This port is a special visit for a large number of the crew who are Filipinos. It is a tradition on this cruise that each year at a call at either an Indonesian or Filipino port, crew members are able to invite family members to visit them on the ship. About 1600 family members were expected and of course the crew, who serve contracts of eight months duration, were quite excited at the prospect of seeing them. During the two days we saw many family members touring the ship and families of officers eating in the passenger dining room. They all had big smiles on their faces.
On our arrival in port, a local troupe provided a colourful half hour show of Filipino music and dance (photo.) Sunday I went on a tour of Old Manila, called Intramuros. Intramuros is literally ”between the walls” of the old Spanish quarter founded in 1571. I use the term “old” here advisedly because Manila was heavily bombed during WW II and 98% of the city was destroyed. It was second only to cities in Poland in terms of the destruction that it suffered. Therefore everything old has been reconstructed. Our first stop on the tour was to the memorial to Dr. Jose Rizal, the hero of Filipino independence (photo). Dr. Rizal was an artist as well as a scholar and revolutionary. The uprising, after some 300 years of Spanish rule, came about because some ultra conservative Spaniards tried to eradicate local religious ceremonies (pagan rituals.) Dr. Rizal was given a sham trial and executed in 1896. Fort Santiago, our second stop is at one end of the Spanish quarter (3 photos). It was where Dr. Rizal was imprisoned and from where he walked the 2 km to his place of execution. There are several memorial locations and a statue of him (photo). There is a much prized 1589 gate decorated by motifs of St James, the Slayer of Moors (photo). The Japanese used Fort Santiago as their final redoubt against American forces and as a prison for captured Filipino and American prisoners who were starved to death. Some of the dungeons still exist (photo.) There was originally a moat outside the fort. However standing water attracts malarial mosquitoes so it was filled in and is now a golf course (photo). The Manila Cathedral (photo) is also found here but is undergoing repairs so we could not visit. Our next stop was Casa Manila, a reconstructed 19th c. Spanish home filled with period furniture. It was quite lovely but photos were not permitted inside. The Cathedral and San Augustin Church (photo) and Monastery, a stunning baroque church dating from 1587 and one of the oldest in the Philippines, are World Heritage sites. Sunday services were ongoing in the Church so we could not enter though I did get a photo of it’s famous trompe l’oeil ceiling from the cloisters (photo). The Church miraculously survived the wartime devastation. The Monastery is now a museum and we spent some time admiring the interior (3 photos.) We then went for a drive around the daily produce market near the Black Nazarene Church in Quiapo. It was raining heavily at this point so we merely looked through the bus windows. That ended our tour. After lunch I went to the National Museum. It has a work by Felix Hidalgo which is a National Cultural Treasure of the Philippines (photo) and some masterpieces by 19th-century painter Juan Luna. It also has an interesting 1894 sculpture by Jose Rizal called Mother’s Revenge (photo). It is allegorical: the alligator is Spain and the puppy in the alligator’s mouth represents the poor Filipino people; the mother dog represents the revolution. Some other paintings portray the suffering of the people during WW II. There are also exhibits outlining the first circumnavigation of the world between 1519 and 1522 and the voyages of Magellan, who discovered the Philippines, around the Pacific.
Manila is a huge city with a population of about 20 Million people. It is spread out and though there is a metro system it does not go everywhere you might want to go. Traffic is terrible. Fortunately we were docked close to Intramuros and Rizal Park, the location of the some museums. However, on Mondays the museums are closed, and the only tour the ship booked for the extra day here was the same as I had taken on Sunday. There were no tours to the countryside or Corregidor. I had been told by security and tour guides that I should not walk around alone in most parts of Manila. It also threatened rain, so I resorted to the shuttle bus service to a large shopping mall which was 7 stories high and took 15 minutes to walk from one end to the other. It is not the biggest in Manila, that is the SM Mall of Asia, the country’s largest, which besides myriad retail and food outlets, also has the largest IMAX screen in Asia, an Olympic sized ice-skating rink, 10-pin bowling and even a science museum. Anyway, I enjoyed the cheap and excellent foot massage I had at the mall and looked around at what there was to buy – almost anything and very inexpensive. I returned early to the ship to have lunch and enjoy a musical performance by children from a local orphanage. Our next stop after three days sailing is Yap Island, Micronesia. We are on our way home.