Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Inside and Outside the walls of Manila (Binondo and Intramuros Tours)

My travel buddy and I agreed to explore one place around the Metro at least once a month. So for our first stop I gave him the chance to pick our destination. And because he’s in the mood to see and have a taste of different culture, Binondo we went!

My buddy was a little too excited to go Chinese, but I guess a whole day will be too much to spend just around China Town. So to make things more exciting, I included Intramuros to make our trip a great mix of Spanish and Chinese Culture, inside and outside the walls of Manila.

We met in LRT2 Recto Station since it is more accessible for both us, he coming from Rizal and I coming from Cavite. It’s the station where LRT1 from Baclaran and LRT2 from Santolan meets. Then, we walked a little until we saw a jeepney with a Sta. Cruz sign board on it and the driver dropped us just in front of Sta. Cruz church, across the Arch of Goodwill.

 “Welcome to Ongpin!”

 Since I am the one who’s a little familiar with the place but with so little gift in telling left from right, we darted from street to street, walking aimlessly in the middle of the good morning sun. Forgive me for the lack of street names in this entry, even landmarks seemed to blur when you’re just having so much fun being… lost.

Chinese businessmen and traders were already settled in our country even before Magellan set foot on our islands. After the Spaniards discovered the Philippines, they saw how wonderful Maynila was. They then decided to make it the center of their political, military and religious activities and built a wall to protect it. During that time, Chinese were kept outside the walled city or Intramuros, and was forced to settle across the Pasig River in what is now commonly known as Binondo.

Today, everything in Binondo is still so Chinese, so Chinoy. The surroundings are mostly red, as Chinese consider this color lucky. There were a lot of stores for lucky charms,gold and silver rings, and there are lots of Chinese grocery stores along the streets.

One of our aims in our trip is to eat my favorite SIOPAO. Yes, just Siopao and I’ll be more than happy! So we strained our eyes looking for different restaurants that offered Chinese foods, but definitely got no idea where to go. We ended up in David’s Tea House.

As I was looking at the menu, I wonder how those beautifully colored food would taste like, but because I’m not really adventurous when it comes to food so I went for the default - Beef Wanton Noodles, Shrimp Siomai and Siopao Asado. Save the food trip for some other time!

After a satisfying meal, we went on search again. This time, for Hopiang Ube as a pasalubong for my partner’s mom. There were a lot of Eng Bee Tin, the store famous for Hopiang Ube in Binondo but it seems out of sight that day, or was it just me? We asked around where to find Eng Bee Tin and thankfully found our way. We also saw kiamoi, shing a ling, different variety of hopia, ube siopao and what do you call that again? That thing covered in banana leaves? You asked the storekeeper right?! Oh well…

We rode another jeep to Intramuros and immediately noticed how the mood changed from the busy street of Chinese influence to a more laid back and elegant Spanish aura. The wide windows, capiz made window panes, the pillars and street posts – it’s like walking back in time.

The wall in Intramuros itself is more than an attraction, it is a silent witness to many battles won and lost inside Manila. The tanks and watchtower was simply amazing that it gave us little goose bumps imagining how soldiers used those before. It was also a good hang out place for kids and groups of friends, not to mention the…Well.. Lovers.

While we were lying on the brick walls, the rain suddenly poured and everyone started to run for covers! It might have been nice to dance in the rain but we are still looking for Manila Cathedral, the mother of all churches in the Philippines, so it’s time to get going.

The La Pieta inside the church was made from the mold of the original masterpiece of Michelangelo and it was really a sight to behold.

Manila Cathedral and the nearby San Agustin Church is a venue for a lot of weddings and the nearby place is lined with top notch reception halls. There’s Tamayo’s Catering Services to name one. Who won’t dream to say “I do” in that place anyway!

If you want some souvenir, Silahis Arts and Artifacts may be just the place to go. This place is definitely more than Kultura in SM, you can find here all the Filipino crafts and pieces. We bought a modest pair of earrings and bangles 'coz there’s not much time left to see around. The store is open from 10am to 7pm only so were courteously lead outside after the closing time.

Yes, it was closing time. On our way out, we once again recounted the fun experience we had inside and outside the walls of Manila. It’s nice to know your own country really, and feel once again that there is more to be proud of in our motherland. The histories made us love and respect these places more than the picturesque view and awesome food.


  1. I think "That thing covered in banana leaves?" you are referring too is Ma-Chang.=)

  2. Hi Stacy! Yeah, I guess it's Ma-Chang, and it has pork and rice inside right? We asked the seller in Eng Bee Tin but she's quite unsure about it herself. haha. XD

    thanks for the info!


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