Thursday, January 17, 2013

Manila ain't Vanilla

     After a week of laying on the beach we thought it would be a good idea to get some history and culture, so we headed to the capital of the Philippines, Manila. Leading up to this trip a lot of people gave us funny looks when we said we were stopping in Manila. Manila has not always been the safest of places to go and some of our Filipino friends even warned us to be on our guard. All that being said, we stayed in a safe part of town and ventured down to Intramuros (old town) to learn some of the history of Manila. 

     First we went to the American Cemetery and Memorial. Did you know this is the largest cemetery in the Pacific for all the U.S. personnel killed in WWII? Honestly,  I know very little about what went on in the Pacific during WWII so this was a good introduction into that piece of history.

They had many mosaic maps like this that outlined different battles in the Pacific

The Memorial- each branch of the military was represented as well as all the states. It even included the names of the Filipinos and allied forces that fought along side us in WWII.

The American and Philippines flags

Marble crosses and stars of David

     After our visit to the cemetery we headed to the famous Carlo Celdran's walking tour in the old part of Manila:  Intramuros.  In Spanish it means "within the walls" because Intramuros was a walled portion of the city that the Spaniards constructed in the 16th Century.  Before the arrival of the Spanish in 1565, the Philippines had been claimed as part of a few different kingdoms by Islamic sultans.  Manila was chosen to be the capital of the Spanish colony due to its strategic location as a trading port and for its rich resources.

     So, the Spanish ruled until 1898, when the Americans bought the Philippines from them (along with other lands) after the Spanish-American War.  The USA held control until WWII when they temporarily lost them to the Japanese, then retook them with a horrific bombing of Manila.  Afterwards the Philippines were granted independence in 1946.

Spanish priests in Intramuros
It was a rainy day for our tour, but we pushed through without an umbrella and were glad that we did.  Here we are entering the reconstructed Fort Santiago.

Jose Rizal is the national hero of the Philippines who was a famous nationalist and reformist during the Spanish colonial period.  He was imprisoned in Fort Santiago and put on trial and executed by firing squad in 1896.  His last steps are commemorated in bronze inside the fort, from his cell to his place of execution.

From inside the fort you see Rizal looking out toward the church in the background.

Rizal mural inside Fort Santiago.

In the old town you can take horse-drawn carriages around and take in the sites of Intramuros.

Manila Cathedral - rebuilt after WWII.

"Jeepney's" are the most popular form of public transport in the Philippines.  They're all uniquely decorated with blessings and prayers of protection and sometimes nicknames like this one.

Our tour guide Carlos was enthusiastic and passionate about the old part of Manila.  We definitely felt enlightened about the history of this city and the country as a whole.

Outside of our hotel we came upon an elaborate light show in one of the parks - I think it was a Christmas thing, so we caught the last week of it.

Scratchin' the Philippines off of our list!!

--Marisa and Justin
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