I was supposed to write this ages (years) ago but for some reason was not able to. Still, I loved this experience with my friends so much and I really want to write something about it. I guess recounting it makes me feel I’m back home…
It wasn’t in the plan. Salve, Sherma and I were supposed to just attend a book launching courtesy of Armine. The thing is we were late and Sherma was the only one who heard part of the program (she heard the part where the author informed her guests that lunch will be served after the program!). But owing to Armine’s clout (she personally knows the author) we met with the author, conveyed our apologies for being late, bought her book and had it signed, had our picture taken with her and ate the free lunch.
Afterwards, since none of us wants to go home yet and malling did not appeal to any of us we decided to go on a belated tour of Old Manila.
Starting with the National Museum…
I am particularly interested in this area of Manila since one of my professors in college once remarked that the original plan of this area was to resemble that of Washington D.C. where major government agencies of America are located. The person who designed the layout was the architect Daniel Burnham – the same person who mapped out the City of Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco and Washington D.C. Incidentally, he was also the architect of the building that currently houses the National Museum. As interesting as it’s history and architecture maybe, the treasures within are also of great value. But since I do not want to go on and on about the artifacts and paintings and wealth of information one can gain here just try and visit it for yourself. The place however does not house the works of great Filipino masters such as Amorsolo, Juan Luna etc. It’s still in the old museum which is quite a disappointment. It would have been great to see the Spolarium once again. sigh…
Luneta… perceived by contemporary Filipinos as a place to be avoided. For some reason it’s just not cool to go there. I however do not agree, the park has so much to offer – great sculptures, at least three gardens (which I wouldn’t have known existed if not for Lakbay channel!) and rich history. The place has witnessed a great number of events marking our history through the ages.
A virtual plethora of sculptures dotted the park but I was particularly drawn to this sculpture. Although it embarrasses me to admit it I forgot the title of this particular piece. When I tried searching the net for any info I was unsuccessful. Apparently there is no inventory of sculptures found in Luneta. The emotions that the piece evokes was what has drawn me to it. Sadly it’s not prominently displayed where more people may be able to admire it.
An Orchidarium that I think would really be spectacular if we came at a time when all the orchids are in full bloom and not raining. There’s a falls there though – called Cascade falls. I’m not sure if it’s man-made or not. Actually we went there in search of good food… and found the restaurant closed!
So off we went to another garden. Who knew that there’s an incredible array of gardens to be found in Luneta. I certainly don’t!
Japanese Garden, as the name suggests, it evokes the same atmosphere as the gardens found in Japan. The same serenity which is incredible owing to its location – smack dab in the middle of Metro Manila. It has a pond with a bridge crossing through it. Its simple lines echoing the Japanese aesthetic.
It even has a gate that usually, in Japan that is, heralds the existence of a temple but in this case it merely serves as an architectural feature which nonetheless adds to the general air of being not in the Philippines but in another land. Hmmmm… the gate does however marks an important site – it marks the area where 13 patriots were executed during the Spanish Period known in history books as the “trese martires.” The engraved words in the marker are as follows:
Trece Martires de Bagumbayan
Here 13 patriots were executed by the Spanish authorities on January 11, 1897. Ten were masons, namely: Numeriano Adriano, Jose Dizon, Domingo Franco, Eustacio Mañalac, Geronimo Cristobal Medina, Ramon Padilla, Antonio Salazar, Moises Salvador, Luis Enciso Villareal, and Faustino Villaruel . Benedicto Nijaga, Braulio Rivera and Francisco L. Roxas died with them. All were patriots.
The 13 paid the highest price possible for the freedom and independence of their country having perished for so great a cause. They deserve to live on in the hearts of their grateful countrymen, to their memory this marker is raised.
The Chinese Garden, on the other hand, exudes a different air all together. Whereas, the Japanese Garden is defined by its tranquil environs, the Chinese Garden is full of motion and energy. Straight off, you’ll see people roaming around the intricate layout of the garden as opposed to the meditating people in the Japanese Garden. The designs both at the gate and the various cottages dotted throughout the garden is both lavish and rich.
After the gardens, we decided to go to “The Walled City of Intramuros,” which is quite near. And what better way to get there than go there on a “calesa.” Our first ever “calesa” ride, an exhilarating one at that. You would also find your kutseros to be polite and extremely knowledgeable of the history attached to the whole area and of various buildings.
“Calesa” is a horse-drawn carriage that has it’s origins during the Spanish Period. “Kutsero” [ku·che·ro], on the other hand, refers to the person who handles the “calesa.”
From the latin words “intra” and “muros” which literally means “within the walls.” Intramuros was build in 1571 and was the old capital of Manila (Maynilad back then) - a city within a city. It’s historical significance for the Philippines cannot be emphasized enough. Who hasn’t read accounts featuring the place from history textbooks. And if you’re like me (which I doubt) you would have wondered what it would feel like to actually be there. Stand there and retrace a prisoner’s footsteps in Fort Santiago.
And end up in the very cell where a national hero – Jose Rizal – was incarcerated for the last time. The very place where he wrote his poem. The very place that witnessed his anguish, fear and acceptance.
Thinking back, it was truly an escape for us. One that did not cost us much but paid us outstanding dividends in terms of satisfaction. All Pinoys, I think should make this journey. It’s one way of looking at our past as a country. Hopefully by looking back we will find something to look forward to in the future (eventhough there is not much to look forward to now. Still, one can always hope). I assure you, you won’t regret it!