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18 April 2007

Travel to Manila, day 2:
If walls could talk

The medieval walls of Intramuros
The medieval walls of Intramuros.

DUSKTIME INTRAMUROS and its ancient walls have all the old-world trimmings of a picture postcard. The orange hues of sunset cast dramatic shadows on the medieval adobe walls and deepen the wooden textures on the façade of its bahay na bato buildings. A galloping horse-drawn calesa echoes the tones of the cobble-stoned street. Rising above the two-storey houses are the domes and spires of the grand Manila Cathedral, the seat of the city's Catholic Archdiocese.

This is the Old City, and it lent a charming backdrop for the pictures that Bembem and Neha took along the narrow General Luna Street. The first stop was the Silahis Arts & Artifacts store that houses gazillion ethnic products. Neha only had one thing in mind: the capiz shells she discovered at Manila F.A.M.E. earlier today! Regrettably, most of the Silahis merchandise comes from mountainous northern Philippines, so the shells would have to wait for us elsewhere.

Silahis Arts & Artifacts
Silahis Arts & Artifacts.

Courtyard at Casa Manila
Courtyard at Casa Manila.

We entered a few more bahay na bato houses with their quaint courtyards, staircases, gardens, water wells, and more adobe walls. I showed them Patio Victoria, the gardens where my brother Voltaire married Hazel exactly a year ago. At the picturesque, slightly austere San Agustin Church, mass service was ongoing so the photography had to cease briefly. It brought back memories: the last time I attended mass in this church—inscribed in UNESCO's World Heritage List and the oldest surviving in the city—was during a colleague’s wedding back in the early 1990s, when I marched the aisle as a secondary sponsor.

San Agustin Church
San Agustin Church.

The Manila Hotel
The Manila Hotel.

Riding a cab back to the hotel, we stopped by the historic Manila Hotel, the oldest luxury hotel in the Philippines. “Capiz!” exclaimed Neha as she saw the chandeliers made of a million capiz shells. I wondered what she would do if she saw the colossal capiz chandeliers at the lobby of the Philippine International Convention Center. I hope they are still there, though.

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Next Post: Family Surprise

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