Walking at Steamy Manila Noon

Manila: Past and Rough

Its been a while since I last walked the old Manila. Somehow, I have this fascination over urban exploration, despite that I prefer living in the suburbs or even at the provinces. I am provoked for some adventure without going far or bleeding my wallet to death. Good thing though, my friend Gibb from Cebú was here. The tour wasn’t planned nor choreographed. We just like to see Manila in its real heartbeat. So off we walked from San Agustin Church in Intramuros to Quiapo Church which is in-of course Quiapo!

We had our lunch at this new restaurant in front of the San Agustin Church called Ristorante de Mistre. Had my pasta and his was the good ol’ Filipino tapsilog. We almost forgot that we are to go to USTe (University of Santo Tomas) to view the Ilumina Pandit exhibit in Benavidez Library. Yet since time is not of the essence that day, we decided to walk all the way to Quiapo-where jeepneys bound for España and USTe are billeted.

Plaza Roma, Manila Cathedral and Ayuntamiento

Basilica Minore de Imaculada Concepción - Manila Cathedral

Plaza Roma

All right. This area has been the old “center of power” of the Spaniards over the Philippine Islands. True, because the seat of the governor-general, the archbishop and the city mayor of Manila is just located beside the town plaza of Manila. As usual, Rey Carlos IV still is blessed with water gushing out of his spouts in his lofty spot in the plaza, the calesas still bring tourists and Palacio del Gobernador seems to be peaceful-despite the approaching barangay elections!

Escudo Real de Gobernador General - Palacio del Gobernador

Manila Cathedral on the other hand became the setting of  a flash protest of well-known tour guide, heritage and reproductive health advocate Carlos Celdran just a few weeks ago, after making a flash mob in a mass with the placard written with the word “Damaso!” (Damaso refers to thecontravida of Noli Me Tangere-a priest characterized with hypocrisy by Rizal) as a protest against the Catholic Church’s resistance to the RH Bill.


On the other hand, earthworks and machinery is on the Ayuntamiento-or old city hall of Manila during the Spanish colonial era. Finally, it is being restored into its full beauty after the Yankees have destroyed most of Intramuros during the “Liberation” in 1945 World War II. It will be the house of the Philippine Bureau of Treasury and as according to the rendering, it will follow the original architecture of the 19th century city hall of Manila! Perfect! At least it deserves to be resurrected from the ruble-err, parking lot. It is expected to be finished sometime next year or by 2012. I hope the results would be great-and not a “cheap copycat.”

Ayuntamiento Under Construction

Ayuntamiento Under Construction - Rendering

Intendencia and Plaza Mexico

Intendencia Ruins

Intendencia Ruins

Walking along Soriano Boulevard with overcast sky in the middle of the day was leisurely. The Intendencia ruin is where the old Philippine Central Bank was. It was originally made as a Customs House since most of port activities back then were located at the banks of Pasig River. It became the Central Bank sometime in the American era—that’s the inset photo on the 100 peso-bill. Then later, it became COMELEC before it was burned. There were efforts to renovate the Intendencia as the site for the National Archives. However, like any other government project—lack of *ehem* funds. Now, it stands like the Acropolis—although neglected.

Escudo Nacional de Estados Unidos Mexicanos | Plaza Mexico

Of course, with the upcoming redevelopment of Maestranza, I hope Plaza Mexico and the Intendencia follow suit.

Walking along the banks of Pasig to Puente España and Escolta

Panorama of Manila and Pasig River from Jones Bridge | Click photo to view hi-res

After taking a breather in the shades of Plaza Mexico, we head towards Escolta through Muelle del Rio towards Jones Bridge. Crossing that bridge is as almost as synonymous as Rizal’s “El Fili’s” chapter on crossing peoples in Puente España. Jones Bridge (formerly Puente España) was the main link between the commercial northern bank districts of Manila towards the walled city of Intramuros. A lot of old people loves this bridge as it was similar to those bridges in Paris back then in Spanish colonial and most especially during American colonial era.

Viewing Lawton from Jones Bridge

Too bad, the war has destroyed its beauty—and damn, they restored it as if it is just one ordinary bridge without any historic or artistic value!

Traffic at Manila's Chinatown District from Jones Bridge

Tell that to the crappy street lights that line up Jones Bridge today!

But anyway, at least we got to have a great view of Manila and the river that runs through it.

Escolta to Hidalgo

Ganito ang Escolta noon...

The heydays of old Manila was here…Escolta. Too bad, businessmen left it for good when Makati was developed and made the “Queen of Capitalist Philippines.” Only a few heritage buildings and some small shops were left from the once busy artery of commerce of Manila.

...Paano kaya ngayon?

And the nostalgia got stronger when we saw a photo of the old Escolta—probably during 1960s or 1970s, when it was indeed much alive.

By the way, that estero near Santa Cruz Church stinks a lot! Too bad, that area with its surrounding heritage buildings are one of the most photographed in advertising.

To Santa Cruz District

Then to Plaza Goiti where the firemen clean up the area with their fire hoses—wow! What a way to clean up the mess!

This is how they clean up Plaza Goiti

Just past Plaza Goiti is the Avenida Rizal—it is another one of the prime commercial areas of the old days. Look for old photos of Avenida when Manila LRT hasn’t existing yet—and you’ll be surprised! The now dark avenue was once a sunny and bright avenida! Truly, light and environment affected her so much.


We then passed by the crowded Carriedo. To our surprise, there were a lot of foreigners in the middle of the human sea. Street market day in Carriedo I guess, since virtually the street has become one big marketplace of anything—from DVDs to salt!

Hidalgo was our next destination. It is known as “photographer’s heaven” since affordable cameras and accessories are sold here.

Anyway, we just made a brief stop at one of the first SMs in the country—SM Quiapo.

Afterwards, off to Plaza Miranda via Palanca Street. Hidalgo is unbearable! At least we get to pass by Quinta Market.

We turned left at Villalobos Street towards Plaza Miranda. The street is lined up with fresh produce—from veggies to dried fish! Simply the whole Quiapo that day was one big marketplace!

Finally, we reached the historic Plaza Miranda and the Basilica Minore del Nazareno—or Quiapo Church.

Quiapo Church

Manila is one adventure really. Just by simple walking, a lot can be experienced. There is this bliss and agony—there’s a story in every nook and corner. And just simply that malls are the in-thingies these days, urban outdoors has become one place to get out of the comfort zone and dare to explore more. Manila is not just malls—try to look beyond it!

Quiapo Church and Plaza Miranda

More photos here:

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2 comments to Walking at Steamy Manila Noon

  • Tim in Honolulul

    Awesome photos! The colors and chaos of Quiapo (as I remember) are captured in your images here-so reminiscent of the Hot Dog’s song back in the Martial Law days-hinahanap-hanap kita Manila, and ingay mong kay sarap sa tenga…!

  • The best music on your iPod while walking at Manila would be those old OPM/Manila Sound songs.

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