HOLY WEEK: THE BEST TIME TO VISIT FAMOUS MANILA PARKS
Manila, March 16, 2002 (BULLETIN) It is just a week before the Holy Week, and I am sure you, my dear readers, are now planning your vacations. Unlike some of my friends who plan elaborate vacations abroad or to Baguio City or Boracay island, for the past three years, I have opted to stay in Manila during the Holy Week. It is the only time in the year when Metro Manila is quiet and free from traffic. You are free to run in the streets and roam around for a day or two, but that gives me time to spend some quiet time at home, doing some spring cleaning or just catching up on unfinished chores.
If you will find yourself in Manila during the Holy Week, why not take the time to visit the different parks in the city? I am quite fond of Rizal Park, Paco Park and Fort Santiago. Of the three, I often find myself going to Paco Park and Fort Santiago because they are quiet and less crowded than Luneta.
For close to 400 years, Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila served as the military headquarters of Spanish colonial forces. Located at the tip of the delta near the mouth of the Pasig River, the fort was named in honor of Spain’s patron saint, Saint James the Slayer of Moors, or Santiago Matamoros, whose wooden relief decorates the main gate of the fort.
The fort, also served as headquarters for British, American and Japanese forces, during World War II, hundreds of men and women were jailed, tortured and executed inside its walls by the Kempeitai, the Japanese military police.
After its destruction by American forces in the 1945 Battle of Manila, Fort Santiago was restored as a public park in 1950 after the Philippine Congress declared it a Shrine of Freedom.
Nowadays, the fort is one of the few historical landmarks in the city to be frequented by foreigners, giving them an idea of life during the Spanish times, as well as acquainting them with our national hero Jose Rizal.
I visited Fort Santiago recently to bask in the fading light of the sunset at the Baluarte de Sta. Barbara. I had very short time left since I came at quarter to 6 p.m. and the fort closes at around 6:30 p.m. There were a handful of Japanese tourists in the area who were, like me, admiring the sunset. From my stand, there was a good view of Del Pan bridge.
Of course, the Baluarte de Sta. Barbara is far away inside the fort. It is a good distance from the fort’s entrance near the Manila Cathedral.
A long time ago, upon entering Fort Santiago, one would find at the left-hand side some of cars that were used by different presidents of the country on display. Some of the cars were in poor condition, and needed intensive repairs. They are now gone. In their place now stands a replica of the tranvia, which was the form of mass transit in Manila during the turn of the century.
To get to the fort, one will pass through Plaza Moriones, a sprawling expanse of greens and a picnic ground, complete with a replica of a train where the kids can play.
A moat separates the fort from the rest of the park. The whole of Intramuros was separated by a system of moats during the Spanish rule as a protection against invaders and local uprisings. While the moat used to be filled with fishes, it is now dark and dirty and full of litter from park goers.
From the fort gate, you cross through Plaza Armas and go up a series of steps to reach Baluarte de Sta. Barbara. A memorial cross marks the common grave of some 600 bodies of guerrillas and civilians found within the Baluarte after the war.
There were a number of children gathering tamarind fruits from trees around the Baluarte. I went up a couple of steps to try and reach some of the fruits myself. It was a precarious climb and I could have fallen down from the Baluarte.
Following down some steps, one is already at the Rizal Shrine, a museum in honor of the national hero. The shrine stands on the site of a brick building that served as barracks for the Spanish. It was here were Rizal was imprisoned as he awaited his death following a death sentence from the Spanish.
Apart from its historical importance, Fort Santiago has sentimental value for me.
In April 1972, Charo Santos had her first cover shoot at the Baluarte de San Miguel. I had just discovered her in Mindoro, and she was just 13. Already she was 5’6” tall. The shoot was for Weekly Women’s Magazine, and she was dressed in a pair of hot pants in yellow and violet stripes and dots. A few years later, we would be back at the same venue, this time with Charo’s sister Malu in tow for another photo shoot. Malu was a runner-up of the 1975 Miss Red Feather. She is now a producer for Star Cinema and the award-winning TV program Maalaala Mo Kaya.
I also remember Kuh Ledesma’s biggest Valentine show held near at the Rizal Shrine. She opened the show with one of my favorite songs, Bulaklak. I also remember fashion shows by Renato Balestra and Santiago de Manila, produced by Chito Madrigal-Collantes, to benefit some of then First Lady Imelda Marcos’ charity projects.
Most of all, Fort Santiago has a soft spot in my heart because it is home to PETA, which stages its productions at the Rajah Sulayman Theater. PETA produced a number of theater hits in 1970s, such as Nick Joaquin’s “Larawan”, which starred Lolita Rodriguez and Charito Solis, and Orlando Nadres’ classic “Hanggang Dito na Lamang”. I did the costumes for Len Santos in that production, including a gown which would tear into pieces in a confrontation scene. The play starred Lino Brocka and Bembol Roco. It toured the Philippines and had 950 performances.
From Fort Santiago, you can walk to San Agustin Church and learn more about our Spanish colonial past at its museum. Down the road, Puerta Real also offers a sunny promenade. Rizal Park has its attraction, including “Pamana”, a permanent exhibit of paintings by Filipino artists, which will be opening on April 15.
There are so many things in Metro Manila that you can explore in the coming Holy Week. They are cheaper options and would be a good opportunity for the whole family to go out together.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
2002 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS
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