The unique location of the Philippines makes it the most storm-exposed country on the earth. Being 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 adapted to these disasters as they live up to deal with 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 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 the foreign intrusions.
The best way to traverse the district is on Calesa which is a horse-driven cart. These carts were the transport means in 18th century and today they keep the tradition alive by providing guided tours.
After negotiating a deal with a driver, we finally hired a nicely decorated Calesa. The starting point of such tours is Manila Cathedral a 15th century Church which is also worth visiting.
The Calesa journey starts…
The 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. The mix of old and modern architecture persuades you to stop over and over and snap some photos. Few places in the district were busy where the dwellers rushed probably back to homes as it was early evening.
Our cart driver was little lazy like his horse and went on in his complete comfort. He was kind to give interesting information on the district and the key attractions we came upon. We stopped at various places to see the remains still preserved to tell the story of the colonial periods. Japanese canons, Spanish trade shops and the 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. This was unusual as the bay was away of the carriage’s route. Yet the driver courteously agreed in exchange of some more bucks.
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 on a cart and people on the road starred at us unbelieving their eyes, I guess.
Sunset at Manila bay.
After few minutes we reached at Manila bay. Only short time was left in the sunset and the climate was getting cold. The drowning sun glowed the clouds red and the bay’s dull water glittered as it were melted gold. The reflection of the sunlight in the water brightened my eyes which I closed for few moments and listened to the singing voice of young Filipinas enchanting that evening. The entire scene was so alluring that I couldn’t take my eyes away until the sun completely vanished.
The Jeepney ride.
As the dark began to fall and we headed back to the 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 the Jeepney as a longer version the Jeep. It is a public vehicle on a fixed route. We boarded a Jeepeny canned with showy decorations. The ride was fun as we sat with around 20 people front-facing each other.
Filipinos are passionate about two things; eating and partying. To be more precise, meat and music. Each time I got in a cab, whether it was airport, hotel or a 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 the music.