Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fort Santiago and the Manila Bay Sunset

It's the middle of Lent, and the metro is eerily empty. The absence of the usual traffic jams, with majority of the residents off on an annual exodus back to the provinces or some summer destination, casts a quiet and unfamiliar spell to the empty streets. In one of the few days each year, Manila is the the best place to drive. And a good time to visit Old Manila. 

Except for a few tourists, the Walled City of Intramuros is all yours for the day. Construction began in 1590 and continued for many more years, lining the original perimeter of the city with massive stone walls to defend the new Spanish colony (for more on an afternoon walk in the Walled City, check out my previous post in my other blog here at

Without the crowds, one can walk for hours and discover the many hidden secrets of the old Walled City. Like a portal back in time, each step brings you back to the colonial era. The massive stone walls, with many more than eight feet in width, provided an impregnable barrier to seaborne raids. Throughout the Spanish Colonial period, the fortifications were expanded and improved, and much of it still remains preserved to this day. For four hundred years, the Walled City was the symbol of Spanish power in the former colony. The Walled City witnessed the birth of the Manila Galleon Trade with Acapulco, the arrival of the Americans and the subsequent invasion of Japan in World War Two, where the fort was used as a garrison and a prison by the Japanese Imperial Army. The violent liberation of Manila in 1945 destroyed much of the city, but portions of the fort and old wall fortifications remained intact. Inside Fort Santiago, one can walk down the former dungeons, and feel the countless stories of bravery and defiance long silenced by history.

An early morning or late afternoon walk is ideal, but just the same, wear a cool t-shirt and comfortable shoes for your expedition to Old Manila. Further out from Fort Santiago, one can see remnants of the walls lining the inner perimeter of the fortifications. And you can just imagine the stories if only these walls could talk. And with the fading afternoon light, it's your cue to check out another must-stop while in Old Manila. A short drive brings you to Manila Bay along Roxas Boulevard to catch the iconic Manila Bay sunset.

Just pick a spot along the sea wall, and wait. Like clockwork, the setting sun provides an entertaining show of light and color over the bay. Bring a long lens if you can, and just wait for the right moment.

Then, simply pull back and take one more look, for that one last shot. Walking along Old Manila and ending it with a sunset at Manila Bay during the quiet times of Lent are just some of the best kept secrets in the city. 


  1. loved your captured sunset -- the way the cloud silhouette wraps itself around the fiery sun...


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