02 September 2010

Manila : Fort Santiago, China Town and The Green Belt

So, a little bit of walk from the Manila Cathedral is another major attraction in Manila – The Fort Santiago.
And a little bit of entrance fee applies.
Oh well, being a fort which is a short form for fortress or fortification, it is more like a network of defense walls and underground tunnels and this is Lizzie welcoming everybody into one of the tunnels with open arms.
It was so amazing to see how the tunnels are still so sturdy even after hundreds of years.
Just on the other end of the tunnel was a beautiful little chapel.
I took the opportunity to light a candle. Truly a spiritual moment for me this time.
Praying, among others, that I’ll find somebody that I can finally put my whole heart into and start a family before I turn 30.
Errrr, how old am I now? 25? 26? Holy SHhHT! He he he.

To tell the truth, I actually prayed that I’ll get rich enough soon so that I get to see more of the world He created and continue to inspire more people to travel. :-P
I visualized this in between my prayers.  
Again – ameeennn? OK thanks. I heard you guys say AMENNNNNNNN. :-P

Fort Santiago is actually part of a golf course, or rather a golf course is part of Fort Santiago – one of the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen in my entire 30 errr, plus plus life so far.
The grass linen was just so smooth I could just lie down and do a little bit of sunbathing there the whole day if I was permitted to. It would have been a perfect spot for a filming set of a Kuch Kuch Jippy Hai movie. LOL
Fort Santiago is probably the only place where you get to ride a cannon down your crotch. I finally had a big gun. A very very big one actually.
Come come baby. I am so ready to shoot.
Hehe. Another part of Fort Santiago is called the Fort Santiago Proper. OK, I’m not really sure but I think it is the REAL Fort Santiago.
It was quite difficult to take a picture of me in front of the gate without getting ruined by the intensity of the sun. It was shining right from the very unwanted angle. After doing like 10 takes, this was as good as it could get.
And this was Lizzie’s reaction when I got tired of trying and throwing my camera at her. Whoop! LOL
So, Fort Santiago was built by the Spanish as a defense fortress for the walled city of Intramuros. It was here where Jose Rizal the National hero was imprisoned before he was executed in the Rizal Park back in 1896.
Due to its significance to the history of Jose Rizal, a building was built there to be the Rizal Shrine.
I was so captivated by the poem written by Jose Rizal in his very final days prior to his execution. It really got into me that I was actually trembling as I read through each of the lines.
Then there was this story of how his family members had actually tried to ‘smuggle’ a poison into his cell – so that he didn’t need to get through the pain of being publicly executed.
My favorite spot of the whole fortress is actually this open space area encircling this very old building which is now errrr, I forgot what.
Was it a pottery manufacturer? I think it was. I don’t know how why it was a pottery manufacturer but I am pretty sure it had something to do with the history of the fortress itself. *go do your own research. Ngeeee.
I was so disturbed by the way they portrayed Jose Rizal in this armless statue I actually tried to give him my arms, at least on this picture. After all, he WAS not limp. He was a national hero. Unfortunately my arms don’t look good on him. Too small. ERkkk.
The open area faces down to the Pasig River with the ‘poor district’ of Binondo on the other side.
Little did we know that we would be there later in the day.
It was amazing to see how the whole structure was made up from big blocks of stone. As to how they put them into places, I absolutely had no idea. I tried to lift one and it wouldn’t move. Not even a single inch.
IT was so fucking heavy I could only imagine what kind of a hell the slaves must have been through in building Fort Santiago under the strict command of the Spaniards. Just by imagining the whipping and wailing and beating was making me wince.
Walking out of Fort Santiago later, I followed the steps taken by Jose Rizal on his way to his execution although it was quite difficult not to doubt if it was even the exact trail of his footsteps.
His walk to the execution was highly regarded as a symbol to the BIRTH OF FILIFINO NATION.
WE still had one place in mind before we called it a day: The China Town of Manila. With a little bit of guidance from a very helpful security personnel that we bumped into at the exit, we walked over to what we believed would be Manila’s China Town.
The disturbing sight of the horse with her heavily foamed mouth had suddenly killed my any intention of riding gracefully on a horse-carriage to China Town. Heard they’d drug the horses to keep them going on a long long day. My belief in animal rights had overcome the temptation. I CONDEMN any form of exploitation on any living creature.
Manila had never been lucky in the past. It is a metro city that has witnessed the force of nature taking its course in the ugliest ways imaginable – destructive typhoons, deadly earthquakes, flattening floods, you name it - they went through it all.
Then there were these wars that had forced Manila to undergo series of fierce bombings and arsons and massive fires. Many of the damaged buildings were restored but some of them were left to rot. For me, they are the reminder of their bitter past.
Walking on towards the China Town, I was baffled to see how they ‘planted’ caged hens to be part of the landscape along the sides of the road. It really is a verification of some kind that Manila is the COCK-fighting centre of the world.
The walk to the China Town would take us across the Pasig River on this bridge here. I suddenly realized how we had been walking almost non-stop since morning. I was beginning to feel some muscle strain in my legs.
The sunset view of the Pasig River was breath-taking.
But I'm sure the river wouldn't be as 'breath-taking' if you look into it very very closely. God knows what a hell of shit is it in there.  :-D
Just on the other side of bridge is where the China Town is located. Apparently, coming to China Town on a Sunday was a big mistake. I was later told by the Roland at the Our Melting Pot that most Chinese in Manila are devoted Catholics so many of them don’t open their shops on Sundays.  
Lesson: Don’t come to Manila’s China Town on a Sunday.
Then I proceeded to walk over to what appeared to be a very old – almost ancient church.
WE later learnt that it was the Binondo Church! It is supposed to be in everybody’s must-see list to Manila.  
I was instantly stunned when I made my way in. It was nothing like any other church that I’ve ever been to before. The ceiling is full of giant paintings so beautiful that I could spend the whole day by just staring up at them. 
Binondo Church has an air of spirituality so intense that I could feel myself shiver and my legs tremble by just being there.
If you don’t already know, Binondo Church was originally built to serve for the Chinese converts into Christianity long time ago. It had survived earthquakes and a heavy bombardment by the British during its brief invasion on Manila during the World War II.  
It is now known as Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo, a name taken after a San Lorenzo Luis who was born of a Chinese and Filipino parentage and had served at the church once before he fled Manila for wrongly accused of killing a Spaniard.
He was executed to death for refusing to denounce Christianity in Japan. You see, Japan OWES the Philippines BIG TIME. And I think they owes every single country any even beyond. With all the horrible things they have done in the past, the biggest condemnation should be targeted against the Japanese and NOT Jewish. No? 
By then it begining to get too dark in a Binondo it was actually getting quite too scary to be straying around.
We took a jeepney back to the other side of Manila.  
WE ended out day checking out another one of the most talked about areas in Manila, a place called The Green Belt. Another encounter with a good heart inside a jeepney, he voluntarily led us across roads and dangerous traffics and crowded streets to a bus stop from where we caught a bus to the Green Belt.
He even told the driver to take a good care of us, describing us “These good fellows from Malaysia” to which the conductor responded by giving us the biggest smile and a polite bow.
You see, in Sabah, we called Filipinos ‘PILAK’ and it is not a good way of calling them actually. It’s like calling the African American ‘NIGER’ in the US or probably, dengan izin, “TAMBI” for the Indians. It has that smell of racism in it.

