It's hard to believe that I only got to visit Intramuros on my third visit to Manila, but then, my main focus in going to the Philippines is visiting the woman I love.
As luck would have it, we visited Intramuros on Rizal Day. For those of you who don't know, José Rizal was a Filipino revolutionary and is apparently the national hero of the Philippines. That information came from our tour guide, who managed to keep a large party of people, including us, entertained for well over an hour (the tour was meant to last for an hour; no one seemed to mind that it lasted longer).
It was my fiancée's idea to have a guide. Though Intramuros is a beautiful and interesting place, it's fair to say that being there would not have been the experience it was without the tour guide. We were shown around this old part of Manila, told the history of the place and the Philippines in general, and treated to a humorous take on the role of various foreign influences on the country. There were odd moments where the narrative was in danger of becoming a political rant, especially during an interval where we were treated to a thoroughly disturbing account of what happened to Manila during World War 2. The scars of that conflict affect Manila to this day. Most of the old city was lost under a blanket of bombs, and many lives were lost to those bombs and also to Japanese swords. An old city now looks very modern, and some would say soulless, because it had to be rebuilt largely from nothing.
I should stop right there. If you want to know more about Intramuros and Manila, I highly recommend a visit. Do your research before you go and, if possible, visit the Ayala Museum in Makati as well. If you have a day to spare, the boat ride from Manila Bay to the island of Corregidor (a US military stronghold during the war; now a tourist attraction) is well worth the effort. As the tour guide said, many just pass through Manila on their way to the white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters of islands like Boracay and Palawan. Those islands are no doubt very beautiful, but it is wrong to write off Manila. There is much more to the capital than meets the eye. Yes, it is noisy, overcrowded and polluted in the main, but also home to many hidden treasures.
I'll let the pictures I took in Intramuros speak for themselves...