meeting place was at the san sebastian church steps at del carmen plaza. ivan man dy was our guide for the day, and he was dressed in a katipunero outfit, with a hat made of upo.
he started us off with a little history of the basilica san sebastian. the church is known for its steel foundations, and is the first steel church in asia. ivan also revealed that it was alexander gustave eiffel who supervised the engineering of the church in belgium before the parts were shipped here and put together like lego. this steel foundation was the church's answer to the frequent earthquakes that happened back then, which destroyed the first three san sebastian churches.
it's quite sad that the church is now suffering from old age. while still majestic, rust marks are clearly seen on its facade. ivan shared that in order for us to keep the church in great shape, we will have to strip off the paint once every year. that's a lot of work! when you enter the church, you will first think that it's made of marble, but it's actually just an attempt to hide the rigid look of steel, because while steel is sturdy, it's not very pretty.
next up was mendiola. we walked along centro escolar university and crossed to san beda, where ivan ushered us into a benedictine abbey. ivan calls it the jewel box of the area, and it indeed was a treasure! while it didn't have many pews, the ceiling and other interior details were impressive and well-maintained. i actually wasn't able to listen in on ivan's lectures, as i couldn't stop taking photos of the place!
ivan then herded us over to the old millionaires row, where large houses line the road near malacanang palace. we tiptoed into the entryway of arlegui mansion, where former president corazon aquino resided during her reign as president. the mansion was modest for a head of state, but quite enough for us regular people. photo-taking wasn't allowed during this part of the tour, so i can't show you the mansion. i found it very elegant.
and then we were off to the palace. it's quite a shame that weekend walks don't include entrance to the malacanang museum, as i've always wanted to see the inside of the place. maybe i'll book a weekday tour next time. but the guards that day were pretty lenient and friendly, and allowed ivan to deliver his malacanang spiel just outside the gates.
we then walked a little bit to freedom park, which faces the palace, where we talked about the old san miguel brewery. this was where the country's favorite drink was originally brewed.
sensing our exhaustion, ivan led us to la cocina de tita moning, where a delightful pre-lunch "merienda" was waiting for us. we were served tanglad (lemongrass) iced tea, kangkong salad, fettucine with tomato sauce, baked chicken, and bread pudding. everything was delicious, and i thought we had come to the end of the tour. but ivan had something else in mind.
la cocina de tita moning now stands in the former legarda mansion. much of the mansion has been preserved, and now serves as a museum of sorts, for people to take a peek at how life used to be for affluent families along millionaires row. the ground level alone boasts of about four to five rooms.
the first room on the left houses train sets that the children used to play with, a testament that these children did not grow up in any ordinary filipino home. across that room is a library, still well-preserved with its large armchairs. and when you walk down a narrow hallway, you will be led to the doctor's old clinic. it was actually where he delivered his children (he was a gynecologist). across that is a room filled with photography equipment--lenses, cameras, film, magazines. it was clear that this doctor valued his hobbies.
the second floor has been converted to a dining area, for guests of la cocina de tita moning. but some of the rooms were kept the way they used to be--a room containing all radio memorabilia, and a fancy boudoir, where the matriarch prettifies herself before a fancy gathering. this home also houses a painting by felix resurreccion hidalgo and juan luna.
just like that, my trip to the past was over. i love being transported back in time by walking the same pathways that people used to tread on. and i believe we're pretty lucky to have guides such as ivan and carlos celdran who are doing their part in letting more people know about the history of the city of our affections.
view more photos of my old manila walk here.
power palace and a shot of beer!
mobile: 0917-3291622 (ivan man dy)
price: P850 with merienda
advanced notice is required.