My encounters with so many good people in Manila had changed my perspective of them FOREVER. So I am going to announce here that - PILAK is officially out of my diction now 
The Green Belt that I found out was not really my ‘kind of places’. It is more like a bunch of shopping malls with high-end restaurants and pubs and shops for branded stuffs.  
So, girls out there, if you come to Manila, the Green Belt is a place for you and not really for me. :-(
I’ve been telling you over and over again, I am a damn broke traveler that the looks at the likes of Prada or Guess or Gucci or whatever branded shits would make me sick in my stomach simply because I knew I couldn’t afford to buy anything of them.  
Oh well, Green Belt is where the Hard Rock Café of Manila is. Of course I took the chance of adding in another picture in my ‘Hard Rock Café Mali’ collection of photos.
I would highly recommend that you go down to its food court AT LEAST.
It has just about everything for Filipino cuisines and the range of prices is surprisingly more economic than it is in most other parts of Manila that I went to.
I took it as one of my biggest encounters in Manila actually.  
We ventured walking our way back to our hostel in Makati only to find out we went to the totally wrong direction. It is very easy to get lost in Manila though. 
And maps cannot be of much help at times. Manila is so much a complex cluster of cities with indefinite webs of roads it’s impossible to put everything into a map. You can never define Manila on a piece of paper. In the end it’s your sense of direction that helps most. 
We returned to the hostel hoping to keep the night going later. We started off again by lepaking at a Seven-Eleven. Oh yeah, most of the 7-11 outlets in Manila are half-grocery and half-restaurant. You can buy food from the grocery and eat them at the tables. 
And just as it is at any other shop in Manila, every 7-11 outlet is guarded by at least one security guard with a GUN and handcuff and not a senapang patah (shot gun) or any of those baseball sticks that most of our security guards in Malaysia have.
Oh and the idea of having something like this at our shops in Malaysia had long occurred to my head actually. Last time I re-charged my hand phone was at a bakery house in Ranau and they charged me RM2 for a less than 15-minutes cucuk. No matter how long you cucuk, be it 1 minute of 1 hour, you still have to pay RM2. You'd be lucky if your handphone could get to its climax for RM2. 
Then we decided to go back to the place that we went to the night before.
It was another band and probably a better one. Being a country that is full of talents, competition to get a singing contract is so steep in Manila it is impossible to get to sing at the same night club every day.  
Even the guest singers picked from among the audience were making me float with their Glee vocals.
Another well-spent night for me and Lizzie. You see, not a single night was wasted. NOT A SINGLE ONE. LOL
You see, Korean people can be so weird at times. A Korean couple who had just checked into the hostel earlier in the day spotted us having some drink at a nearby restaurant and they ‘shamelessly’ joined us. They even took a well-posed photo of me and Lizzie together without giving any reason (I wasn’t interested to take theirs). 
Oh well, it wasn’t supposed to be a problem since drinking with other travelers is actually a common practice among travelers. BUT I’ve never seen any traveler who would just WALK AWAY without bothering to pay their own bill or at least to think who or how we’re gonna deal with it (the bill) later. Seriously, they just WALKED AWAY and disappeared into the crowded street!
Then on the other night there was this bunch of Korean teenagers who were drinking as if it was gonna be their last day on earth – you know, dancing around, screaming and hollering and waving at just about everybody – then when they seemed to have had enough, the attempted to walk away just like that!
And one of the waiters actually ran after them with the bill but they wouldn’t want to pay for it. Oh hoo, they even gave one of those dazed looks as if telling the waiter that PEOPLE should pay for their drink because they are Koreans. Boo, boo and boo. Shame on you cheerios. You people look much dumber that you already do in your TV series.
They reluctantly paid when one of the heavily-muscled bouncers intercepted.
OK, not paying for their bills might not make the Koreans weird. I gotta be fair. But this one here would surely do. 
I actually spent a terrible night getting awakened every now and then the whole night because I heard the sound of crumbling papers rustling so much near to my head. And I woke up the next morning to find a stack of crumbled and torn newspapers on his mattress. 
Apparently he put stacks of newspapers on his bed for him to sleep on! And no, he didn’t fall asleep while he was reading newspapers because he did it again the next day. Luckily for us that he checked out on the third day so that we could finally get a good decent sleep. Errrrk! Weird Korean! Weird weird weird.

