a close look at the baluartes, ravelines, and bastiones that are part of its massive fortifications.

The HCS takes a "Beaux Peep" at today’s Escolta, once the power street of Manila’s financial and business center. Relive the "Peace-time" days of Quezon’s 1930’s Manila and see some of Asia’s finest examples of Beaux-Arts and Art Deco architecture that have managed to survive the wrecking ball. Visit two buildings by the renowned architect Andres Luna de San Pedro (the only son of painter Juan Luna), the First United Building (formerly Perez-Samanillo) and the Regina Building. See what the street has become today and be aware of the cultural (and economic) significance of the Escolta. Take a look at the boarded-up but still elegant El Hogar Filipino by the Pasig River.

The HCS lives "a Vida Locsin,"walking through the National Artist for Architecture’s tour de force, the Cultural Center Complex. This is a step back into the heady days of the New Society, when the young wore elephant bell bottoms, the over-the-top Miss Universe pageant was, and the rigors of Martial Law were smothering the nation.

The CCP complex is vintage Leandro Locsin: CCP itself, the Folk Arts Theater, the Design Center Philippines, the Philippine International Convention Center, and the Westin Philippine Plaza, possibly the largest collection of Locsin buildings in the country. Learn (or be reminded of) the grandiose Imelda Marcos vision for the CCP complex as the unifying focal point of her scheme to unite Filipinos through the pursuit of a national aesthetic (a vision still appropriate for our continued fragmented cultural image of ourselves as Filipinos). Learn how Locsin distilled the forms of Filipino vernacular architecture into the modernist vocabulary.

Tour schedule:

HCS Tour of the Intramuros Walls: (Saturdays) March, April 20, May 18; tour starts from the entrance of the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros at 3:45 PM.

HCS Architectural Walking Tour of the Escolta: (Sundays) March 3, April 14, May 12; tour starts from the Carriedo Fountain in front of Santa Cruz Church at 3:45 PM.

HCS Architectural Walking Tour of the CCP Complex: (Saturdays) March 23, April 27, May 25; tour starts from the Main Entrance of the Cultural Center of the Philippines at 3:45 PM.

Fees: P200 for bona-fide HCS Members; P400 for guests and non-members; P50 for HCS Student Members; P100 for students who are not members (present a valid ID)

Time: All tours start at 3:45 PM (please check location of meeting points) and run for approximately 2 hours.

Bookings and information: Bookings are essential. Call the HCS Secretariat at 522 2497, 521 2239, or text 0917 830 0293.

Wear light clothing, bring hats or umbrellas, and most importantly, wear sensible walking shoes.

Provincial tour schedule is being planned for the summer season, so call the HCS Secretariat for information.

This is the first of a series of articles that hopes to get people out of the malls for at least an afternoon to experience the special places that set Manila apart from other cities in the world. There is still a lot of forgotten heritage that remains unappreciated beneath Manila’s forbidding surface. Much of that urban character is vanishing at a fast rate.

Getting Manileños to rediscover their city will hopefully get them to appreciate it more, and most importantly, develop a missing pride of place that will lead to their more active participation in improving the quality of life in our harried city.

It may make Manileños believe that there still is hope for their city.

[ Folk Arts Theater Wiki | Manila Cathedral Wiki | Cultural Center of the Philippines Wiki ]

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