The city of Manila (sometimes beautiful, sometimes not) has been a permanent fixture in my life ever since I entered my elementary, and later secondary, school. Last week I had the chance to “rediscover” the city with my batchmates, as part of our enrichment experience.

The only sad thing about it all was that only four people to a class was allowed to bring a camera. :( The pictures here are all grabbed and therefore not mine. Some I just got from google images. The rest from Facebook. :) 

(Can you even review a city’s tourist spots? Nevermind. This post is an awkward mesh of objective remarks and subjective opinions anyways.)

Place: Manila City, Philippines

Date: Very recently.

Visited: Binondo Church, Rizal Park, National Post Office, Arroceros Forest, National Museum and Manila City Hall

What did I see in Manila?

Destination A: Binondo Church

Binondo Church, also known as Minor Basilica of St. Lorenzo Ruiz, is located in the district of Binondo. Apparently, it was founded by Dominican priests in 1956 to “serve their Chinese converts to Christianity as well as other Filipinos”. It is, basically, in the heart of what is now Chinatown. [Don’t quote me on these; my main source is wikipedia.]

As a batch we attended the first mass at 6 am. It was, unsurprisingly, short (only 45 minutes long), considering the fact that there was no choir and that the people attending were Chinese. Uhm. I’m not sure why this Church is “famous” or even slightly famous. Is it? If it’s not, why did we even go there?

Going to church first thing in the morning is no different from going to church on a Sunday or attending Religion Class (except for the fact that your seatmate tends to droop down because of lack of sleep) –somehow I am always left a little confused. To stress my point, I saw a devotee/ faithful man carry what looked like a calendar (one of those tapestry-esque things) with a pole (meaning he wasn’t directly touching it). He proceeded to face each image with the tapestry/poster he was carrying and bow. Was he asking it to be blessed? Will it even be blessed by that? Why 6 in the morning?

I don’t get it. :( 

I don’t even understand why there was a ridiculous amount of statues and religious images inside the church. Is the mural of mysteries of the rosary necessary? Are the small cherubim statues helpful at all? Most of my batchmates don’t even know who the statues were representing. What’s the point? For me, it just seems like a waste of funds that could have been used for better purposes. I mean, honestly: right outside Binondo Church, there’s a poor man asking for solicitations; a few steps away from it show dilapidated street signs, buildings, roads all contributing to intense traffic that also ruined our second destination.

Destination B: Fire Volunteers

I’m not sure if there was an exact destination, per se, but all I know is that it was a total failure. We were supposed to watch a fire drill by these volunteers, and in turned out that they weren’t prepared enough to anticipate traffic, technical concerns et cetera.


While we were waiting for the fire trucks (apparently including a famous “Ube” truck) to come, one man was talking to us about their organization. They’re called Exefire, and they’ve been online since 1912. I could post tons of other details, but that would be a bit irrelevant. In summary, he informed us how reports are taken in, how to register as a volunteer, how they offer scholarships for volunteer training (and he did offer our school five slots) and their hotline numbers.

The things that struck me most out of what he said: “The only disaster that is preventable is fire.” and “cellphone is supposed to be a very good rescue tool”. Ehem.

Destination C: Rizal Park

Rizal Park, which I usually call Luneta, is still as hot and as familiar as ever. I’ve been to that park a dozen or so times since I was a child. Nothing really changed, I suppose. I didn’t even remark anything in my mini-diary.

It wasn’t boring, though, since I was with my classmates and teachers. Some of them rode this train ride that circuited around the park, while the rest of us walked and looked at the statues. That was one thing that I noticed –the statues of other heroes. It went around the inner plot of green in the main park, and I read some names that I’ve never encountered before (mainly those beginning with “Datu…”). I also (inwardly) laughed at some busts, including Marcelo H. del Pilar’s. The mustaches were just too much for me.

We also went inside the Chinese Garden. I distinctly remember being there once as a child; I just can’t remember why. We posed for pictures (a lot) and caused a disturbance for the other (sleeping) patrons. Confucius had a statue at the center of the park; most of the statues, engravings and such were donated by a Filipino-Chinese friendship organization (or something like that).


After a hundred pictures, we eventually began a relatively long trek to the other side of the park. Why? Everyone wanted to go to the Children’s Playground, apparently. Given that our tour guide service was generally unprepared, we had to wait for a few minutes to actually get into the playground for free (we even paid to visit the garden earlier). I suppose it was very fun for others. It was very hot, though, and dirty.

My nose was itching the whole time.

Destination D: National Post Office

What can I say about the National Post Office?

  1. Boring
  2. Outdated

Look: I appreciate and adore snail mail. I think it’s all very vintage, and I’d like to keep on supporting it when I’m older. I find it very hard, however, to keep on doing such if I have to visit the National Post Office to do it. They could use better lighting, for example, and maybe invest in air-conditioning units  or even electric fans. The interior rooms of the place looked like it walked out of a horror movie –like one of those haunted schools that people dare to enter.

