Having three brothers plus anywhere from one to three of their girlfriends and a nephew in the house made things a bit tight, so Mom was nice enough to spring for a room for me and Amy at the nearby “condotel” Le Gran. The first night there proved trying, however, as the studio unit we rented had only a day bed — more of a couch, really, which had been made for the sleep of a single person significantly shorter than either of us. So that was a pretty cramped night — and the bathroom had no hot water. The leasing office moved us to a backup one-bedroom unit with a full bed and a shower heater, and this proved adequate for the rest of our stay. The view was nice, too.
In a city where the public spaces and parks are hot, polluted, and sometimes of dubious character, shopping malls tend to be the recreational destination of choice. Given our proximity to Greenhills, V
irra-Mall and the tiangge were of course our most frequent visits. We also managed to hit Megamall, the Makati/Ayala Mall complex (SM, Glorietta, Landmark, Greenbelt), Market Market, and High Street. Notable malls we missed — Mall of Asia, Robinson’s, Shangri-La, COD, Farmer’s, and Manuela Edsa — will have to wait for another visit.
To give Amy a taste of Old Manila, we went over to Intramuros and went on one of Carlos Celdran’s Walking Tours through San Agustin Church and Casa Manila. Celdran is a brilliant tour guide, dressed for the occasion in a flamboyant parody of period costume, accessorized with various hats, props, and a mini-boombox for ambience. Going beyond simple historical context and descriptions of times, locations, and artifacts, Celdran peppers the script with comedic trivia, biting political commentary, song-and-dance, and even prayer.
While I had seen Casa Manila before, I had never been inside San Agustin Church, and I had no idea that it contained the tomb of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. Both church and adjoining museum were a fascinating historical treat, and we’ll be returning next trip to peruse the art and artifacts there more closely, and also check out Fort Santiago, which I’ve only ever seen at night during a cousin’s wedding reception.
The “new” Ayala Museum (my first visit since they demolished the old one) of course had a gallery for the classic Philippine History dioramas, as well as exhibits on Damian Domingo, Juvenal Sanso’s ubiquitous Water series, and the “Pioneers of Philippine Art” exhibit, which amusingly featured such great historic painters as Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo … and Fernando Zobel. (Zobel, of course, was himself a member of the Ayala family which founded the museum — also a great artist, but I’d say there’s still a kapal-mukha temerity for the Ayala Museum to rank him with Amorsolo and Luna as a “pioneer.”).
At the Bangko Sentral Metropolitan Museum (just across Roxas Boulevard from the Manila Yacht Club) there was an exhibit of paintings by Felix Resureccion Hidalgo: among them “Las virgenes Christianas” and “La barca de Aqueronte.” Upstairs from this was a fascinating mix of paintings from the permanent collection, including this early Amorsolo portrait of a woman which Amy and I both found remarkably sensitive in comparison to his later works of historic exposition.
I couldn’t let this trip go by without taking Amy to see my old academic stomping grounds. We met up with Rowie, Bok, and Erik, friends from my old college barkada, and went around the college campus a bit, noting the many changes sice our graduation ten years ago, then headed down to the Grade School campus to check out the Rock Garden. The day was capped off with pizza and mojos at Shakey’s, which, though it is an old American chain, is far bigger on Katipunan these days than it is anywhere that I know in the USA, and is an old outside-Ateneo establishment.
So that’s what occupied us the week and a half we were in Manila. Here’s the full photoset from that part of the trip, and a distinct photoset for the walking tour of Intramuros. Enjoy. I haven’t really bothered titling, captioning, or tagging any of them yet.