Traveling has always been a passion of mine (domestic, international, or even that just-a-few-blocks-away kind of travel). Traveling with my special someone — now, that just makes it all the more exciting! But since my boyfriend Paul and I aren’t allowed to go on overnight trips YET without any “chaperones” (haha, strict ang mga ate ko!), we just make it a point to squeeze in traveling through our “day” dates. Luckily, we’re both history buffs and we both share an interest in getting to know the Philippines more — with Manila first on our minds. 😉
I’ve been living in Manila since day one but to be honest, there’s just so much more to know about its history. On the other hand, Paul‘s from Laguna so exploring Manila is also on top of his list. Having said that, it just became a priority for us to save and sign up for different Manila tours because let’s face it, going anywhere (even places you’ve been to before) makes it more interesting depending on your new-found discovery. And how do you “discover” something new when you’ve been to a place once, twice, thrice, and so on? My answer is through KNOWLEDGE and INFORMATION! And those knowledge and information? Well, their new-found “effect” on you will always depend on your tour guide! 😀
And that’s exactly why Paul and I decided to avail of Manila for a Day (M4AD)‘s 3G time-traveling engagement, which basically covered God, Gold, and Glory in the Walled City — thanks to our tour guide Dustin Ancheta (who also happens to be a college course mate of mine).
Our M4AD experience has been our second Manila tour (our first was with a different tour guide and it was in the Malacañang area, but I wasn’t able to blog about that because I was on a blogging hiatus back then! hahaha!). Anyway, M4AD prefers to call what they offer as “time-traveling engagements” instead of just plain old tours. Why? Well it’s in the way their guide Dustin does his engagements! He even brings along with him a TIME TRAVEL KIT!
So to kick off our virtual time-traveling engagement, here’s our first stop that day:
San Agustin Church
I’ve been to San Agustin Church several times before but to be honest, I was just as awed as Paul (it’s his first time in the church) during the entire tour. It was only that day that it sank in to me that we were inside a UNESCO World Heritage Site — equivalent to the Pyramids of Giza in Eqypt or the Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico! Like, really, WOW! #ProudPinoy here!
Having a tour guide who really knows what he’s doing (and saying!) does change the entire travel experience. It even has its perks, too!
One of which is having access to places that are not usually open to the public. Case in point, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi‘s resting place!
As a Filipino, we’ve all been taught in history class that Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Philippines. But since he already died in Cebu during the Battle of Mactan, he wasn’t really able to reach Manila. Hence when you say “founder of Manila,” the title really goes to Miguel (yes, feeling close lang! wahahahaha!). And before this tour, I wasn’t even aware that the actual Spaniard who discovered my hometown actually rests IN MY HOMETOWN nonetheless! So much for being a Manila Girl all my life! Oh well, at least now I know. 😛
We also walked on the church grounds as Dustin educated us in the way society influenced art back in the day. I won’t explain it to you in detail anymore (you have to avail of the tour if you want to know! haha!) but in a nutshell, that experience in the room full of religious figures reminded us that life does imitate art (or vice versa), and there’s no one definition of beauty. It changes from one generation to another, and the cycle just goes on and on. So if chinitas and mestizas were the “in” thing then, it somehow changed in the middle of history, and returned again in the present, etc. Just like in the Renaissance period, voluptuous women were all the rage because they symbolized fertility — fast forward to today, everybody wants to have Victoria Secret model-inspired bodies because that’s what the media dictates, etc. You get my drift.
Most of all, that experience showed us how God and Gold mixed back in the day — quite literally! Just take the statue of Jesus as an example:
Dustin also guided us in other areas inside the church and learned a ton of things along the way. But like I said, I don’t want to spoil things for you so better attend the actual tour yourself. 🙂
After the church, our next stop was…
Picture-taking isn’t really allowed inside Casa Manila so for this part, I’ll be borrowing photos from Travelibre. 🙂
Basically, the Casa Manila in Intramuros isn’t an authentic 19th-century house (it’s an actual replica of one) — but some of the things inside it are 100% legit. It was created by the Philippine government in the 1980s (headed by Imelda Marcos) to depict what it’s like to be RICH and POWERFUL in the time of Spanish-colonized Philippines.
