Intramuros

Classes were suspended on Wednesday in commemoration of the birth of Andres Bonifacio, leader of the (to some, unfinished) Philippine Revolution.

Where better to spend it than Intramuros (more popularly associated with the reformist Rizal), right? I’m such a historical dick.

The imposing clock tower of the Manila City Hall—and the ugly gray of SM Manila in the background.

Bunch of cannons.

Manong Guard getting his daily tabloid news fix. They still use the guard tower thingies as guardhouses.

Calesa convoy. If I remember correctly, a ride on one of these (including a guided tour) cost me and my family around P2,000 last year.

Just behind the outer walls, garbage.

Imagine the guardia civil and their lovers HHWW-ing along these walkways.

Fartsy strikes a pose. (That’s the Lyceum of the Philippines University tower in the background.)

Those are dormitories! Right within Intramuros! How charming. “Parang wala sa Pilipinas,” commented Katz.

Chilling.

If you look closely, you’ll see that street signs in Intramuros were placed on the walls of buildings and not on freestanding posts.

Chinese-language newspapers still enjoy wide circulation in the Philippines. Even the owners of the big hardware stores in my hometown read them at their desks, next to their abacuses. Copies of the previous day’s issue are used to wrap small purchases like nails and screws.

Not all of Intramuros is colonially quaint. Some alleys, such as this, are simply unremarkable.

And then there’s the vulgar (or the stark raving mad, we can’t be sure). “Putol ari ang sinomang umihi,” announces the poster. That’s Filipino for “Try to piss on this GI sheet wall and I’ll hack your penis off.” Right next to the sign is a poster announcing the activities for a Marian celebration of some sort.

Sige pa, aso! Umihi ka pa!” If you aren’t intimidated by threats of genital mutilation, then maybe name-calling will tame you.

I was surprised to find that there are neighborhoods like this one even within the walls of old Manila. I’ll bet you none of the tours pass through this part of town.

Katz was aghast at the sight, which surprised me because she grew up in the Metro. “If the squatters leave then Intramuros will look really pretty,” she quipped.

Yeah, but this way it stays faithful to the truth.

After quite some walking, we found ourselves on cobblestone streets instead of paved roads. How romantic.

Katz thought we should look for urban art.

Punks doing ollies and grinds in the soft light of dusk in what used to be the center of power of the colonized Islands. I hope the irony isn’t lost on them, because it’s really nice.

Ancient artifacts! One of the few remnants of the pre-bilog na hugis itlog (egg-shaped circle) era of Philippine history.

Me pointing out to Katz that over yonder is reclaimed land.

Katz got tired of walking. Actually she wasn’t particularly excited about the idea of taking a walk in Intramuros for Bonifacio Day. (“Pupunta pa ba tayo? Tinatamad ako, hehe,” said she when we met up at SM Manila). But I think she could tell that I really wanted to go, so she very politely agreed to stick to the original plan.

We’d been partly ambling around, partly trying to get to Fort Santiago with a little help from Google Maps. But when we got to the ballot boxes, we decided to go up the nearby wall and check out the view. A few minutes later I started back down the steps and asked her, “Aren’t we going to see Fort Santiago?”

Anong gagawin dun?” she asked, which was my cue to raise the white flag, so I said okay. We headed for the gate through which we had entered, on the side of the district facing the City Hall. The sun had begun to set by then.

Soon after we decided to head back it started to rain—a drizzle at first, then a quick but frantic downpour of enormous raindrops, until everything receded and a cool post-precipitation breeze swept in. Katz and I had to walk through puddles of water on cobblestone streets, amidst the voices of children and the chatter of people in a neighborhood just awoken from the hour of siesta, with light that was growing weaker and shadows that were growing longer.

It could have been any point in the history of the Walled City, and I would not have been any less happy.

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