* Manila on P500 a day

Gestart door Kano, zondag 5 september 2010, 03:01:05

Vorige topic - Volgende topic


Manila on P500 a day
Whirlwind jeep tour offers ride back to the past By Tina Arceo-Dumlao

Philippine Daily Inquirer 09/05/2010

MANILA, Philippines–We've all heard them before from tourists and locals alike: Manila is not a beautiful city. There's nothing special to see. You have to travel to the provinces to really experience something worthwhile.

But perhaps the problem is not that the city is lacking in attractions or cultural treasures. It's that we do not bother to look hard enough, or care to do anything more worthwhile than to go to the nearest air-conditioned mall to shop, eat, or relax and watch a movie.

To induce that radical change in perspective, consider investing as little as P500 in a three-hour tour of some of Manila's cultural gems on board a custom built, air-conditioned jeepney, especially designed to give tourists a comfortable ride around the city and a peek into Filipino culture.

First stop of the jeepney tour organized by Hop On Hop Off Travel Inc. is Rizal Park.

Weekends will see busloads of foreign visitors and university students scrambling to take the perfect souvenir photos with the 1913 bronze statue of national hero Jose P. Rizal in the background. As they do so, enterprising vendors try to entice them to buy trinkets like key chains, refrigerator magnets, and wooden toys, or take a short ride on board a kalesa or horse-drawn carriage.

After just a few minutes to take pictures and appreciate some historical facts about Rizal Park–the monument designed by Swiss sculptor Richard Kissling is close to the actual site where he was executed because of trumped-up charges of rebellion; it marks Kilometer Zero from which distances are measured; Rizal Park or Luneta is shaped like a half moon or lunette, hence the name; the monument is guarded round the clock by ceremonial soldiers known as the Knights of Rizal–it was back to the attention-grabbing jeep and on to imposing Fort Santiago.

Located at the tip of the delta near the mouth of the Pasig River, Fort Santiago is just one of the numerous attractions within Intramuros, or the Walled City, where both majestic and gory remnants of the over 300-year Spanish occupation remain.

Open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., it costs adults P75 and P50 for students, children, and teachers to enter Fort Santiago, named after Spain's patron saint St. James, also the patron saint of soldiers and the slayer of the Moors. A wooden relief depicting Santiago Matamoros welcomes visitors entering its gates.

It was here, in what used to be part of the Tagalog settlement of Maynilad, the kingdom of Rajah Sulayman, where Rizal wrote his famous poem "Mi Ultimo Adios" (My Last Farewell) and spent his last night before he was led away to Bagumbayan (Luneta) to be executed by firing squad.

A life-size wax statue of Rizal, as well as memorabilia consisting of his personal effects and wardrobe, are on display at the Rizal Shrine, one of the fort's main attractions.

The shrine also houses some of the hero's household possessions, including the oil lamp which was supposed to be where Rizal put his poem, smuggled out by his sisters the night before his execution.

After being transported back to those days as a student on a study tour of the dark halls of Fort Santiago, where Rizal was imprisoned from November 3 to December 30, 1896, it was on to the San Agustin Church, the oldest stone church in the Philippines and one of the country's prized Unesco heritage sites.

Construction of the Baroque masterpiece started in 1586 under the Augustinian religious order and was finished in 1604. It was severely damaged by earthquakes and the ravages of war, but it still stands proud, more than 400 years after the first stone was laid, just waiting for the interested visitor and churchgoer.

Its major attractions include the Baroque-style pulpit–where priests used to mount to deliver their sermons in the days before the public address system–the molave choir stalls, and the 18th century pipe organ.

The most prominent feature of the building, however, is the church interior painted in the trompe l'oeil style, making the paintings look like relief carvings.

Also of great interest is the San Agustin museum, housing such treasures as centuries-old liturgical vestments, ancient manuscripts, antique statues of saints, rare oil paintings, and ecclesiastical paraphernalia.

Also found in this home of the Augustinian priests are the tombs of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, Manila's founder and the country's first governor general, and world-famous Filipino painter Juan Luna. The ancestors of some of the leading names in Philippine business of Spanish origin, such as Soriano, Roxas, and Zobel, are also buried here.

Through the centuries, the architectural wonder was used as a parish, an office during the preparation of the terms of the American occupation of Manila in 1898, a concentration camp in 1941, and shelter during the bloody Battle of Manila in 1945.
Today, it is considered one of the most popular wedding venues in the country where reservations for certain dates are made a year in advance.

By the time the group emerged from the San Agustin Church, it was noon, marking the end of the short but meaningful tour, one of the packages being pushed in the latest edition of the Philippine Travel Mart organized by the Philippine Tour Operators Association, the largest association of registered inbound and domestic tour operators, together with the Department of Tourism.

Not a bad way to spend a morning.
Daar waar de regenboog eindigt daar zal ik nooit komen totdat ik daar ooit zal zijn