I know, I’ve been writing hellish too much about Manila but what I’m gonna write about in my next post is something that you wouldn’t want to miss. I was told about a place called Divisoria (don’t google! Don’t google! :-P) being the most notorious area in Manila and that any plan of going there is very much not recommended.

That was the wrong thing to say to me. :-P


ken said...

i like the cannon part.. hahaha.. classic joke for men! =P

anyway, it's a nice place.. especially the fort.. really insightful, i like going to places like that.. =)

JIPP said...

Hehe. Thanks mann. Yupp, their fort is like a hundred times better than our A Farmosa. :-D

fufu said...

fort santiago looks quite similar to the fort in penang...aw...your trip to chinatown was so much fun...too bad i didnt have time to explore more when i was there 3 years ago....gotta go there again! lol

JIPP said...

Really Fufu? they've got fort in Penang? Didn't know that. That's gonna make my Nov trip to Penang more interesting then. Would love to check it out.:-)

thomas said...

The fort looks somewhat like our A Farmosa and as usual nice and detailed writeup.

JIPP said...

Thanks Thomas. Yupp, I can see the similarity. Haven't been to Melaka for more than 10 years though. :-)

d1n0za said...

AMAZING! Good post! I gotta visit this place soon. :-)

JIPP said...

Thanks bro. Yeah, Manila is an under-rated city. :-)

Misha said...

Jose Rizal is The Web’s Most Wanted Jose!
(Check your score for your name too.)
Baby Names Alert.


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