And they gave us a talk. A talk.

What in the world could the Post Office talk about? Apparently: parts of a letter, collecting stamps, and the history of the Post Office. And here I was, accidentally falling asleep while sitting on the floor (obviously because in the last eleven years since I toured this place as a Prep student, they still didn’t install a multi-purpose function room for such talks), when someone working in the Post Office actually scolded me. Was it even a conscious fault?


Disregarding the outdated equipment, design and over-all environment of the place, we still enjoyed the tour itself. We had the opportunity to see how people stamp, sort and send letters (we sent one missive each, paid by the school). I had my journal stamped.

Destination E: Arroceros Forest

This post is very, very long.

Imagine our surprise when, a few days before the trip, our teachers announced that we will be visiting a forest. A forest? Right at the heart of a city? It seemed impossible.

Somehow it was, because what we saw was not a forest. It was like a park dressing up as a forest, and failing. [According to Wikipedia], a forest is an area with a high density of tress. Uhm. The area behind the fields/bukid in Nagcarlan, Laguna constitute a forest. Two, or even three, of me could fit snugly in between the trees in the so-called “forest”. Not to mention the fact that there were paved walkways (hence the park idea), two cemented convening areas at either side of the park forest and the fact that I could actually see the area beyond the other side of the forest. It’s that small.

Edit: Hmm. Searching through google yielded a more accurate name for the forest. Apparently, its real name is “Arroceros Forest Park“.

We were supposed to have a picnic-lunch there. I was thinking: mats, baskets and malongs. Apparently picnic = monobloc plastic chairs, a catering service and tables for the tourist guides and teachers.

Destination F: National Museum

Now this. This probably killed me and my day.

When I think of the words “National Museum”, I associate it with the beautiful museums I’ve seen in the past. I think of Louvre, Musei Vaticani, Museo del Prado, and even that space-museum-with-a-name-I-forgot in NY. To me the association is perfectly logical: national institutions are, after all, supposedly well-funded and supported by the government.

I should have felt warned by the state of the National Post Office. Instead, I continued on with the long-standing excitement of actually going inside the NM.


Let’s go by chronological order.

Bulwagan Luna at Hidalgo/ Hall of Masters

It was the best hall of the lot, in terms of layout. That is not a good thing. So, edited from my journal: The hall is big (rectangular) and cool. It is, however, empty. I could easily count the number of works these so-called masters produced.

I don’t understand how the works of two people could be featured in a permanent exhibit. I mean, not even Da Vinci has a permanent exhibit in the Louvre. The fact that the collection was so sparse means only one of  two things: (1) the two masters really had only a small amount of works surviving them, or (2) the curator and museum didn’t put enough effort or money into procuring pieces.

I don’t know which is worse.

The Juan Luna’s Spolarium and Felix Hidalgo’s Governor Dasmarinas, at the very least, delivered well.

Other exhibits

There were several pieces that really struck me, including:

  • Hernando Ocampo’s Homage to Tandang Sora
  • Jose Joya’s Hills of Niko
  • Dominador Castaneda’s UP Site Today
  • Juan M. Arellano’s works on architecture
  • John Frank Sabado’s mixed media artwork

Points of Improvement 

Browsing the pieces, we came to one conclusion: there is something wrong with the layout of the museum.

For one thing, the bones in Bones Hall couldn’t be viewed properly. Why? Because for some reason, someone thought it would be visually helpful if we superimposed a glass with images of the animals over the bones. Excuse me. As a visitor, I’d like to see the animals when they’ve decomposed to the point of becoming skeletal, not when they’re alive and in 2D. 

And all of the six or seven halls we’ve visited had the same lighting problem. I CAN’T EVEN SEE SOME OF THE PIECES. I distinctly remember an instance wherein I had to go on tiptoe simply to see a painting without the glare of light reflecting on it. This isn’t to mention some of the other pieces that I can’t appreciate because of the fact that the windows on the opposite wall were reflected. Seriously. And then there are those works (I think it was the prehistoric hall) that had me bending down to read the descriptions, but lo! The lights are arranged in such a way that if I try to read the descriptive plaque, I actually block the light coming from behind me.

Whisk;cf. :(

And SECURITY. You didn’t even check our bags or the bags of the other visitors with us. Honestly. :( I was trying to look behind some of the hung paintings and I swear I could just run away with it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were fixed with nails.  What would CCTV do if I’m already out of the country? Some of us asked the main guide of the museum if there were any instances of people trying to steal pieces. He answered with a “it’s confidential” tone.

And also, TAKE CARE OF YOUR PIECES. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been to some world-class museums, and I’m pretty sure that they don’t label their artefacts with etched-on liquid eraser-esque markers. Neither do they show said marking to us.

Lastly. I came excited mainly because all of the museums I’ve been to sold awesome souvenirs. In my head I expected to run away from the museum carrying legally-acquired notebooks. They only sold ballers. BALLERS.

