Mesmerised by Manila
Still bearing traces of its colonial past, the Philippines’ capital is a megacity with an enduring story to tell. Explore this urban jungle on bamboo bicycle with Ascott's Jacky Gallardo.
Issue: Oct 2016
For a modern megacity, the streets of Manila are surprisingly narrow. This harks back to the time when the country was ruled by the Spanish — when streets were paved for horse-drawn carriages, not an endless stream of vehicles.
At Bonifacio Global City, where Ascott Bonifacio Global City Manila is located, we are lucky to enjoy wider pedestrian streets and picturesque parks as this financial district is one of Manila’s newest. In cooler weather, we like to encourage our guests to explore the area on foot. It’s good for them, good for the environment and there’s plenty of good scenery to be had!
You can imagine our excitement, then, when we discovered Bambike. The socio-ecological enterprise hand-makes bamboo bicycles with fair-trade labour and sustainable building practices. Their bicycles are sturdily (and rather amazingly) constructed from natural bamboo and abaca materials, which are then bonded with aircraft-grade alloys.
We love the idea of supporting a socially and environmentally responsible cause, so we quickly formed a partnership with them. There are now several Bambikes in our lobby for rent and we’ve organised a number of Bambike eco tours to share a different sightseeing experience with our guests.
On these tours, our guests are guided on a safe cycling route through Intramuros, Manila’s oldest district and the former administrative centre during the Spanish colonial era. There are many noteworthy historical sites along the way, so guests get to stop and rest from time to time, making it a suitable activity for all ages and fitness levels. If you’re curious, come for a ride with us!
San Agustin Church
Ascott Bonifacio Global City Manila guests visit San Agustin as part of the Bambike eco tour.
Welcome to the oldest church in the Philippines! San Agustin Church was first built between 1587 and 1606 as part of the Spaniards’ campaign to spread the Roman Catholic faith. Ravaged by war and a string of natural disasters, it had to be rebuilt three times through the course of its 400-year history.
Today, San Agustin remains an active church in a country where an estimated 85% of the population are Christians. It’s a good idea to time your visit during mass if you’re keen to see its interior for free. Also, do make time for the San Agustin Museum. It’s an eye-opening treasure house of antiques that offers glimpses into Manila’s past.
Manila Cathedral is one of the city’s most revered historic and religious sites.
The structure that stands on this site is actually the eighth incarnation of the Manila Cathedral, rebuilt in 1951 following its destruction during World War II. From the ruins of its famous façade, a new and more modern cathedral was constructed — similar in appearance to the original but with a more functional use of space. Because of this, the Manila Cathedral of today has a particularly eclectic character, with a striking Neo-Romanesque façade, Byzantine motifs, bronze doors and pineapple finials.
Like San Agustin, Manila Cathedral still welcomes worshippers to this date. In fact, just last year, Pope Francis held mass within its remarkable walls!
Guarding the entrance to the Pasig River is Fort Santiago, a former settlement that the Spanish converted into a key defence installation. During colonial times, the fort is said to have hosted as many dignitaries as it did prisoners. Its dungeons were where national hero Jose Rizal was incarcerated before his execution in 1896.
In his honour, Fort Santiago now houses the Rizal Shrine museum to help visitors learn more about this enigmatic man. The intellectual, said to have been conversant in 22 languages, boldly called for a number of reforms to the Spanish colonial system. He lobbied for freedom of speech and equal rights before the law for his fellow men, making him a radical in the eyes of the Spanish. This eventually led to his imprisonment and execution.
As you tour the dungeon cellblocks, look out for brass footprints set into the pavement. These mark Jose Rizal’s final steps as he walked to his execution spot in Rizal Park.
These stories and more will unravel as you cycle your way through the historic enclave of Intramuros. Each titbit of information will add to your understanding of how Manila’s unique character was forged from its tumultuous history and the unwavering strength of its people.
I hope you have the chance to visit our beautiful city and recommend that you opt for a more immersive, adventurous and environmentally friendly way to take in the sights. See you at Ascott Bonifacio Global City Manila soon!
Come stay with us:
Ascott Bonifacio Global City Manila
5th Avenue Corner 28th Street
Bonifacio Global City
Taguig City 1634 Philippines
Tel: +63 2 860 9888
Fax: +63 2 860 9800 firstname.lastname@example.org
Citadines Salcedo Makati
148 Valero Street, Salcedo Village
Makati City 1227 Philippines
Tel: +63 2 863 9888
Fax: +63 2 863 9889 email@example.com
Somerset Alabang Manila
3409 Spectrum Midway
Filinvest City 1781 Alabang, Muntinlupa City
Tel: +63 2 643 0999
Fax: +63 2 643 0618 firstname.lastname@example.org
Somerset Millennium Makati
No 104 Aguirre Street, Legaspi Village
Makati City 1229, Philippines
Tel: +63 2 750 7888
Fax: +63 2 751 1111 email@example.com
Somerset Olympia Makati
No 7912 Makati Avenue,
Makati City 1200, Philippines
Tel: +63 2 812 1010
Fax: +63 2 818 8254 firstname.lastname@example.org