Inside, we were required to walk on a long red carpet (they say it’s to make the museum easier to clean) and if you happen to step outside of it, a guard will definitely reprimand you for it! So consider this a heads-up! Haha!
Moving on, one of the first things we saw inside Casa Manila was the kwartos. According to the labels, they were actually just “dorm rooms,” so imagine what an actual room for a family member looks like! Dustin even told us that back then, visitors inside a house owned by the rich and powerful were “filtered” by floors.
We know that back then, people in the Philippines were divided according to status: the Peninsulares (Spaniards born in Spain), the Insulares (Spaniards born in Manila or anywhere else but not in Spain), the Mestizos (half Spanish, half-Chinese or half something else as long as there’s Spanish blood), the Indios (pure Filipinos), etc. (Trivia: Most of our national heroes like Jose Rizal and Emilio Aguinaldo were Mestizos).
So for example, if you’re part of the Insulares, you could go anywhere in the house. But if you’re part of the Indios, you’d be lucky you even made it past the entrance door! Get the picture? That’s how rampant racism was back in those days. 😦
Another interesting area in Casa Manila was the cucina (kitchen):
As you can see from the photo, it was so 19th century! Dustin mentioned that during those days, a rich and powerful family had many servants and all those pots and pans were used to the max. One unique item there (unfortunately, no photo) was the vintage ice box. Since there were no refrigerators back then, only the rich could afford to import ice. But of course, you couldn’t just import ice without having the equipment to actually sustain it (the Philippines is a tropical country, so just imagine your bad ice investment if you just let it melt under the sun!). And that’s when it really hit us. There’s truly a big difference between the truly wealthy and those who are just trying to climb the social ladder — the rich can sustain their lifestyles; social climbers can’t. In relation to this is the next area, the dining room:
As you can see, the dining area has a long table. If you watch Downton Abbey, well you’ve already got an idea how this works. However in the Philippine setting, only the master of the house had arm rests on the sides of his chair, and the rest were seated alternately (male, female, male, female, and so on). BUT if you’re a guest gentleman and you were seated in the middle with ladies surrounding you, might as well leave the feast because that’s a form of insult. If you’ve read Rizal‘s Noli Me Tangere, Dustin shared that there was one scene there wherein Crisostomo Ibarra was seated (on purpose) in the middle of the table and knowing that he was being insulted, he charged toward the master of the house, which was none other than Padre Damaso. Hihihi. #history
Going back to the dining area in Casa Manila, refer again to the photo above and you’ll notice those two curtain-like decorations hanging from the ceiling. What are they? Let’s just say that those were their manual version of the electric fan. And since they’re manual, a person (usually a young boy servant) actually had to run them. Our very informative tour guide even said that a guest shouldn’t see the servant or else, that would also be a form of insult! Kalurkey talaga! But now you realize what the lifestyle of the rich and powerful was like back then. But unlike those who could buy ice just because they wanted to try it but couldn’t really afford it again and again, the truly rich and powerful could (and still can) sustain their lavish lifestyles. Except nowadays, I believe that the luxurious ice has already been replaced by designer items! Hahaha! 😉
There were other interesting rooms in Casa Manila, but of course, I think it’s better if you just see them for yourself!
The Manila Collectible Company
And then our last stop during that time traveling engagement was The Manila Collectible Company (TMCC).
Upon arriving at the place, we were served refreshments and snacks. And yes, those snacks were those you can see on the above photo! Haha! I must say, they were all very tasty, especially the con cremas and the coco jam (not in photo). I actually bought a bottle of the latter for myself! Wahahahaha! But yeah, TMCC is “a one-stop shop that offers the best of Philippine products, tours and events!”. So if you’re in the mood for all things Philippine culture, then this is definitely the place to go to!
And oh, this was also the place where Dustin answered our questions about the entire tour. That’s what I like about M4AD’s offering, they really try to give you the best of history through what they know. In fact if they don’t know it right then and there, they’ll still try to answer you via e-mail. Now that’s what I call dedication! 😀
So that’s our M4AD experience. Thanks so much to Dustin for making time travel in Manila such a fun (and learning) experience!
As for Paul and I, the whole point is to explore Manila one area at a time (Malacañang area, check! One area of Intramuros, check!) — which is exactly why next on our Manila adventure is Carlos Celdran‘s Walk This Way! So watch for that! 🙂
Until then… see yah! 🙂