They’ve been around since 1901, and they don’t even have a souvenir shop.

Destination G: Manila City Hall

The Good

Our entrance was, in some ways, very loud. There was a banner, and a wind orchestra playing Justin Bieber and other songs. We were welcomed, et cetera et cetera, and we proceeded first to the Session Hall.

Okay. The good things about the Session Hall: it’s all solar-powered, energy-efficient et cetera. It was cool (a good working environment), mainly due to the “green aire” solar-powered air-conditioning units. The lighting was mostly natural (solar tubes and a central stained glass window). They had a PWD lifter (very conscientious), they broadcasted their sessions every Tuesday at 2 pm ( They also had 46 apple desktop units.

(And we also met Vice Mayor Isko Moreno.)

We also went to the Bulwagang Rodriquez, which featured Mayor Lim’s eleven point agenda (including goals, pictures and progress updates, portraits of previous mayers and so on. In the Office of the Mayor/ Bulwagang Villegas, we saw Carlos B. Francisco’s mural, Filipinos Struggle through History, which was simply breathtaking. Scenes from Noli Me Tangere and El Fili, Florante and Laura, KKK, the three martyrs and so on were featured there. There were other paintings/ pictures of historical events littering the walls.

I’m not sure whether this is a good or a bad thing, but the Lim’s office was full of features on him. There was a feature on his achievements/ media exposures hanging from the wall and a painting of him as well. Above his desk there was a picture of him with a blue background framed. The hall was otherwise empty.

Manila Session Hall

The Bad


First, on the Session Hall. They have 46 Apple-Mac Desktop units (Php 62 000/unit x 46 units = Php 2 604 000), if I’m not mistaken of the number of units. Why did they opt for Macintosh, when other brands are just as efficient (if not more) yet cheaper? (Mac, after all, gets away with high prices because it looks cool). The Vice Mayor answers: it won’t get a virus/ more environment friendly (with electronic agenda)/ license is extended to three units.

My face when he said those could not be painted over. Let’s go over the reasons: first, it won’t get a virus. I don’t even –is he implying that the only firewall and security system the computers have are from the physical unit itself? If I was a hacker -low level or whatver– getting their transcripts and documents would be easy. I know now that the main thing standing in my way is the virus protector inherent and the same in all Apple products, since the city is too “cost-efficient” to rely on/ buy anything else.

Second, its more environment friendly. Alright, conceded. That’s a good thing. I still don’t understand why cheaper units would not work.

Third, license is extended to three units. Uhm. I need to get back on this one. I don’t know anything about this yet (our personal Apple laptops at home certainly don’t make use of these extended licenses). But either way — would buying licenses (unspecified program, even) really be more cost-efficient than the Php 20 000 per unit (= Php 920 000 total) that can be saved if you buy from another brand? I don’t even understand what other programs aside from Microsoft Word/ Excel and Safari the councilors need when in session.

I don’t even.

[And even until now we copy Americans. Vice Mayor Moreno was proud when he said that the chairs and desks for the councilors were copies of those used in the American Congress (or some other body along those line). Even their website,, is another argument for us Filipinos having no originality at all.]

Not to mention the fact that the Session Hall and connected lobby is just perfect: sleek, well  ventilated and supplied with comfy chairs, while outside is a jarring reminder that the reality for everyone else is not sleek, not cool, and certainly not comfortable.

The first few rooms we passed by had people squeezing themselves while waiting for the slow bureaucracy. Portions of the wall screamed “badly-dried” and “badly-painted”. Chips and signs of wear littered everywhere except for the newly-renovated Session Hall.

The same observation applies to Bulwagang Rodriguez, right in front of the Office of the Mayor. Why? There are seven small chandeliers and one big one, even if there are already other, more functional light fixtures evident. The small chandeliers are even mostly for show, I believe, especially since some are turned off and nothing disastrously inconvenient happened because of it. In the center there also was a crystal and glass plated standing lamp. I don’t even know what purpose it served; it was turned off, in the way, and generally ostentatious.

And that was our tour of Manila City Hall.

Destination H: Sta. Ana Church

Looking at the places we visited (way, way above), it’s obvious that we didn’t make it to the Church. One reason: the infamous Manila traffic. We eventually decided on passing through Roxas Boulevard to watch the sunset, but that didn’t work out because of uncoordinated timing.

I ended up falling asleep.


Why go to Manila?

Reviewing everything I’ve written, I believe I accidentally wrote a negative report. Well, sorry. I don’t live in Manila City anyways.

Just kidding.

Go to Manila if you want to have fun (and not to critic) and go to the sites that aren’t facilitated by an inefficient sublocal government. Go to Luneta Park and have mass in Binondo Church. Visit the famous Intramuros, Manila Ocean Park. Perhaps go to the National Library.

Bring friends (it certainly helped me).

More pictures to follow. :) 

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