Tag Archives: Intramuros

Casa Manila: A Guide to Gracious Living

At the Balcony Gates of Casa Manila

Our guided calesa  tour took us through the well-planned streets and stops in Intramuros. There were many interesting stops but none had more appeal to me than the Casa Manila Museum of the Plaza San Luis Complex, close to the San Agustin church. Casa Manila  is a reconstructed house now showcasing the lifestyle of upper-class members of society during the Spanish Era.

For the affluent few in colonial Philippines, gracious living featured a lot of perks. It was only too bad I couldn’t take shots of the interesting pieces inside Casa Manila Museum but I was very happy to note some quirky facts:

  • In place of the modern day’s electric fan, punkah, which was a large, manual, overhead fan made of textile, had to be imported from India and installed in dining areas. Since electricity was yet to be harnessed for public consumption at the time,  one could make it swing overhead by pulling a cord–serving to cool guests in the hot weather and to shoo flies away.
  • Ice-cold beverages served to guests marked a well-to-do household since in those times since ice cubes actually had to be shipped from the USA. Only rich families could afford to buy them or keep them in an ice chest that had to regularly be fed with salt to keep the ice from melting rapidly.
  • An old school kasilyas or toilet, would be separate from the banyo or the shower room. In the Spanish era, these rooms came with wooden chairs that seated 2 people while doing number 2. The kasilyas not only served as a place to relieve oneself: chit-chats accompanied the time spent inside. As a matter of fact, board games (such as dama) were also brought along for recreation.
  • A bachelor uncle had their very own sleeping quarters at their disposal whenever they came to visit. This room is not a “guest room” as we would presently consider it to be. They were specifically for the use of the “bachelor uncle”.

There were many other interesting facts recounted by the keepers of the museum, but the rest of them escape me now. I can only imagine how ladies in Maria Claras elegantly walked through the halls and how the dashing gentlemen rode their horses through the grounds of the Casa to call on the Master of the house.

This journey back in time will only cost you Php75.00 which you’ll have to pay upon entrance.


Intramuros: Behind the Walls of Old Manila

Clockwise from top right: our calesa driver taking us along one of the calles, The Manila Cathedral, One of the weapons used during the Japanese occupation, Baluarte de San Diego Gardens, our tourguide’s calesa

The historic “walled city” (direct latin translation of Intramuros) is not only an interesting but also, a meaningful way to spend one’s day in Manila. Afterall, Intramuros was Manila in the days of old, founded in 1571–the stronghold of the Spanish Colonial government. As soon as you step into one of Intramuros’ puertas, you could almost hear it’s walls and cobbled streets echo the stories of the Spanish Era and the American Occupation. The structures and old institutions inside Intramuros, also tell of the ravage and destruction that World War II brought about when the Japanese used the fortress as their garrison.

Plaza San Luis Complex right next to the San Agustin Church.

Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica

Also known as Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. It was closed for renovation as of press time.

Although the walls have mostly been restored from the damage done during WWII, Intramuros still holds that certain wordless charm–the feeling of being transported back in time. Churches such as the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Manila Cathedral), San Agustín Church and schools such as the University of Santo Tomas and Colegio de San Juan de Letrán are part and parcel of the most significant heritage that the Spaniards have left us with: Catholicism.

San Agustin Church. Originally known as “inglesia de San Pablo”, founded in 1571 is the oldest stone church (built in 1589) in the Philippines.

Recently this landmark has been getting negative press, quoting from Wikipedia:

“In an October 2010 report titled Saving Our Vanishing Heritage, the Global Heritage Fund identified Intramuros along with Fort Santiago, as one of 12 worldwide sites “On the Verge” of irreparable loss and destruction, citing insufficient management and development pressures.

I only hope that the Philippine government will act swiftly to save this treasure and preserve pieces of the Filipino identity.