Manila Sunrise

Manila Bay at dawn is tranquil while most of the city sleeps. As the fog lifted over the water on this still morning the first rays of light broke through, reflecting off the waterfront high-rises. The moored boats sat peacefully nearby in the calm water. Even the smog haze over the city seemed golden in the early light.

A boat and city skyline reflected in Manila Bay at dawn.

A boat and city skyline reflected in Manila Bay at dawn.

Corregidor Jungle Ruins

These ruins on Corregidor Island in the Philippines are hidden amongst thick jungle, not far from the Pacific War Memorial on Topside. Abandoned since World War II, the dilapidated building was close to collapse. The place is like an Indiana Jones adventure with hanging vines reminiscent of the barnacles in Half Life. We passed through these American ruins at dawn before exploring a Japanese tunnel.

An overgrown ruin on Corregidor Island abandoned since World War II

An overgrown ruin on Corregidor Island abandoned since World War II

Baclaran Church

My great uncle Albert lived his life as a Redemptorist brother and growing up he was like a grandfather to me. Together with six other Redemptorists he travelled to the Philippines and in 1932 they founded the Baclaran Church in Manila. Today the church is amongst the busiest, with its doors always open and over 100,000 regular patrons on Wednesdays. The façade reflects the Neo-Romanesque style of the church.

Midday sun shines on the entrance to Baclaran Church in Manila, Philippines.

Midday sun shines on the entrance to Baclaran Church in Manila, Philippines.

Ice Hockey in Manila

Walking through Mall of Asia one evening I stopped to watch a game of ice hockey. I’m easily amazed at how there can be a frozen winter wonderland indoors while outside is the relentless tropical heat. Mall of Asia is one of the largest malls in the world and there is always plenty to see and do in air conditioned comfort.

Deep within Mall of Asia in Manila shoppers pause to watch a game of ice hockey.

Deep within Mall of Asia in Manila shoppers pause to watch a game of ice hockey.

Manuel Quezon Tomb

The tomb of Manuel L. Quezon rests on a catafalque in the mausoleum located in the base of the Quezon Memorial Shrine at the centre of the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City, Greater Manila, Philippines. Quezon led a very successful political career throughout the first half of the twentieth century.

Quezon Memorial Circle is pretty much a giant roundabout that’s very busy with constant traffic day and night. A collection of jeepneys, cars, trucks, fully loaded motorcycles and many other road users rush around going about their day, while at the very centre of it all it’s quite peaceful.

The tomb of Manuel L. Quezon in the Quezon Memorial Shrine at the Quezon Memorial Circle Manila.

The tomb of Manuel L. Quezon in the Quezon Memorial Shrine at the Quezon Memorial Circle Manila.

Corregidor Pacific War Memorial Museum

On Corregidor Island we took a tour around the island in a tramvia: a small open sided bus designed to look like the electric trolleys used on the island during World War II. After an early buffet lunch the tour guide took our group up to the Topside area of the island. The sky filled with dark clouds as we passed the crumbling giant ruins of the topside barracks.

With rain starting to come down heavy, being stuck amongst the jungle and ruins without cover seemed likely. Instead the driver took us up to the back door of a more modern building, even providing umbrellas for the few steps it took to get indoors. Inside and out of the rain we examined the World War II relics on display in the museum. As the storm cleared we gradually wandered outside to explore the Pacific War Memorial.

The Pacific War Memorial Museum on Corregidor Island has on display artifacts from World War II.

The Pacific War Memorial Museum on Corregidor Island has on display artifacts from World War II.

Lapu-Lapu Rizal Park Manila

Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition set off from Spain in 1519 and he is famous for leading the first circumnavigation of the Earth, however he never made it home. Lapu-Lapu, a chieftain of Mactan Island, resisted Spanish dominance. At the battle of Mactan the warriors of Lapu-Lapu defeated the Spanish and Magellan was killed.

I’ve visited Mactan Island, where there is a much smaller statue of Lapu-Lapu than this one in Manila, and imagined the Spanish forces wading through the shallow water in their armour, their boats unable to get near the shore. Lapu-Lapu is considered to be the first national hero of the Philippines for his role in resisting Spanish colonisation and maintaining independence.

This statue of Lapu-Lapu, the first Filipino national hero, stands larger than life in Rizal Park Manila.

This statue of Lapu-Lapu, the first Filipino national hero, stands larger than life in Rizal Park Manila.

San Agustin Chuch Intramuros

From the upper storey of the monastery in the San Agustin Museum are many doors leading through to large display rooms. One door leads through to the antecoro, a small room that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere interesting. But surprisingly the room leads out the other side to the choir-loft, or coro, of the San Agustin Church.

There’s a stunning view from the choir-loft of the detailed trompe-l’œil painted on the ceiling and walls. You can look down into many of the ornately decorated side chapels. San Agustin Church is the oldest church in the Philippines; if you look closely you can see posters on the wall celebrating 440 years since its founding, though the current building was completed in 1607.

The interior of San Agustin Church in Intramuros as viewed from the choir-loft.

The interior of San Agustin Church in Intramuros as viewed from the choir-loft.

Escalera Principal Intramuros

Having read Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon prior to visiting Manila I was interested in seeing many of the places mentioned. A particularly memorable location is the staircase at the Church of San Augustin, where Glory told Bobby the granite steps were quarried in Mexico and used as ballast. Although the granite was really quarried in China the staircase is no less impressive.

The staircase is located within the San Agustin Museum, a surprisingly large complex. Using tripods is not allowed in the museum so it was handheld only. It’s quite dark inside the building so I used a wall to steady myself.

In the San Agustin Church museum a massive staircase of Chinese granite leads to the monastery and choir-loft.

In the San Agustin Church museum a massive staircase of Chinese granite leads to the monastery and choir-loft.