In this Philippines travel blog, I share the itinerary that we followed, my opinion and some tips, especially regarding things to see and do in Manila. The visit of the capital is however not unavoidable. If you do not have time to stop there, you will not miss much. The 1 day tour in manila in our case allowed us to avoid the jetlag after a very long journey by plane and bus towards Banaue, without real stopover. So it was nice to blow a day, and discover the particular city of Manila.
We arrived in Manila at 4 am, earlier than expected after a long journey of 23 hours. A person approaches us and offers us an exorbitant rate to reach the district of Makati. We refuse and leave the airport in order to take a taxi and at the exit of the terminal we find other couples. After a brief exchange of views we decided to share the transport, since we were staying in the same area.
Immediately we found a bigger car. In Manila it was raining. It is the typical monsoon rain, with brief but intense showers, and the rest of the time light drops fall. When I get off at my stop, few Filipinos instantly help me out my stuff and offer to help me find my hotel. I answer naively that I have no money, the fatal mistake.
One of them immediately gets back in the vehicle, while the other, probably upset, takes the trouble to explain to me that it is only with good heart that they have presented themselves. I confuse myself in excuse, explains that for the last few months I have not used to be confronted with so much kindness and that I am pleasantly surprised.
We take the 10 minute walk to the hotel together and he personally takes care to dismiss the street vendors and children who run after me to ask me little money. Despite this ambient poverty and the incessant hubbub, I feel good and have a hurry, put my things and go for a walk in this city. After zoning in the Ermita neighborhood, I put my bag in a hostel on Mabini Street.
The soft background sound made me think of a plane engine taking off. After taking leave of my escort-boy and relaxing my backpack, I go for a stroll south of the city. The more I lose myself in the middle of small alleys, more a feeling of well-being surrounds me. Several people approach me, probably intrigued by my presence in places deemed inhospitable by guides, and ask me a lot of questions.
Some children cling to my shorts, still claiming money from me, and then being reprimanded by adults, invite me to play with them. And that's how under 35 degrees I find myself in an unlikely basketball game, but devilishly pleasant. I then take my way and falls by chance on the port of Manila.
It's good, the view is clear and the sun is about to set. I sit comfortably on the pier and enjoy long minutes of the proposed show, interrupted from time to time by some Filipinos wishing to show me the city in a carriage. For the first time I realize the pleasure of traveling alone. Until now, although I had the chance to discover many countries, I had never found myself in an unknown place alone.
The pleasure I find there is different from being multiple, but equivalent. I take more time for myself, follow my immediate desires. Instead of loneliness that I feared, I find myself rather accompanied by another me, more interior, less concerned by the journey. I leave towards the historic city center of Manila, the Intramuros. This district has a true Spanish cultural heritage with a striking resemblance to some Andalusian sites.
Opposite is the San Augustin church. Dating back to the 16th century, it is the oldest church in the Philippines and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I attended Mass on Ash Wednesday because I was (by chance) at the beginning of the celebration. I was absolutely the only outsider in the church, which was full! A little further away is the Manila Cathedral, which was rebuilt in the last century.
We then visit Casa Manila. The inner courtyard is pretty, and the interior is interesting to discover. The entrance is not very expensive, and this visit allows to discover the history of Manila, and in particular in connection with the Spanish colonization. It is a beautiful reproduction that allows to see the style of the bourgeois and colonial houses of that time.
A guide explains the usefulness of each room and tells us the way of life of the occupants at the time. We head towards Rizal Park. Rizal is now considered the national hero. He was a very cultured man, a great traveler, and he allowed Filipinos to gather around a strong identity. Rizal Park contains several buildings in honor of this man.
The park is in a very pleasant setting. We follow the main paths, and reach the Chinese Garden. The decor is well done, and the place is very nice to walk or have a picnic. After a few more minutes of walking, we arrive in Fort Santiago. It was here that the headquarters of the Spanish settlers and then the Americans.
Below is the entrance to Fort Santiago. The place is steeped in history. It was partly destroyed during the World War II. During the Japanese occupation, atrocities were committed, as recalled by a commemorative plaque. We take a quick tour of the museum dedicated to Rizal. We can see the court and the Rizal cell while he was detained.
From Fort Santiago, on the other side of the Pasig River, there is a view of the more popular areas of Manila. I take a Jeepney to join the dike that runs along Manila Bay. I stumble at a small stall, to eat something local. I forgot the name but that was delicious. I walk the cobblestone streets of Intramuros, reveling in their architecture and the colors they bring back to the sun.
I even have the chance by visiting St. Augustine's church to come across a Filipino wedding. The end of the day continues at this quiet pace, only interrupted by some dreams that are formed as and as my discoveries. I put in particular in place of a conquistador of the sixteenth century, setting foot on this island he has long described during his crossing.
I particularly like these magical moments where the environment transports us into a world that can be described as parallel, where we imagine without difficulty in another life, when a feeling of deep freedom transports us. They are so precious to me, and remain among the best memories I will keep.
We go to the Mall of Asia, a huge shopping center in Manila and an ideal place for shopping! There is a very large souvenir shop, and many shops of major fashion brands, high-tech, and others. We are a little disappointed with the prices, and do not buy much. The day passed quickly enough. Back from my walk, I decided to go to meet the Filipino nightlife. I'm not disappointed.
The streets are still as alive as in the day, the city continues to show a bubbling aspect, one that makes me vibrate. I try to understand how the settlers felt when they lived in these different countries at the time with the prevailing dampness, the painful lighting of bars, the unhealthy streets. Everything is brought together to create a strange climate, where debauchery and mysticism mix.
I could stay many hours to observe the behavior of other customers, to appreciate this special atmosphere, but the Filipino reality is very quickly remembering me. I'm in my dreams when a strange noise is heard in the street. It does not take me long to identify this sound, that of bullets. Rather surprised, I start to turn in all directions, already seeing the robbery happen.
But most of the people present remain impassive. The boss looks at me and explains to me not to worry. It is common for members of certain gangs to pass through this neighborhood and shoot in the air to make their presence known. I finish my drink, and after making sure with the boss that there is no risk, I choose to return to the hostel.
We dine at the restaurant located on the top floor, on the terrace, with a panoramic view of the city. The panorama is quite impressive. We see very large buildings, small houses, as well as shanty towns, located next to each other.
We are awakened by incessant horn sounds. I only have to pack my things, then I leave to take the bus in the direction of Banaue, a city located north of the Luzon island. In spite of the incongruous episode of the night before, it is not without a slight wave to the soul that I leave Manila. A city I will definitely come back to.