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.

Floating Islands in the Philippines

The day started off peacefully, navigating the Hundred Islands National Park in a bangka. Late afternoon the wind picked up with the water becoming choppy. I used a dark neutral density filter to take long exposures from Quezon Island so the water would appear smooth. The result was the island appearing to float with the underwater coral visible. On the way back to the mainland a storm hit, rain blowing sideways, and the boat unexpectedly stopping far from shore as darkness set in. Fortunately another boat came to our rescue, towing us safely back to shore.

Quezon Island overlooking a floating island at the Hundred Island National Park in northern Philippines.

Quezon Island overlooking a floating island at the Hundred Island National Park in northern Philippines.

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.