Old Manila was a mediaeval walled city, built by Spanish colonialists in the late 1500s. Up until the early 1900s, it was a beautiful place of baroque cathedrals and ornate villas, reminiscent of towns in New Spain (today’s Mexico), from which it was ruled. It was known by sailors who stopped on her shores, as the “Pearl of the Orient.”
Unfortunately, much of Old Manila – called Intramuros (or “inside the walls”) today – was ruined in the aftermath of World War II. Specifically, the old city was a casualty of the Battle of Manila – a key battle on the Pacific front between the United States of America and Imperial Japan.
Today, much of Intramuros still lies in ruins, and around these ruins sit luxury residences alongside shanty-towns. But look hard (and look up) and you will find windows into the past – when you can just about imagine how it was like 400 years ago when the Spanish brought EMPIRE, RELIGION and TRADE to these shores.
[The Romance of the Grand Tour – 100 Years of Travel in Southeast Asia is available now at all major bookstores in Singapore – Kinokuniya, Times and MPH – as well as at museum shops and the airport. As of mid-May, it will also be available at major bookstores across Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, at Waterstones and Blackwells in London, and on http://www.amazon.co.uk.]