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Every travel starts with an aim. And ours was to wander around and get lost in history.
History classes told me stories of the past. Tales during the Colonial time, the American invasion, the Japanese occupation. Through history, I learned that the Philippines was under Spanish rule for 333 years, that Filipinos cowered in their own country, that men who fought for liberty were punished and executed.
Through history, I learned about Dr. Jose Rizal and Fort Santiago–the national hero’s final days in the fortress.
Fort Santiago has always been part of my lifetime traveler’s itinerary. And recently, I ticked the destination off my list, as I officially set foot on the historical site with an equally adventurous and always curious friend.
We rode on the Pasig River ferry on our way to Intramuros, an experience we quite enjoyed, not only because it was our first time, but also it was indeed exciting. But what awaited us in Intramuros was far more exhilarating.
Fort Santiago is a military structure built in the 16th century during the Spanish Colonization. It is within “The Walled City,” or Intramuros which literally means “within the walls.” (Places “outside the walls” were called Extramuros.)
One of the things that truly amazed us was the outfit of the guards stationed around the place. They were wearing the grey uniform worn by Filipino and Spanish soldiers before complete with a hat. So, aside from the historical atmosphere set by the old structures, and the horse-drawn carriages (Kalesa) taking tourists around, the guards will also make you feel that you’re living during the Spanish Era.
Upon our entrance to our trip’s highlight, our hearts jumped in glee and our blood raced through our veins–a clear indication that we were getting closer to the place where one of the greatest men in the world spent the last days of his life before his execution. Entrance fee is P75.00 for adults and P50.00 for children and students.
The rustic ambiance set our minds to reminiscence. We didn’t hire a tour guide which was better, because we had the liberty to roam around and take all the attraction and information in at our own pace without pressure.
|Rizal’s hat and trench coat|
|The national hero’s alcohol stove|
|Literally following Rizal’s footsteps.|
And since we didn’t have to follow a schedule, I had the luxury of letting my quirky side take over. It didn’t have to be an all too serious trip, did it?
|Well, I just thought of teaching these guys some modern technology…|
|…and having some massage for my aching back.|
|Meanwhile, here’s another propagandist.|
The Rizal Shrine in Fort Santiago will tell you a lot of stories about Dr. Jose Rizal through mementos displayed, and the representation of his prison cell and the trial complete with life size mannequins. Seeing the things that belonged to him and touched by his very own hands hundreds of years ago was an exceptional experience quite different from learning about him through history books and classes. It was like an up close and personal meet up with one of history’s greatest men. Only he didn’t talk back.
Photos courtesy of Jen Decena.
Sometimes, the best trips are unplanned–or aren’t well planned. I had one recently and it was indeed beyond great.
History tells us that the Pasig River was once clean and uncontaminated. Everybody loved and glorified it, and made it a part of their lives. Many years after, however, this wondrous description became quite the opposite, causing people to turn their backs on it.