Manila | 10 Things to See and Do at The Walled City of Intramuros

Intramuros is a huge part of my work journey here in Metro Manila. My first job used to be situated in one of the historical buildings inside the walled city, the Palacio del Gobernador. But as I said in one of my previous posts, I haven't explored Intramuros much during my five years stay in the area.

Last March, a colleague from our Myanmar branch visited us here for an official function. It was her first time here in the Philippines and she told us she wants to see Intramuros. So in one of her free days, me and another colleague accompanied her on the tour. From our office in Makati, we rode the MRT and LRT lines and walk our way to Intramuros  where we took a pedicab to our first destination, the San Agustin Church.

San Agustin Church

San Agustin Church was established by Augustinian missionaries during the Spanish era. The present church structure (several churches were built/destroyed before this one) was completed in 1607 and is the oldest stone church in the Philippines. This church was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1993.

San Agustin Church also has a museum where priceless chalices and reliquaries, clergy vestments and other religious artifacts are on display. San Agustin Museum opens at 8:00AM to 6:00PM but closes on lunch break at 12:00PM to 1:00PM. Entrance is free but a donation is expected when you enter the museum.

altar of the San Agustin Church Intramuros
inside the San Agustin Church in Intramuros

Trivia: The ashes of the Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, the first governor general of the Philippines, and other known conquistadores are housed inside the San Agustin Church.

Manila Cathedral

Manila Cathedral, also known as Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, is the first cathedral of the Philippines. Like San Agustin Church, Manila Cathedral had undergone several constructions and reconstructions due to natural and man-made causes. The present-day Manila Cathedral is the eight cathedral built on this site and was consecrated in 1958.

Aside from historical significance of Manila Cathedral, it is also a popular church for wedding ceremonies. Several known personalities  and celebrities including Sharon Cuneta and Gabby Concepcion and Dodot Jaworski and Mikee Conjuanco took their vows in this church.

Manila Cathedral Intramuros
Manila Cathedral

Casa Manila Museum

Casa Manila Museum is a two-storey mansion located in Plaza San Luiz Complex in Intramuros. It is a replica of the old Spanish mansions found in Binondo, Manila. Casa Manila is a fully-furnished mansion that showcases the luxurious lifestyle of the affluent families in the olden days. Furnitures and fixtures inside Casa are all made of finest materials and the rooms are all big and luxurious. But of all the rooms and fixtures inside, there is this one room that will trigger your curiosity - the toilet! It has two toilet bowls companionably close to each other, you can do tête-à-tête while doing your thing. Weird eh haha!

Casa Manila Museum

Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago was built in the late 1500s to serve as fortress of the Spanish conquistadores. But before the Spaniards arrive, it is a native settlement of Raja Sulayman, one of the kings of Manila. After the Spanish regime, Fort Santiago then serves as a headquarter of the US Army to signify the American rule of the Philippines. When World War II erupts, the Japanese seized Fort Santiago and used its prisons and dungeons to imprison, torture and execute hundreds of Filipinos.

Fort Santiago is open daily from 8:00AM to 6:00PM. Entrance is 75 Php.







Rizal Shrine

Rizal Shrine showcases the life of Jose Rizal, Philippines' national hero, before and during his incarceration in Fort Santiago. It contains Rizal's memorabilia and artifacts including his writings. Also on display at the Shrine is a portion of Rizal's bone together with the bullet that struck him during his execution in Luneta.

Rizal Shrine is located inside Fort Santiago. It is open Monday, 1:00PM to 5:00PM and Tuesday-Sunday, 9:00AM to 6:00PM.  Entrance is free.

