BambooBike Tour of Intramuros : A Unique Way to Travel within the Walled City

Casa Manila , Barrio San Luis Complex, Intramuros, Manila- Philippines

Mr. Bryan Benitez Mc Clelland- founder, bamboo bike builder, socio-ecological entrepreneur, whitewater kayaker, ecotourism developer.

Bamboo Bicycle Tour within Intramuros is an environmental , healthy , educational , cultural , advocacy alternative tour being offered within the historical district of Manila,  Unlike other conventional tours, This is a more environmental way of touring the walled-city.

Casa Manila courtyard

Intramuros which means ” Within the Walls” is in the bucket list of every tourist , student of history  when they visit the city.   Participants will be riding through the streets on bamboo bikes that have been hand- crafted  by Gawad Kalinga villagers here in the Philippines.

different kinds of bamboo bicycles

Tour participants are requested to come at least 30 minutes before the allotted tour start (10am or 3pm) for a briefing about the company, tour guidelines and a group photo in Casa Manila , Barrio San Luis complex. The tour takes 2.5 hours to almost 3 hours and includes helmet, one water and the entrance fees.

San Diego Garden with guards in a rayadillo costume

Baluarte de San Diego- This fortification was designed by priest Antonio Sedeño  from 1586 to 1587.  This is one of the oldest stone fortifications of Intramuros . The place begun as a circular fort called Nuestra Señora de Guia . The fort was renovated in 1593 to join the walls of the city.  The fort was in a state of disrepair after a few years .  The new bulwark was completed between 1653  and 1663. Resembling ace of spades , it housed a foundry up until the 18th century .

Asplenium nidus or bird’s nest fern

When the British occupied Manila , The wall was breached with cannon fire when they occupied the city in 1762. It was restored after the British occupation but was heavily damaged during the 1863 earthquake. It was condemned by the Spaniards .  It was almost totally destroyed during the battle of Manila in 1945. It was restored and from 1979 to 1992.  Landscaped lawns and carefully mounted native ferns, bromeliads and orchids perch on the trees which add beauty to the garden style setting.

artillery gun – left over by the Japanese troops

The gardens within the walled city are popular wedding , pre-nuptial and venue place.

Puerta Real

The original Puerta Real is a Royal Gate were stately processions is held . The gate was built in 1663 at the end of Calle Real de Palacio (now General Luna St.) and was used exclusively by the Governor-General for state occasions. It was located west of Baluarte de San Andres and faced the old village of Bagumbayan. It was destroyed during the British invasion of 1762 along with the removal of the village. The Puerta Real was rebuilt in 1780 and moved further west to its present location. During the Battle of Manila, the gate was damaged. Now this place is popular among students as some sort of lovers ground, place to relax, events and wedding venue .

cobble stones called piedra china are paved within the puerta real garden

It  area was restored in 1969 with additional works made in 1989. Manila Aquarium  is located about 225 meters from Baluarte de San Diego, Ravellin de Real de Bagumbayan which is part of the outer wall fortifications of Puerta Real  were converted into an aquarium during the American regime in 1913.

  Manila Aquarium pre-war – photo :courtesy of Intramuros Administration

It was open to the public under the Bureau of Science .The public aquarium is notable for its collections of fresh water fishes some of which are found endemic to the country . It is not only a tourist attraction in its pre-war days but also a research facility for captive breeding of some native fishes.  The aquarium was closed during the war and was badly destroyed . It reopened in the late 1960’s but again closed its doors in 1983. The current revival dates from 1998 to mid- 2011.

Acuario de Manila

The aquarium, renamed Acuario de Manila in 1998 , displays a fascinating diversity of marine life in tanks set against the old adobe walls of one of fortifications along the walls of Intramuros . It was again closed for public viewing and most of the glass tanks and aquarium are nowhere to be found.

 group walked thru the walls of intramuros

I still remember that the entrance is is just Php 50 for the general public and Php 20 for students and senior citizens with valid ID’s . But i think the aquarium met its untimely closure with the opening of a much bigger and more popular Manila Oceanarium at the back of the Luneta Grandstand.

collection of old church bells

view of the golf course and Manila Hotel on top of the walls

Aside from a faster way to explore the walled city-  bambike tour participants had a special privilege of touring some parts of the walls riding  bamboo bikes! This is a privilege granted by the Intramuros Administration to the Bamboo Bicycle operator.

 The Bayleaf Hotel

The BayLeaf Hotel within Intramuros  had a good vantage view of the historic city and Manila skyline.  This boutique hotel was opened in November 2011promises a restful experience for its guests given its 5 star quality bedding, room amenities and a spacious bathroom. The Muralla Ballroom has a capacity of 300 persons or it can be divided into three smaller events place.

Website: http://www.thebayleaf.com.ph/

Puerta Isabel 2 Gate and Monument

 Puerta Isabel 2 Gate was the last gate within Intramuros to be open for pedestrian traffic in 1861. Due to the increasing trade and commerce between Intramuros , Binondo and San Nicolas district . Hence the colonial government had to open new gates for the public. Puerta Isabel 2 was the gate traditionally used by students of the Colegio de San Juan de Letran from Spanish times, until it was alternately closed or opened at long intervals. Until the Americans decided to create a new gate, the Quezon Gate fronting the college main entrance. It had a regular tranvia route by 1890’s which enters its gate.

