It was one fine day in December when my friend and I decided to head out to the bus station, supposedly geared up for a road trip to Bulacan. Unfortunately, when we got to the station, there was a long queue of people who were headed to our destination, too. We figured people wanted to get a head start so they can be in their respective provinces for New Year’s Eve. It was understandable, considering the 30th was a holiday, the first day of a long weekend.
Incidentally, it was a holiday because Filipinos commemorate the execution of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, on December 30.
Right there and then, my friend and I decided to forego our plans, and instead, spend the day exploring Manila. Yes, we may be city dwellers, but with our hectic schedules, exploring the nooks and crannies of our beloved Manila was a luxury we can’t afford to enjoy all the time.
Perhaps there was something in the air my friend and I breathed that day, because we instantaneously decided to check out a museum and go to places reeking with ancient history. Actually, I believe there was, indeed, something in the air because on a whim, my friend and I decided to dress up for our exploration!
Here are some of the places we visited on that fateful Rizal Day:
The National Museum of the Philippines is a government agency museum dedicated to the preservation, exhibit, and acquisition of cultural and historical artifacts, arts, and specimens of the Philippines. The NM building is actually connected to three more buildings – the Museum of the Filipino People, the National Art Gallery, and the National Planetarium. The National Museum houses an extensive range of fine art, ethnography, and archeology collections.
Luneta Park or Rizal Park
Rizal Park is, by far, Manila’s most famous park. It’s an icon, a fitting tribute to our national hero, and located in the heart of Manila’s thriving industrial, financial, institutional, and commercial centers. Its focal point is the monument erected in honor of Dr. Jose Rizal, who was shot to death by firing squad at that very spot on December 30, 1896. The park is overlooking the picturesque Manila Bay.
This small, circular park used to be a municipal cemetery for Spanish aristocrats who lived in the walled city of Intramuros. Nevertheless, there are rumors that Dr. Jose Rizal was secretly buried there after his execution until his family dug up his remains in 1898. Apparently, it was only 16 years later when his body was enshrined in Rizal Park. Today, Paco Park is a favorite venue for weddings (yes, apparently, getting married amidst dead bodies is appealing), photo shoots, and concerts.
Intramuros is the famed multifaceted walled city that the Spaniards built in the 16th century when they occupied the Philippines. It is considered the oldest district of the city of Manila. It got its name from the Latin words intra and muros, which literally mean “within the walls”. Intramuros is surrounded by high walls and moats, and it is usually referred to as “Old Manila”, since it was considered the Manila we know today during the Spanish colonial period.
One of the places my friend and I visited that day served as a venue for a wedding, and it was funny, but with the way we were dressed, it was as if we were part of the wedding. It was a great day to explore the wonders of Manila and be re-educated with the rich history of the Philippines. What’s more, since it was a holiday, the four places we visited weren’t crowded. My friend and I were practically “strolling” in the parks. Oh, and maybe because it was a holiday, entrance fees to some of the attractions were waived! So, yeah, we did not only enjoy but we also save a few bucks, and you know what? I would gladly do it again.
Photography by Kay Dulay