The Intramuros is the “old” walled city of Manila. I put the word “old” in quotes because much of this part of the city was flattened when the Americans retook Manila from the Japanese in 1945. Some modern historians have criticized General MacArthur for his attack on the city but when I asked Tony, our driver who was born in a flattened Manila, about this he looked at me as if I was nuts. “MacArthur said he would return to us and he did. He is a hero.”
We went to the Intramuros with Tony on Monday, had a chance to get out and walk around the Cathedral, which is celebrating 60 years since its rededication in in 1959 (The façade was all that was left standing in 1945.)
Afterward we drove around to see the cells in the city walls where the Japanese held prisoners, now little hole in the wall cafes frequented by students attending the many schools and colleges in the Intramuros. A nice touch, in the main square in front of the cathedral, is one of those free little libraries, take a book, leave a book. There is also an art installation of a spirit house.
Monday night, as it cooled off, we decided to go back to Intramuros. It was easy enough to get a cab at that hour at the pier, the other three ships had left. It cost us 55 pesos (a little over a dollar.) We saw the main square lit up at night. When it came time to go back we flagged a cab who told us the meter was broken but the fare was 500 pesos, about 10 times the metered fare. We tried to negotiate, he said “Where else will you find a cab at this hour, 500 pesos.” We told him we would walk. As it happens we found another cab and negotiated a fee of 100 pesos to take us to the Manila Hotel, an easy walk to the dock. There will be a separate post on the hotel.
Even though the Intramuros is close to the pier the tourism department recommends we take a cab because crossing the streets can bring disaster for the uninitiated. On Tuesday we decided to go back to Intramuros and take a horse and buggy ride around the old town. The cab situation at the pier was still tight so we took the cruise line shuttle to the Robinson Mall downtown. There a driver approached us and offered us a tour of the Intramuros at an outrageous cost. We declined so he followed me into the men’s room and stood at the urinal next to mine, pretending to pee, while he gave his spiel. I got rid of him by pretending to shop. We did actually need to get a few things. The left sole fell off one of my shoes and duct tape across the bottom does not provide good traction.
New shoes in hand, we went to the taxi rack. It is set up so the cabs are in a line with a fence on either side. Once in a line a cab can’t move until the one in front has left. We went to the lead cab and said we wanted to go to Fort Santiago in the Intramuros. He quoted us an out outrageous price. Following the advice of Lonely Planet I suggested he use the meter. “Meter broken,” he refused to negotiate. He was the front of the line and the only cab we could get. We stepped aside and allowed a Filipino couple to use the cab. The meter worked for them. Same thing happened with the next cab. I understand that driving a taxi is poorly paid, and I don’t mind paying above the meter rate but the driver has to start with a reasonable offer and be willing to negotiate.
So we took the shuttle bus back to the pier and decided, against the advice of the tourist office, to walk. The busy street that they warned us about had a crosswalk and the signal with a “walk” sign that occasionally turned green. When it did we started to move between gridlocked trucks and Jeepneys. Then the traffic started to move. No driver was going to stop for us. We were stuck in the middle of the street with trucks rumbling by and buzzed by motor bikes.
Just then one of the buggy drivers from the old city passed by, stopped the horse, and snapping his buggy whip at the windshields of cars and trucks got us across the street. Since had been planning to take a buggy rude we decided that Providence had sent this man and his buggy whip. We spent a nice hour riding through the old city. Particularly moving was the memorial to those killed by the Japanese in World War II. The buggy driver was good. He even got the rig across the busy street at the end of the tour and dropped us off at the Hotel Manila (featured in a separate post) for some Halo Halo, the Philippine national dessert.