Carolina: Cruising Past 70: OLA: Enjoying Great Day Trips from Manila

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

OLA: Enjoying Great Day Trips from Manila

Taal Volcano, the smallest volcano within a volcano's crater, Taal Lake
Metro Manila is a megalopolis of 20 M people in 16 fused cities and suburbs. At the heart of it is Old Manila, the Walled City of Intramuros, where the Spanish colonial rule of 300 years is etched, despite the ravages of war. Then 1 ½ hours away in the town of Tagaytay, Cavite is a natural wonder…Taal Volcano, the world’s smallest volcano within a volcano on whose ridge the town has grown.

14 guns at the walled city of Manila
Intramuros, located along the southern bank of the Pasig River, was built by the Spaniards in the 16th century. Its name literally means "within the walls". For hundreds of years, it was the nerve center of the Spanish rule but it suffered grievously in WW II. In the 1980s, the government led a major restoration effort and today it is a prominent tourist spot where visitors can experience Spanish-era Manila. The tricycle driver that we hired to ferry us around had to remove his canvas top to allow Bill’s head to fit!

Fort Santiago
A major part of Intramuros is Fort Santiago, built in 1571, a fortress against marauding Chinese pirates, a prison for Spanish-era political prisoners, and a Japanese torture chamber in World War II. The Battle for Manila in WW II almost succeeded in destroying the Fort altogether. Today, it is a relaxing place to visit – a beautiful and informative gateway into the Philippines' colonial past. While we were there, a new documentary on the Philippines’ National Anthem, ‘Lupang Hinirang’ was being shot!

Manila Cathedral
The Manila Cathedral is the ecclesiastical seat of the Archdiocese of Manila. The present structure is actually the sixth church to occupy the site. The first one, built in 1581, was razed to the ground by fire two years after it was built. But the nearby San Agustin Church, like the 3 other churches featured in my last post, is a World Heritage Site. It was first constructed in 1571 and destroyed by marauding pirates in 1574. It was built (and destroyed) two more times before the present structure was completed in 1604 with a design so stable that even earthquakes or battles could not topple it.

Rizal Park
San Agustin Church
Near the Walled City is Rizal Park where the monument for our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, stands on the site where he was martyred by the Spaniards. Originally a part of Intramuros, the University of Sto Tomas was transferred to its present site, preserving the arch. The Pontifical and Royal University is a private Roman Catholic university founded in 1611, 25 years before Harvard. It is the world's largest Catholic university in terms of enrollment found on a single campus. As a Pontifical University in Asia, it the only one visited by two popes: once by Pope Paul VI in 1970 and twice by Pope John Paul II in 1981 and 1995. Flor, my sister-in-law, who studied there and worked 16 years after was our personal guide.

Entrance Arch at UST
the University of Sto. Tomas
From a reliving of the history of Manila, we go to the cool natural wonder of Tagaytay, a city that sits on the ridge of an extinct volcano’s crater. In the middle of this crater lies Taal Volcano, the smallest in the world. Just a few weeks the Taal town folk were evacuated as it spewed gases but it is now quiet again. During our last trip in 2009, we took a banca to Taal, mounted two horses that took us to the top, loved the cold coconuts served us when we made it there and at the top and marveled at the volcano’s crater.
preparing to ride up to the top

me at the crater of the smallest volcano
Returning to shore gave us nice fresh seafood fare from the lake. The cool air in Tagaytay certainly draws many to escape the Manila heat to and visit places like Sonya’s Garden, the Caleruega Chapel, and just take in the peaceful scenic wonder. At The beaches in the lowlands of the nearby province, Batangas, Bill and April took several dives at the famous dive spot in Anilao.

on the shores of the smallest volcano
There are other day trips we ran out of time to do. There is a small river rafting trip to Pansanjan Falls, a relaxing visit to the City of Seven Lakes, San Pablo, and a short hydrofoil ride to Corregidor Island in the middle of Manila Bay which was the last stand of the Filipino-American troops in WWII. And, of course, at the reclaimed area where the Mall ofAsia is also lie the new wonders, the Manila Oceanarium and the Ocean Park. Truly, Metro Manila can be a base for many wonders to be explored in just a day.

Bill and April preparing to dive at Anilao
Next stop: Taking Great Side Trips to HK and Taiwan