Jose Rizal Shrine, Fort Santiago, Intramuros
Jose Rizal Shrine

Kalesa Tour

One of the ways to tour around Intramuros and nearby attractions is to do a Kalesa Tour. The kutsero (the man driving the kalesa, a horse-drawn carriage) usually serves as tour guide, too. He'll tell you some bits and pieces of the history of a particular site or building within Intramuros which makes the tour more interesting and informative. The tour costs around 300 to 500 Php for a 30-minute tour. However, please note that if you step down and check out the sites and let the kutsero waiting, the entire tour would take around two (2) hours. There are some opportunist kutseros out there and they will not explain/emphasize that the tour is time-bound and will take more than 30 minutes, actually. So be prepared to haggle for the entire Intramuros tour rather than agree on a time-bound tour as the cost will go as high as 1,200 to 2,000 Php.

Intramuros kalesa
Kalesa

Bambike EcoTour

If you're an active person and knows how to bike, you can take the Intramuros bambike ecotour. Bambike is a bicycle made of bamboo and can be rented for as low as 799 Php up to 1,200 Php for a 90-minute or 150-minute tour. This is a guided tour and has specific route, depending on the bambike package tour you availed. For more details about this ecotour, check out bambike website.

Intramuros bambike
Bambike

Shopping for Pinoy Arts and Crafts

If you're a foreigner or even local tourists fond of buying souvenirs (for yourself or your loved ones), there are several stores selling Filipino arts and crafts -- pouches, wallets, bags, key chains, magnets, hats, shirts, even furnitures and fixtures -- all proudly Philippine-made. The materials used in the items being sold are usually found here in the Philippines, too, like sea shells and abaca thread.

Food Trip

Got a tough tummy? Check out and try some of the famous Pinoy street foods like fishball, tokneneng and kwek kwek; baluts are also available in the streets of Intramuros. But if you're not ready for street foods yet, there are several restaurants  located within the vicinity of the churches, you can check out those that offer Filipino dishes. On our trip, we've tried Restorante Delle Mitre, a restaurant and cafe that offers various cuisines including Filipino foods like sinigang and tinola. Restorante Delle Mitre is located just across San Agustin Church.

restorante delle mitre, grilled tuna belly
grilled tuna belly with mixed veggies
from Restorante delle Mitre


Photography

Photography enthusiast? Don't fret! There's a lot to shoot and photograph in Intramuros, from historical sites to century-old structures, manicured parks, too. You can even do sunset photography here, just climb the Intramuros walls and find a good spot for sunset. If you have the money, you can stay and dine in the Bayleaf Hotel, go to its rooftop and take the best cityscape you can get. You can also join bambike ecotours as sunset photography is one of the packages they offer.

Pasig River
Pasig River

Food Trip | Viewsite Restaurant Tagaytay

Tagaytay has been our in-between stop whenever going home to Batangas. Traveling home is longer via this route especially considering the traffic and distance but it has lots of dining places to choose from so I normally urged BFF to use this route. In one of these trips home, I noticed Viewsite billboard and decided to try the restaurant for a new experience.

Viewsite Restaurant Tagaytay

Viewsite Restaurant used to be located along Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway facing the Taal Lake and Volcano, hence, its name. Now, they are located on the other side of the highway with no view at all. ;) I haven't been to this restaurant before so I don't know how it looks like back then but I suppose their transfer is for the better, considering the open area parking that can accommodate a number of vehicles and the spacious dining area in the new location.

spacious dining area with high ceiling, good for events

Coming in, you'll be greeted by an all-smile staff that will help you get a seat. The place is quite huge with lots of tables so we got seated at once and placed our orders immediately. For our lunch, we ordered bulalo, crispy tawilis, sizzling squid and kinilaw na tanigue; melon juice for our drink. We were served with our food 15 minutes later, the usual waiting time in restaurants.

