Entrance to the old Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila, Luzon, Philippines, Southeast Asia, Asia
Michael Runkel/© Michael Runkel
One of Intramuros’s main tourist attractions, Fort Santiago and its beautifully landscaped grounds on the bank of the Pasig River make for a wonderful escape from the bustle of the big city. Originally built by the Spanish in 1590, the citadel today includes gardens, plazas, fountains and a lily pond. The Rizal Shrine museum features displays of memorabilia relating to national hero Dr. José Rizal, executed by the Spanish in 1896 for being one of the leaders of the Philippine Revolution. The fort includes a re-creation of his cell and the courtroom where his trial was held.
Reprieve From Metro Manila
Manila, like many other large Asian cities is taxing on the nervous system. It can be brutally hot and humid, it is extremely polluted, and the traffic is some of the worst I have ever experienced (I would compare it to that of Bangalore, India). The humungous shopping malls can offer some escape from the traffic and the madness, but even the malls are usually crowded! But there is a place for reprieve and you can find it in Intramuros. Intramuros is the oldest district and historic core of Manila, so there is a lot of history here. The walled city is the only district of Manila where old Spanish-era influences are still plentiful. There is Fort Santiago and Rizal Shrine which are definitely sites worth touring. José Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero, was imprisoned here before his execution in 1896. There are wide open spaces and when you are on the grounds of Fort Santiago the hustle and bustle of Manila seams to disappear.
Riding the Kalesa
The Kalesa is a horse drawn cariage used in the Philippines. This was introduced to us by the Spaniards during their conquest of the Philippines in the 18th century and is known to be used by high ranking personalities. It has since then been converted into regular public transportation for the locals. I used to love to ride on these kalesa’s when I was a kid. They are not widely available throughout Manila though, so we only get to ride them in Manila’s Chinatown, where this is still used as regular transport up to this day. These days, you’ll also find them in some tourist areas like Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Luneta Park.