Tag Archives: Philippines

Manila: a day in Escolta

My grandma has often told me how Escolta was the prime Commercial spot of the Philippines in her youth.  How there was once a tram line which, sadly, disappeared after the World war 2. Even during the occupation, Escolta  was the place to be,  after all commercial establishments  built their headquarters there which exuded  wealth in decoration as a sign of stability.

After the war, Escolta would never be the same again but the aura of the place would remain until the rise of Makati in the seventies. Fortunately some of the Art-deco buildings  are still visible in Escolta, but they are a dying breed. Whereas in other countries,  governments strive  to maintain these edifices with participation of the private sector, our government isn’t doing enough to promote conservation. The only realistic way of preserving this heritage, is to allow them to be used by the private sector with architectural constraints. In other countries, it is a prestige for businesses to set up shop and preserve city landmarks.

As Manileños or as tourists of Manila we can help restore Escolta, by giving interest to it, visiting it or through activism by protesting against the demolition of buildings like El Hogar, for example.

Having said that here’s how you can spend a day in Escolta…There are lots ways to reach Escolta, but the most original way is by using the Pasig river Ferry. Fares go from 28 pesos to 95 pesos depending on the distance, the ferry line stretches from Pinagbuhatan, Pasig  till Intramuros. From Makati, the nearest stop is Guadalupe which is very close to Guadalupe MRT station .

Escolta River Ferry Station / Old Manila Post Office
The old Manila post Office from the Escolta river ferry station
This was originally called Roxas Building.
This was originally called Roxas Building. The son of Juan Luna, Andres Luna designed this neoclassical beaux-arts building. Imagine this place without the dangling electric wires!
Inside the First United Building
The First United Building was an Artdeco designed by Andrés Luna de San Pedro, the son of Juan Luna, the Philippine’s foremost painter. It was Manila’s tallest building when it was built in 1928.
Capitol Theater
Designed by Juan Nakpil, the Edifice is now but a shadow of itself. Its decay reminds me how we do not value so much our past. Significant buildings are meant to be preserved.
Escolta in its Haydays
Escolta in its Haydays
Roman R Santos Building
Very close to Quiapo church is Roman R Santos Building. Escolta street starts just a few meters from this building.
Quiapo church
Quiapo church, is very close to Escolta! Lots of churches where this church is located, presently the neo-Baroque church was designed under the plans of National artist Juan Nakpil.
From Escolta, you will have to pass by the Chaotic market place. But that is an attraction by itself.
The Golden Mosque
While you’re at it why not visit the Golden Mosque which is close to Quiapo church. Manila can be quite cosmopolitan!
Chinatown - Binondo
Finish your day at China town! It’s just at the other end of Escolta street. Dis you know that Chinatown(Binondo) is the oldest China town in the World?
So many places to eat good Chinese food in Binondo!!
Manileños need not spend money to go to other countries to get the authentic Chinese food experience!

From Manila to Batad

I have to say that Batad,Philippines is definitely high on my list of most rewarding places to visit. The rice terraces, built over 2 thousands years ago, stands as  testimony to man’s ingenuity in converting barren land into fertile ground. The effort to reach this remote place is part of the reason why the visit is rewarding: it is half a day’s trip from Manila, you have to hike at least 45 minutes to reach it– Saddle point is the furtherest point that vehicles can go towards Batad.  Beyond it, you’d be really lucky to have a network on your mobile phone, but who needs a network when you can get away from it all and go back to the basics. It is such a rewarding experience to stay  overnight and wakeup to the sound of Roosters in the absence of cars and jeepneys so prevalent in Manila. Batad is of course not the only village with rice terraces, but it’s the one with the most consistent stone-wall structure; the amphitheatre-like arrangement of  its terraces is quite simply stunning.

Hiking around Batad

Here is a link to a website which can help you plan your trip to Batad (Our Awesome Planet). You’ll have info on the different options to reach Saddle point from Banaue. Another option is by joining organised tour from Manila like those done by trailadventours(Filipino trek company) and international tour companies like Intrepid and  Gap(it doesn’t come cheap for these two as they only offer 2 weeks travel to the Philippines …on  Western prices of course).

Note that Ohayami trans(+639175060817)  is now the only bus company that services the Manila-Banaue route.  Do reserve your ticket a day in advance as there are only 2 daily buses that ply this route. Both leave Manila on the  Corner of J. Fajardo and A.H. Lacson in Sampaloc, at 9 and 10PM respectively.

Bring a sweat shirt and a blanket as the bus is a moving freezer. Don’t pack too much stuff on your bag, you will have to hike in and out of Batad.

Village of Batad
Village of Batad

Afraid of heights?

Going to Batad from the Saddle point is not an issue if you are afraid of heights. However treks to other villages from Batad could be challenging:  the trek from Batad to Cambulo for one has a few passages where you have to pass by rice terrace ridges where you have rice field on one side and a cliff on the other.

It is good that most of the ridges are at least half a meter wide. I am told this is not the case for other hikes. For this reason, do get a guide when deciding to hike to other villages from Batad. Ask the guide how he handles situations where the client has fear of heights. He could for example propose that you hold on to his rucksack as you walk through narrow ridges. The guide can also provide you with a walking stick: this sure helped me for my balance.

It costs around 1,300 PHP to hire the service of a guide for a day(for 5 people I believe), a small cost for your safety.  It is better to hire a guide in Batad than in Banaue, it is good to support those who live in the remote areas, and of course the local guides would know their area better.

Lodging:

Normally you don’t need prior reservation for lodging in Batad, I am trying to search the internet for contact info… to no avail. We didn’t reserve anything and just organised on our arrival at Batad. The Lonely Planet suggests Simon’s place for the best viewpoint. We stayed at a native cottage(no nails) at  Ramon’s homestay. Ramon is very friendly, I am told he is a respected individual in the community.

The native hut, had six beds, you could rent the hut for 1200 PHP or share the cost with other people who are willing to share accommodation with you.

Enjoy Batad!… And as they say… it is more fun in the Philippines!

Vigan

What is interesting in Vigan is the sustained use of old structures which use a mix of Spanish and Filipino features. For example, the ground floor would have Spanish and Mexican influence, whilst the next floor is Filipino. The ground floor, which is made of bricks, helps the structures survive storms and earthquake, the second floor, made out of wood, admits more air which makes the house more adequate for tropical weather. Another feature that I like is the “Volada” or enclosed balcony…it protects the interior from the sun and it also makes for discreet and silent walking to avoid disturbance in other rooms! At the center of the picture is a funerary parade. #Vigan #Philippines #Travel (at Vigan, Ilocos Sur)