grilled stuffed squid: tender and tasty but pricey (300++ Php, if i remembered it right) for its size

kinilaw na tanigue (350 Php): small portion, not enough even for the nephew
crispy tawilis (200 Php): very crispy, you can eat the whole fish


bulalo (550 Php): tender meat, lots of veggies with flavorful soup

We were all hungry but I still managed to get some photos before we dig in. I tried their bulalo first because of the soup and I would say, good but not extraordinary. I now prefer Josephine's bulalo ever since I tried it. I used to like Rose and Grace's bulalo but had a change of heart since I've tasted Josepehine's. Overall, the foods were okay and the experience was good except for a not so clean restroom. We spent almost 2000 Php here including drinks, quite pricey for a 3-person meal on a budget. :P
 

Pros:
  • Ample parking area
  • Road trip-friendly (along the highway) 
  • Spacious (good for large events) and clean dining area with high ceiling
  • All-smile accommodating service staff

Cons:
  • Credit card not accepted (heard from a customer inquiry)
  • Comfort room is not clean with wet dirty flooring :(
  • Small serving given its price

Viewsite Restaurant
Tagytay-Nasugbu Road, Tagaytay City 
(right side along the highway going to Nasugbu)
Date of Visit: May 2018
    Viewsite Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    Quezon | Pahiyas: A Thanksgiving Festival (Schedule of Activities, How to Get There, Etc.)

    Pahiyas Festival - Lucban, Quezon
    in photo above is "kiping"  (leaf-shape rice wafer), a Pahiyas trademark decor

    Festival, more commonly known as "fiesta", is one of the most celebrated events in the Philippines. It is part and parcel of the Filipino culture and is usually done so in honor of the locality's patron saint. One of these popularly known festivals is the Lucban San Isidro Pahiyas Festival in Quezon Province.

    Pahiyas Festival is celebrated every 15th of May in honor of San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers, as a thanksgiving tradition for a bountiful harvest. Pahiyas, a term derived from the local vernacular "payas", means "decoration or to decorate" [source].  Pahiyas Festival features houses adorned with various farm produce and the famous kiping, a colorful leaf-shaped wafers made of rice dough, arranged into various shapes and decors like flowers and chandeliers.

    I got the chance to witness this well-known festival in 2015. Yep, the travel was three years ago! I went there all by myself; left Manila at around 6AM, got stuck in traffic somewhere in Sariaya (I think?!? hehe), and arrived in Lucban at around 2PM; that's how long my travel time had been.


    I was still able to witness the parade, though; even had the chance to roam around town first, eat street foods - habhab, Lucban longganisa, sweetened squash (I forgot how they call it). For a solo wanderer still feeling dizzy from the long travel time, the town seems too big to roam around. But after some more walking and and lots of asking around, I finally get to the streets where the colorfully and artfully designed houses are located. It really is a feast for the eyes, the townsfolk passion and creativity is admirable. I just hope they continue this tradition though, as I read somewhere that the making of kiping, a known Pahiyas trademark, is becoming a dying tradition; the younger generations of Lucbanin becoming more interested in technology and social media than preserving the Lucban and Pahiyas traditions.



    Pahiyas Festival 2018: Schedule of Activities

    I couldn't get hold of a detailed schedule of activities and events for this year but the following are the usual activities held during the festival:

    • Holy Mass at the San Isidro Labrador Church as well as the procession of the patron saint
    • Grand Parade featuring beautiful faces in custom-made gowns and suits usually made of local and/or indigenous materials, decorated floats, marching bands and street dancers
    • Selection and awarding of the best Pahiyas Festival House Design and Decor
    • Fireworks and performances at night

    How to Get to Lucban for the Pahiyas Festival

    Via Public Transport: I've read from other blogs that you can get to Lucban either via Sta. Cruz, Laguna or via Lucena. I don't know which is the better route but in my case, I chose Lucena. Several buses ply this route, with terminals in Cubao, Buendia-Taft or Pasay-Edsa so choose the one nearest you. From Lucena (SM terminal), you can then get to Lucban via a jeepney. Usual travel time is around four (4) hours but if you're traveling on the day of the festival itself, it will take around six (6) to eight (8) hours due to heavy traffic (I witnessed another town from Quezon celebrating its town fiesta on the same date).

