With virtually the whole of Intramuros destroyed during World War II, this is the only remaining repository of the wealth that was once a common feature of Manila's churches. Formerly a monastery, the museum comprises two floors interconnected by a grand staircase. The various rooms and hallways display paintings, santos (religious statues, usually of carved wood or ivory), gold and silver ornaments, liturgical vestments, chests, and altars. It is an artistic treasure house that illustrates the richness of Philippine history and culture.
Unique in Asia, this was a European-style medieval fortified city that functioned as the seat of government from 1571 to 1898. The massive walls stretch some 4.5 kilometers, enclosing a 64-hectare area once occupied by palaces, churches, monasteries, schools and wealthy residences ('Intramuros' means 'inside the walls'). Sadly, the whole city was razed to the ground by bombings conducted by American forces when they recaptured Manila from the Japanese in 1945. Today most of the walls, gates and bulwarks have been restored, affording visitors a glimpse into the past.
Constructed in 1587-1604, San Agustin Church is the oldest surviving church in the Philippines. It was the only building left intact when Intramuros was reduced to rubble during the Liberation of Manila in 1945. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a mandatory destination for any Manila visitor interested in history and culture. Concealed behind the imposing facade is an elaborately decorated Baroque-style interior. Throughout the nave and six side chapels are fixtures of great artistic and historical significance.
Filipinos and foreigners alike can view some of the Philippines' historic and cultural treasures in this Museum of the Filipino People. Among the many displays here, the galleries devoted to the San Diego galleon merit special mention. Porcelain plates, coins, jewelry, armaments and other artifacts recovered from the sunken battleship present revelatory glimpses of 17th century life. The Story of the Filipino People is another must-see for all visitors.
If you are young or young at heart, you will certainly find plenty of "enchantment" at this amusement park. There are seven zones with rides in each: Spaceport, Jungle Outpost, Midway Broadwalk, Brooklyn Place, Portobello, Victoria Park and Boulderville. Among the thrillers is an 11-story roller coaster named Space Shuttle, a huge Ferris wheel and a water ride called Jungle Log Jam. Automated teller machines, a first-aid station, a paging and message center, and storage lockers are located throughout the park.
Grab that microphone and belt your heart out at this ever-popular karaoke bar. It is frequented by all sorts of characters, including professional entertainers (singers and stand-up comedians) hired by the bar to amuse the crowds. Patrons come here mainly to get onstage themselves and display their own singing prowess. The decor is strictly for bookworms--floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked with leather-bound books (fakes, of course). Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are served with savory snacks.
Also known as Rizal Park after Philippines' national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, Luneta Park could be considered the symbolic seat of the nation's heart and soul. A beautiful green space, the park is spread out over some 60 hectares (148 acres) of gardens, wooded areas and open spaces, drawing crowds from all walks of life. Points of interest include the Rizal Monument, the Site of Rizal's Execution, the central pool and fountains, the Chinese Garden and Japanese Garden, and a huge relief map showing the whole Philippine archipelago. The National Library and National Museum are next door.
Set in Rizal Park, this pocket of solitude is a modern interpretation of the traditional Japanese style of gardening. A stone-paved footpath undulates around a central pond planted with water lilies, while stone lanterns (a quintessential feature of Japanese gardens) and two bridges (one over the central pond) create the illusion that you have been transported to the Land of the Rising Sun. Though bordering a busy street, the small garden is surprisingly serene and peaceful.