“Maraming beses na kitang iniwanan, nilayasan at ibang pinuntahan” – Manila song by The Hotdogs.
Manila is an interesting city to explore. I would think I have even little credibility to declare this since I had an opportunity to visit other cities from different countries. I would tend to propose that the best way to discover a city (Manila included) is by bicycle. But given the current state of “bike-friendliness” of Manila, its sad to also declare that though it is still best to explore Manila by bike, it is only reserved to the more “adventurous-bordering-crazy” type of travelers. This is mainly due to the lack of bike ways; the only
ones who had one also seems not really serious about it- with ill designed bike-ways plus no plans of implementing corresponding ordinances to support it that some bike-ways even ends up as car parks. Secondly, the little or no respect of motorized vehicles to bicycle riders that further aggravates the situation given there are no lanes in the first place. And lastly the lack of support facilities for bike commuting like secured bike parking, bike racks on buses and better
opportunities to integrate with mass rail systems. Attempts to promote cycling in Manila failed due to the pathetic initiatives of the local governments and the MMDA as of to date. When I did bike commuting to work a few years ago- I was able to prove that it was still faster to ride a bike than to use a car due to the current volume of traffic in Manila. Sadly besides the risks mentioned, bike commuting carries the stigma that it is for those who have no money to ride a car or public transport so those who have better in life would
not dare bike commute. But as traffic problem worsen, I am still confident a tipping point will happen wherein it will eventually be accepted as the best alternative way of transportation. But until then, bike riders in Manila are reserved to the hardcore riders who are willing to put his life in the line from both the mad traffic and driving of Filipinos and the current pollution state of the metropolis.
When we did this featured ride (our Manila ride), we did it on a Holy Thursday, a big holiday in the country wherein most of the people in the city leaves for their home provinces or for vacations outside the city- so it was also a blessing that traffic was really light. Our original plan was to do a foodie ride wherein we will go to known food places in the heart of old Manila and try each place’s specialty. But we ended up also doing some historical, leisure and religious tour. Maybe in the future, we can create separate rides on each topic but in this case- we did all as we really did not have any plans before hand. This trip also strengthened our belief that its high time some tourist outfitter offer a bike ride tour (vs a walking tour) of Manila (We already have a Segway tour of Intramuros).
We started our ride from Dindo’s residence in Greenhills. It was me, Dindo and Rommel (the one I rode with in Ilocos). We initially targeted to go straight to the center of old Manila before we plan where next to go. From Greenhills we took Ortigas straight to N Domingo via Gilmore. Then we went straight to
Old Sta Mesa and since I studied at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta Mesa- being familiar, I suggested a shortcut and less congested route via Teresa and then Anonas before exiting Nagtahan. From Nagtahan, it was Rommel’s turn to guide since he works and lives within the Centro Escolar area. He directed us towards Malacanang. We decided to do our first sight seeing in Malacanang. There was an activity that day and we were not allowed to pass by Laurel St. (the main street (think Penn Ave) in
front of Malacanag) with bikes so we locked our bikes on one of the lamp posts and walked towards the main gate. At the main gate, we were informed that photo taking was not allowed within the vicinity of Malacanang- I even commented to the security that they are stricter than the White House (where you can take photos). These are some of those policies that seems to have not been thought over. On our way back to the bikes, I did some photos just to prove its a useless policy that is impossible to implement. Anyways we passed by Freedom Park so we just did some photo ops there.
After Malacanang we passed by San Miguel church and we were attracted to the big statue of San Miguel at the church yard (we consider San Miguel our patron saint as the popular beer in the country in named after that angel while the number one gin has the same angel and devil scene in its label). So we then decided to also add in the churches on our ride also considering its Holy Thursday which is a pilgrimage day for Catholics. We then went to San Sebastian
where the first pre-fabricated and first steel church in Asia is located. Then we went to San Beda Church, then to Quiapo Basilica passing by Evangelista St and Raon, the electronics center of Manila. After Quiapo, we went under the Quezon Bridge and passed by Quinta Market before arriving at Sta Cruz Church, which surprisingly was renovated to look modern. From there we visited the old Financial district of the Philippines- Escolta and was surprised of
how short this strip was. We then entered China Town and went to Binondo Church and I was shocked of the renovation being done to the church; replacing the old looks with a modern one with matching red trims which I assume represent the Chinese heritage of Binondo complete with a shocking golden painted statues of saints at the facade. We then went around China Town’s numbered malls (168, 11/88 and 999- numerology is still strong within the Chinese culture).
After that, our hunger reminded us of our first intent- a foodie trip and the only information we have was Buenavides St (we could have researched the internet before this ride). We went to Benavidez St. and then entered one of the restaurants based on our perception and it turned out Ok. (My frustration later triggered my technical side of gathering information and tabulating the
information to aid in decision making- I came out with the top restaurants in China Town – 1. President Grand Palace Restaurant (Ongpin St- Chinese Food), 2. Wai Ying Fast Food (Benavidez St- Dumplings) 3. Sincerity Chicken (Yuchengko St- Chicken and Oyster Cake) 4. Onpin Manosa Restaurant (Ongpin St) and 5. Chuan Kee Chinese Fast Food (Ongpin St).
After that we decided to go to Intramuros, the heart of the old-old Manila. We stopped at the Jones Bridge to have some photo ops with the Central Post Office as background. Then we stopped again at the Manila City Hall for another picture. Before entering Intramuros, we asked one of the Intramuros Guards (wearing the turn-of-the-century guard uniform) for some picture. Then we proceeded to San Agustin Church. We found out that
Holy Thursday was a big day within the San Agustin and Manila Cathedral vicinity, we had to walk on some sections due to the huge crowd. Again I was surprised that San Agustin went to another face lift- this time removing the cream colored paint that was applied which supposed to mimic the original appearance. But I guess, during that time, the people want a more modern church thus the paint but right now, people would like an old looking church so back to the rough finish. We then went to the Manila Cathedral which was recently reopened as it was closed for renovation (earthquake retrofitting) the past two years. After that we just passed by Fort Santiago as it was closed for the holidays.
We then proceeded to Luneta to have a picture at the “0” Kilometer Marker. For some reason I think Dindo has some fond memories of this marker so we indulged on the picture taking. After than we crossed the street to go to Rizal’s monument. We had a picture there and in the huge Flag Pole; the recent center of controversy for the 1 Million renovation cost. We observed the honor guards at Rizal’s statue for a few minutes before looking for a place to buy some water but ended up with coconut juices. Then on the last of our list was the
Philippine Map and the Rizal Park signage. On our way, we walked within the park as riding the bike was not allowed. We saw the improvements of Rizal park but was annoyed by the loud music they were playing instead of a park mood music. We then saw the giant statue of Lapu lapu (wondering why Lapulapu when he was from Cebu and Rajah Soliman was the one from Manila). In my opinion it was more of an eyesore. I remember a long time ago, this was an open field but now the giant statue with a poorly built pedestal doesn’t
look in-place. We then saw the map but it was in a drought scenario (no water on the pond that symbolizes the sea).
There are still a lot of room for improvement to make this park a world class park being “the premier” park of the country. Anyways, I had a photo ops in the Rizal Park signage before heading back to Greenhills.
The total trip mileage was 30 kilometers for 3 hours. A fun way to visit the old familiar places.
For more map details please visit my Everytrail at: http://www.everytrail.com/my_trips.php?user_id=46765