    Via Private Car:  If you're driving, you probably can take the same route as above or you may let google guide your way to Lucban. However, as I've mentioned above, there's heavy traffic on the day of the festival so I'd suggest you take Batangas route. From Manila, drive through SLEX and Star Tollway, exit at Lipa going to Ibaan, Rosario, San Juan (all in Batangas) all the way to Sariaya, Tayabas and then Lucban. I don't know if this is shorter but it's probably more convenient as I'm assuming there's less traffic in this route. We used this route actually, on our road trip to Kamay ni Hesus Shrine.

    Other Places to Visit In Or Near Lucban



    Kamay ni Hesus Shrine

    Pahiyas Festival can be done DIY-style and on a day tour (just like what I did). But if you're with friends, it might be better to stay overnight, watch the continuation of the festivities at night and explore other places in or near Lucban, Quezon. One of the places you can check out is Kamay ni Hesus Shrine (you'll pass by the Shrine on your way to the festival). You can also do some food trip at Kamayan sa Palaisdaan in Tayabas, just a few minutes away from Kamay ni Hesus Shrine. Kamayan sa Palaisdaan also has a resort where you can stay for the night, if you haven't yet decided on a place to stay.


    floating nipa hut at Kamayan sa Palaisdaan

    ~ oo00oo ~

    Happy Sunday everyone! God bless!

    ~ oo00oo ~

    Pahiyas Festival
    Lucban, Quezon
    Date of Visit: May 15, 2015
    Expenses Incurred: around 800 Php,
    including foods and transportation

    Pangasinan | Bolinao DIY Tour: Patar Beach Resort/Bolinao Rock Formations

    Patar Beach - Bolinao, Pangasinan

    It's past summer time and this post is long overdue but nonetheless, here it is - a continuation and the last part of our day tour in Bolinao.

    Bolinao is a popular summer destination up north and prided itself with its pristine beaches. Beach resorts abound in this town; many are pricey but there are some public resorts, too. One of these public resorts is Patar Beach.


    Patar beach is situated on the west coast facing the West Philippine Sea. It boasts of a long stretch of  creamy white fine sand and expansive beach front. It is a public beach with no entrance fee so expect to see a lot of crowds here, especially during summer. By the way, since Patar Beach faces an open sea, the beach looks kind of rough even during summer. I find it not safe for young children, probably even for non-swimmer adults, so make sure you watch out for your kids/each other at all times.

    Sand's kind of beige but really fine, you can walk around barefoot.
    Play, get drunk, chit-chat with your family and friends - some of the things you can do in Patar Beach



    my newphews, with the crowd!
    I'm somehow  afraid for my nephews' safety but I let them enjoy the waves and the sand for a few minutes, of course,
    with my older nephew holding both the kiddos at all times and me kind of nagging him to never let go of them even for a few seconds
    the not so friendly waves of Patar Beach :P
    play volleyball, if you're tired of swimming

    Bolinao Rock Formations in Photos

    Our tricycle tour guide brought us in this resort, with 'rock formations' something in its name. Is this the real thing? Am not sure, all I remember is that I paid 50 Php per person as entrance fee here, including the kiddos. No kids discounts! A rip-off, I must say. I saw almost the same formations in the far stretch of Patar Beach.  Anyway, didn't take much photos in here, can't look/walk around because of the little kiddos.

    my travel buddies!
    lolong!
    lion king!

    How to get to Bolinao/Patar Beach

    • From Pasay/Cubao: Go to Five Star Bus Liner terminal in Malibay (Pasay) or Victory Liner (Cubao-EDSA) and take Bolinao-bound bus; get off at Bolinao bus terminal; fare is around 500 Php for aircon buses, one way; travel time is around 6-7 hours.
    • In Bolinao, take a tricycle going to Patar Beach, fare is around 150 Php, one way. 

