BY ANTON WALKER
Manila isn’t on most people’s lists when planning a trip to the Philippines. The city is the opposite of the white sands and clear blue waters seen on many of the country’s islands; it is sprawling, dirty, polluted, and impoverished. Furthermore, the city is not geared towards visitors; there are swindling taxi drivers and a lack of major visitor attractions. Despite all of this, Manila is an interesting city to experience. It’s worth a day or two of exploring during your visit to the Philippines.
Intramuros, the old quarter of Manila, is a walled city built by the Spanish during their control of the Philippines. Colonial buildings line the streets, some still in use today, while others are abandoned ruins. Plaques are posted near many of the monuments to give an insight into the past. Intramuros feels different than similar old districts because it is still a place where people live and go about everyday activities. One of the coolest sights to behold in Intramuros is a colonial building with a well-preserved colonial frontage facing the street, and a massive work of colorful street art on the side. The two sides of the building are so different, and yet their juxtaposition makes complete sense in Manila.
An afternoon can be spent wandering the narrow streets or riding in a horse-drawn buggy with the aid of a local guide. Enjoy some street food, or maybe sip fresh coconut water from a straw straight out of the coconut—you can buy these from the street vendors. The churches and fort offer the opportunity for more history-savvy travelers to step inside and take a look around. Taking the stairs up onto the wall of the city gives a better view of the walled-in historic core and the surrounding chaos of Manila. Intramuros is a testament to the idea that every city has something to offer if the time is taken to dig a bit deeper.