September 14, 2016

Intramuros: The Past & The Curious

     As the great Confucius said "Study the past if you would define the future." And yes, I do agree with him. I've always been fascinated with the past ever since I was young, history was my favorite subject growing up and Philippine history was my favorite of them all. I'm not an expert in all parts of our country's history, but if I can be boastful, I do know more than the average Juan. 

     My love for history was further fueled when I began studying inside the walled city of Intramuros. Every time I entered its walls, it warped me 400 years back, and every time I walked the halls of my college, I often wondered if I've walked the same path as the revolutionary heroes of the Philippines.

     My passion for history couldn't be contained by wondering, so I started wandering. I'd frequently go on solo walks inside the walled city, yes, on my own, usually every Saturday when I only had morning classes and I knew I saved enough money for the week to enter museums inside the walls. There are at least 8 museums inside the walls alone so I'd go to one every week. But there was one main museum that was the star attraction of the walled city, and it was Fort Santiago.

A replica of the Tranvia
     Now I have a lot of relatives in the U.S. of A. And it was so wonderful that they all came home to spend their vacation with us! Oh the wonderful chaos it created at home - The hectic schedule everyone had to commit to, the noise that started during breakfast up until the wee hours of the night with wine, whisky, and beer on our hands. My uncles and aunts and some of my cousins grew up here before moving to the states (except for some of my cousins who were born there)

   And luckily there was one Saturday that everybody was free. So then they wanted to go somewhere, and of course, me being a staunch lover of Manila city, I said "Let's go to Intramuros!" to which everyone agreed to. I hastily prepared an itinerary for them, I started with listing all the attractions and asked if they wanted to see something in particular. My cousins wanted to see San Agustin church because that's where their parents got married (San Agustin Church is a UNESCO world heritage site) and so I eliminated the minor attractions and drew out a final plan.

     So at 7AM (Yes, I scheduled our departure that early because we live 12 kilometers away from Manila [Yes, I count distance, too] and with Manila's dreadful traffic, it can mean at least 90 minutes of travel) we left the house and drove toward my beloved city. It was quite fun that my uncles and aunts still recognized parts of the street, they were all "oh, there used to be..." "hey, that was ______ before!" 

     We arrived an hour later (Thanks to a miraculous smooth traffic) and since it was still a bit early to go to the museum, we stopped by the walls in front of Lyceum University because it was where a few of the walls' Spanish cannons were still on display, though it is exposed to the elements. And after a few minutes of walking around, the sun's heat began claiming the land and it was time to go indoors. And so I took them to Fort Santiago, where they can have a crash course lesson on the life and works of our National Hero Jose P. Rizal.

They say that to capture someone's soul, take a stolen photo, and so I did. Look at their genuine, priceless smiles
     There were a lot of people visiting the fort on that day, good thing the weather became cloudy by the time we got in. So just like what a tourist would do, I told a bit of trivia I knew based from my own research (No, I didn't source Wikipedia, don't worry) but of course a professional tourist guide would be much better than me, but hey, this is my family, so I got you, fam.

At the Tranvia
My cousin Lee enjoying Banana Cue

  I would tell them things I know, but most of the time I just let them read on to the material available there, I didn't speak if I wasn't sure of my history, it's hard to misinform people, it would be a disaster.

     Fort Santiago has improved a lot compared to the first time I went there alone in 2008, I was a college freshman armed with a camera $2 and my I.D. to have a 50% discount. Back then there wasn't much that was going on in the Fort, it was just an old, dying place where it was treated as "some place where history took place...and where Rizal was imprisoned." - That was that, cameras weren't even allowed inside the main museum then. It was hot, dimly lighted, and HOT.

     Since 2008 I made annual visits to Fort Santiago (Even this year! I was just there a few months ago with other relatives from the states, greetings Militante Family!) so make that 8 years straight of visiting one place. And comparing it 8 years before? It's so much beautiful now, the landscaping was improved, there are coffee shops, photography studios and souvenir shops around. The grounds were kept clean and the most important change was the air conditioning. Yes, it's now cold and the reading materials were also improved to my delight!

One of the improvements inside: The Trial of Jose Rizal
Vast improvements for the display cases and reading materials
          I can say that Fort Santiago is really worth the visit now, especially for the young ones because some Pinoy kids today know Naruto and One Punch Man but has no idea who Juan Luna is. I always believe that our grasp in our identities as Filipino rely in our knowledge and understanding of our past. And if my uncles and aunts who are away from home grabs the only chance they get to visit the roots of the blood in their veins, why can't we? Us who are living here, the museums are open. I think it's time that schools stop field trips to malls and head to museums instead.

I got them to follow Rizal's final journey!
     And after 90 minutes inside of the Fort, we then went to San Agustin Church, luckily the church was open at that time because of a wedding. We didn't go inside the church's museum anymore because you'll need about 2 hours to really appreciate the artifacts there.

     After reminiscing the church and wedding bells, I took them to, well you know, of course, a Filipino restaurant, and yes, it's Max's (To Max's Management: That is not free advertisement, please send GCs.) We had the whole crew munching on chicken, beef, pork, noodles, I think we got all from the menu, even the desserts! And sorry if you didn't see pictures of the food, well we were so hungry.

     With tummies filled and energies replenished, we went to one final stop before we head home. Of course, it's a visit to Rizal Park to see the greatest Filipino (Until Today)

Here's the family, and that's the only angle where you won't see DMCI's Torre de Manila
     I'm glad I had a chance to take them there, it is different when it's family, but it is always a different experience when I tour someone around Manila. One thing is for sure, I won't ever get tired showing people my beloved city of Manila.

I found an old post World War 2 Photo of Fort Santiago and combined it with mine. Amazing how I took it at the same angle as the photographer who took it 70 years ago.


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