    • In our case however,  we get off at Church of Saint James since we came from Bani (via a jeepney). On the side street across the church are tricycles offering Bolinao tour; cost is 600 Php, round trip; tour takes around 3-4 hours, depending on how long you stay in each of the tour destinations.

    ~ oo00oo ~

    Patar Beach is part of a DIY tour my nephews and I made last 2015, while on vacation at my mother's hometown Bani. Just like my Ilocos Norte adventure, it was also via a tricycle. Bolinao DIY tricycle tour costs 600 Php covering four of Bolinao's tourist destinations - Bolinao Lighthouse, Enchanted Cave, Rock Formations and this beach.

    Patar Beach
    Patar, Bolinao, Pangasinan
    Entrance Fee: None
    Shower Fee: 10 Php
    Date of Visit: May 3, 2015

    IF Journey | Wandering New Track: My First Step Towards Financial Freedom

    "A big part of financial freedom is having your heart and mind free from worry about the what-ifs of life" ~Suze Orman
    Life's journey is full of twist and turns. There's no such thing as straight line to happiness and/or success. At times, it seems so twisted it looks like we'll never make it. But this doesn't mean we should quit. Oh, WE MUST NOT!

    credit to the owner

    For around three quarters of my life, I've been working. It's been so long that nowadays, I feel like quitting. Sadly, I can't. Not yet! I still need this 8-hour day job to go on living. But don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I'm merely stating facts. And this post isn't about work anyway, this is all about the new track I'm taking, the road to financial freedom. :)

    Last year, we got a new boss in the office who introduced us to stock investing. (Oh by the way, we're an IT company; it's just that this new boss is into stock investing and told us about it.) I got so curious that since then, I started reading a lot about stocks and investments. After reading a lot and finding out that it should be the money working for me instead of me working for the money, I tried applying and opening an account with COL Financial, a registered online broker. Last February, I downloaded COL's registration forms and diligently filled-up everything. Because I have no time personally submitting the forms, I sent it via courier. Yey! I've done the first step, I'm on my way to financial freedom. Or so I thought!

    Unfortunately, after waiting for more than a week, I got a reply (via email) from of one of their customer relations officer informing me that I've submitted incomplete documents. She's asking me to fill up the forms again without telling me what's missing. I got disappointed that instead of going through all their forms again, I went to BDO the following weekend and open an account with them. After getting my ATM card and registering for an online account, I applied for BDO Nomura (also an online broker affiliated with BDO) account via BDO Nomura website. No forms, no couriers, all online! After two days, I got an email telling me that my application is approved. I waited for another day or two and got another email, this time from PSE Tradex giving me my temporary trading PIN. I then logged in to my Nomura account, nominate a permanent trading PIN, fund my account and started trading and investing. That easy! No sweat, isn't it? Yes, first step done!

    I'm into stocks trading and investment for a month now. I gained some, lose some. I'm still learning the ropes, the ins and outs of stock market but I know in time, I'll get the financial freedom I'm dreaming of, little by little, one step at a time. I know there will be lots of twists and turns but I also know that if I work hard for it, I'll be rewarded, if not soon, then later. When that time comes, I'll be making money work for me and not the other way around. What about you? Are you heading your way towards that financial freedom?

    ~ oo00oo ~

    For those interested in opening an online trading account with Nomura, check out this link: 5-minute 5-step to opening BDO Nomura account. For more info and review of other online brokers, check this out: A Review of Online Stockbrokers (COL, First MetroSec, BDO Nomura, Philstocks, MakeTrade and BPI Trade) in the Philippines. If you still have more questions, I'd be happy to answer them and help you go through it, just post your queries below. I can only help you with opening and setting up a BDO Nomura account though, I ain't no stock guru. I, myself, is a noob! :) 

    PS: This is a story of my personal experiences, this isn't a sponsored post.

    Happy Sunday everyone, God bless!

    ShareThisWidget