Later that same day
In sombre mood, following the visit to the American Memorial, we headed on to the centre of Manila.
The very centre from which all mileages are taken, the huge flag flying from a mast right opposite the stadium where the Pope preached to six million people not so long ago.
Where there is also a monument to a national hero, Dr Jose Rizal.
“Let’s go to the Rizal Park”, said Alvoy, “you can learn a little about him”.
So we followed dutifully on, past the sign which said “The Martyrdom of Dr Jose Rizal”, into a small amphitheatre where a sound and vision presentation was under way.
“Welcome to the execution of Dr Rizal”, spoke an amplified voice, which continued to tell the story of his last days and how he walked to this very place to be shot.
We didn’t linger. It was midday, the sun was hot and we hadn’t really expected to spend our day moving from cemetery to memorial to scene of execution. Fortunately, it was almost lunchtime and we hoped to lift our spirits over something tasty!
Lunch was indeed very good. Served in a traditional restaurant in the Intramuros historic district, there was a well laid out buffet with plenty of choice.
After lunch we were invited to look around the Casa Manila, next door. It was the most beautiful Spanish Colonial home, decorated in traditional style and had been a pet project of Imelda Marcos. Sadly, no photographs, so I’ll try to find a link to an online source. Suffice to say the furnishings were lavish, the guards were attentive but smiling and we were able to put our one word of Filipino to good use. “Guapo” Beautiful, handsome, stunning…
Just across the street was the San Augustin church, the interior of which is a World Heritage site. The baroque altar was particularly beautiful.
It being Holy Week, however, the purple drapes were a particular feature.
Almost every image was draped similarly.
From the peace and quiet of the church, we returned through the throng of street sellers – “pearls” (3 strings for $5 – do you think they’re real?), hats, key rings…nothing we wanted, but interesting local colour, nevertheless.
Our next and final stop of the day was Fort Santiago, scene of Dr Rizal’s imprisonment and torture and of similar events throughout the history of Manila.
We preferred to mooch around the beautiful gardens,
to speculate what was being said to General MacArthur
and to take a little look around the handicraft shop.
Mind you, some of those handicrafts looked a little manufactured.
Some were of questionable taste, too. Still, around the corner we spotted some pretty clutch bags and spent a fun time with the assistants, choosing a couple whilst dancing the Filipino tinikling dance (minus the bamboo sticks) that anyone who's travelled on a cruise in this part of the world will recognise from the Krew Kapers show. Well, as soon as we heard that particular piece of music, what else could we do but dance!?
From there, we returned to the ship, where preparations were already being made for our departure. Sad farewells were made as crew guests were asked to go ashore and we made our way to deck five to watch our departure.
What cuties! These four were the most precocious bunch!
The band played,
The dancers began their show
and a few families waited to wave.
Slowly, as the ship moved away from the quayside, the band, the dancers and everyone else formed a long line and accompanied by the strangest arrangement of Auld Lang Syne you could imagine, they wished us bon voyage.
Manila had proved to be a fascinating city, not at all what we expected and in many ways, far more South American in feel than Asian – I imagine as a result of the Spanish heritage.
As we left the harbour, the sun was setting over the volcano and we couldn’t resist standing and taking another twenty photos as it sank low in the sky.
We watched as the tug arrived to take the pilot home. Thankfully he had assistance in making what looked like a pretty precarious leap from one ship to another
Yes, I’d have waved enthusiastically having made that transition safely, too!
Dinner last night was in the steakhouse, where the menus are large and the portions not much smaller!
So after dinner, my hero and I took a stroll in the warm, late evening air.
We admired some of the new decor, in particular the way some areas of the ship have been enhanced and made more attractive.
We didn’t linger however, for there were blog posts to write, emails to read and plans for tomorrow to be made.
There is simply never a dull moment.