Monument to Queen Isabel 2 of Spain  The monument is called by many acronyms such as  ” Reina de Lakwatsera ” , ” Manila’s  Most Traveled Statue ” , “Palipat-lipat de Estatwa”, Señora de Lakwatsera” , ” Manila’s Most Celebrated Statue ”  among others. It is made of bronze and was funded by donations collected from the city in 1854 and 1855 by Spanish sculptor Mr. Ponciano Ponzano  was commissioned to do the work or traje official with one hand holding a symbolic key and the other a dagger by her chest. The finished statute was shipped to Manila was slightly different from what the queen has ordered . The image shows the queen gloved right hand was slightly different from what the queen has ordered .The image held a piece of paper with a text dated 1854 .

It was erected amidst festive ceremonies on 14 July 1860 near Teatro Alfonso XII in Arroceros in what is now Plaza Lawton (Liwasang Bonifacio). The grand procession then collected the archbishop of Manila who celebrated a thanksgiving mass in an open air altar  near the statue . After the mass, military , religious and secular officials gathered at the old Plaza de Arroceros and watched the Governor-General Ramon Maria Solano y Llanderal pulled a cord to unveil the statue  .

Three ” Vivas” were followed by full military honors . While during the evening , music and dances filled the Plaza Real within the walled city , where a public ball was held to end the festivities . The whole unveiling ceremonies cost the Spanish government a total  a whopping Php 3,000 !,  Php 1,800 went to the grand ball , Php 800 for the decorations and Php 100 as a prize for the ” Best Photograph ” of the event. The Unveiling ceremonies was the ” grandest celebration among the statues erected in Spanish colonial rule” .

  After her ouster in 1868 ,   It was not long before he set on removing the remnants of the old regime in Manila. The task of destroying the monument was given to Señor Bartolome Barretto, a government official. A sympathizer of the Spanish crown, he refused to carry out the task. Chinese workers were hired to remove the statue and Barretto hid it in his house before the Ayuntamiento ( Marble Palace )  reclaimed it. The Sociedad Economica de Amigos del Pais (Economic Association of Friends of the Country) requested that the statue be made part of their museum collection but de la Torre consigned it to a storeroom in the Casas Consistoriales.

The statue was brought out and erected in front of the Malate Church  in 1896. It remained there for over half a century until in 1970 when it was blown down by Typhoon Yoling aka Typhoon Patsy . The monument was transferred to its present site during the visit of Prince Carlos of Spain in 1975.

Reference:

Torres, Jose Victor (2005). Ciudad Murada, A Walk Through Historic Intramuros. Vibal Publishing House, Inc. pp. 65–66. ISBN 971-07-2276-X.

Maestranza wall and Royal Warehouses /Puerta Almacenes

Kawayang tinik (Bambusa blumeana Schultes)

Before we end the exciting tour,   Our longest stop over was at Fort Santiago  .There is a bamboo garden that is found in the former archeological excavation area .

We were treated to some horticultural knowledge by our tour guide, One of the main materials use in making of the bamboo bike is our very own kawayang tinik ,  kawayan tungkan,  torny bamboo ,  spiny bamboo a  fast growing bamboo species that is found in many areas of the country. The bamboo  grows a dense clump with thick thorns at the bottom part.  The clumps height around 15-25m young clump is waxy at young and become shiny green when mature. 

 Buddah Belly’s Bamboo (Bambusa ventricosa) with ugly graffiti

Bambusa ventricosa most notable for its unique clump growth when containerized in stressed conditions. The clumps will bulge and swell, giving it the name “Buddha’s Belly”. It is native to China and  was introduced to the tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world . Filipino landscapers had introduced this foreign species to beautify the landscape and very popular among backyard growers especially the Chinese for it is a good feng shui for gardens and brings prosperity.

Visiting public must always remember that those bamboos are also living ‘things’ and must not  left their ugly graffiti marks.

Fort Santiago gate

Fort Santiago- This is the oldest part of the walled city, some historians said that it even pre-dates the founding of the walled city. It is where the ancient kuta ( wooden palisade ) of Rajah Sulayman at the mouth of the river. When the Spaniards took Maynilad , They built a fort from the ruins of the old Muslim fortification.

Postigo de la Nuestra Señora del Soledad (Postern of Our Lady of Solitude ).

Don Simon de Anda y Salazar escaped via this small opening  during the height of the British occupation of the walled city .  The Real Audencia also appointed Anda as Lieutenant Governor and Visitor-General. That night Anda took almost half  of the treasury and official records with him, departing Fort Santiago through the postern of Our Lady of Solitude, to a boat on the Pasig River , and then to Bulacan. He moved headquarters from Bulacan and to Bacoloor , Pampanga.

memorabilia items

The fort is one of the most important historical sites in Manila. Several lives were lost in its prisons during the Spanish , American and Japanese rule.

Dr. Jose Protacio R. Rizal was imprisoned here before his execution in 1896. The Rizal shrine museum displays memorabilia of the hero in their collection and the fort features, embedded onto the ground in bronze, his footsteps representing his final walk from his cell to the location of the actual execution.

bambloggers

The cost of the tour is only Php 1,200 pesos for the regular 2.5 hours, but they also have an express tour that only lasts for 1 hour and cost half of the original price.

Open: Tuesday – Sunday
9 am – 6pm

EXPRESS TOURS
1 hour custom tours are available
Choose your own adventure
Price starts at PHP 600 per person
Please inquire for details and reservations

Bookings:  +63 (2) 525 8289 or email us at ecotours@bambike.com

Website :http://bambike.com/ecotours

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