The unique location of the Philippines makes it the most storm-exposed country on the earth. Being too closer to the fault lines in warm waters of the Pacific ocean, the country receives 10-20 typhoons a year. I could recall a typhoon stroke Manila two weeks after I left the city when visited last time. I confess, this time too I wasn’t unfearful even though I never witnessed the misfortune of normal lives getting brittle. Locals do not panic; they are adopted to such disasters as they live up to dealing a number of typhoons each year.
“The Philippines is a country of islands. Of our 7,107 islands, more than half are still uninhabited”, my hostess whispered me while we were on our way to Intramuros.
Exploring Intramuros the walled city.
As said earlier, it was my second visit to Manila. The sun was still up when we reached Intramuros, a walled city built in heart of Manila during 16th century’s Spanish period. Intramuros means “within walls” and in reality it is surrounded by the walls which were built to protect it from foreign intrusions.
Best way to traverse the district is on Calesa which is a horse-driven cart. These carts were used as transport means in 18th century and today are used for guided tours.
After negotiation a good deal with a cart driver, we finally hired a nicely decorated Calesa. Usual starting point of such tours is Manila Cathedral a 15th century Church which is also worth visiting.
The Calesa journey starts…
Calesa started its journey with a slow pace. We entered into a street next to the church and passed through several inner streets which were wide and paved. As we moved, a continuous row of houses, old palaces and govt. buildings came on both sides of us. These were a mix of old and modern architecture. Few places in the district were busy where the dwellers were rushing probably back to homes as it was still early evening. If you look at the aerial view of district you will see that its streets are in parallel and intersect each other to form a grid which looks like a maze puzzle.
Our cart driver was little lazy like his horse and went on in his complete comfort. Though he was kind to give valuable information on the key attractions. We stopped at various places to see the remains of colonial periods which are still preserved. Japanese canons, Spanish trade shops and especially palace of American General Douglas caught my interest.
After an hour’s ride in Intramuros, we asked Calesa driver if he can drop us at the South harbour of Manila bay to catch the sunset view. The bay was out of the carriage’s route, yet the driver courteously agreed after some bargaining.
Taking Calesa on city’s busy roads.
Riding the Calesa out on busy roads among traffic was a different experience. We were the only ones riding a cart and hence quickly became focal point to many people .
Sunset at Manila bay.
After few minutes we reached at Manila bay. Only little time was left in the sunset and the climate was getting pleasantry cold. Drowning sun was making the clouds to glow red and the dull waters were glittering to gold due to sunlight. The alluring golden reflection was brightening the eyes and the joyful voice of singing young girls and boys was mingling with the enchanting evening. The entire scene was so catchy that I couldn’t take my eyes away until the sun completely vanished.
The Jeepney ride.
Soon the dark began to fall and we had to head back to hotel to catch up our night hangout plan. You can’t do easily with Manila’s public transport as the city lacks a good metro network. Yet we had an interesting option to try the ‘Jeepney’ which is unique to Manila and was new to me.
You can think of it a longer version of jeep which runs on a fixed route and accommodates up to 20 persons.
We boarded a Jeepeny which was canned with showy decorations. The ride was a fun by sitting closer among people front-facing each other. The fun ride lasted for 15 minutes as our final stop arrived soon.
Filipinos are passionate for two things, eating meat and listening music. Each time I traveled in a cab, whether it was airport, hotel or private taxi, the driver was sure to play lively (and loudly) songs. Although the lyrics in Tagalog were not understandable yet the music would always be fabulous.
Karaoke was invented in the Philippines, the fact, which testifies their love for music.