Easter in the Philippines is a big deal. And from what I could tell, some of the days leading up to Easter are more significant than the Holiday itself. The big mall near our apartment completely shut down for the whole weekend, and, as we discovered, the major cathedrals were packed.
When we decided to visit Intramuros, we weren’t really sure what we were in for. It was something Jake had heard of, and it sounded interesting. When our taxi dropped us off a lot of drivers offered to give us tours in their kalesa, a horse drawn carriage, but we decided to explore on our own.
Intramuros, also known as the walled city, is the oldest district in Manila, and was the Spanish base in early colonial years. It has suffered earthquakes and invasions, and was almost completely destroyed during the Battle of Manila in World War II, but a lot of it has been restored or reconstructed and can be viewed today.
The Manila Cathedral was only one of six churches that were completely destroyed by the Americans and Japanese during the war. It was reconstructed in the 1950’s.
Much of the the wall of the walled city has survived. Some parts date back to 1590. It’s fascinating to see it woven through the hustle and bustle of modern Manila. The walls themselves have been renovated and form a boardwalk that people can explore.
After walking (running in the case of little boys with boundless energy) along the walls we came to one of the bulwarks designed for defense. The boys loved seeing the cannons and running down the ramps.
Not all of the structures have been restored. The Intendencia Ruins, a former government building, has been destroyed several times by earthquake, fire, and war. Now the ruins sit on a busy intersection and offer a chilling and fascinating contrast to the modern city surrounding it.
Of course, after all this exploring we were ready to grab some lunch at a carinderia.
Our last stop was the San Agustin Church, the oldest building in Manila, and the only building inside the walled city to survive the war. The streets surrounding the church were packed with vendors in full festival mode, selling everything from balloons to prayers. We bought the boys bananaque (fried bananas on a stick), and soaked up the chance to see a familiar holiday celebrated by a different culture.
Visiting Intramuros during Easter weekend turned out to be the perfect time to see the old city.