Manila, capital city of the Philippines, is a dense mix of urban development and historic settlement. Delegates of AFT 2016 were offered the opportunity to experience part of the city on a pre-show tour.

The tour took us into Intramuros, one of the best models of a medieval fort outside Europe. We were entertained by traditional song and dance, explored the once majestic Intramuros (Spanish for “walled city”) by horse carriage, and got a feel for Old Manila – if only these walls could talk!

We visited Fort Santiago which guards the entrance to the Pasig River.

Within the fort grounds is an oasis of lovely manicured gardens, plazas and fountains leading to its arched gate and pretty lily pond.

The Rizal Shrine museum, the building where Dr José Rizal – Philippines’ national hero – was incarcerated as he awaited execution in 1896 contains various fascinating displays of Rizal memorabilia and a recreation of his cell and the courtroom trial. In addition to more song and dance, was a recreation of Rizal’s last moments before led off for execution…

Some of us hopped briefly onto a bamboo bicycle (they offer cycling tours of Intramuros – note to self, for next time) before enjoying a delicious ice-cream flavoured with local fruit.

Walking through the UNESCO World Heritage Site San Agustin Church, accompanied by the melodious voices of the children’s choir, was quite an experience – as was the opportunity to witness a traditional ‘wedding’ (recreated of course). This church is one of the oldest stone churches in the Philippines and dates back to the 16th century. The beauty of the building was striking and its importance to the people apparent.

Located opposite the church is the Casa Manila, a lifestyle museum replicated from an 1800’s home. Here we were welcomed by a local band and some traditional food.

Our afternoon of discovery ended with cocktails and local beer on the rooftop of the Bayleaf Intramuros – the Sky Deck as it is called, offers unobstructed 360 degree views of the entire city. A great stop to end the day and for viewing the famous Manila sunset…

Read more about travelling like a local in Manila HERE

words & pics – Tessa Buhrmann