Ghost hunting not included. Plus some tips on how to make the most out of your tour
Manila Post Office
The history of Manila, and we mean Old Manila, is like a classic Shakespeare play with its share of histories, comedies and tragedies all throughout its existence.
For first time travelers in The Philippines, Metropolitan Manila (or Metro Manila, or NCR - National Capital Region) is the name of the capital region, while Manila is just one of its 27 cities in it.
Night lights at Jones Bridge
Old Manila, however, is the area where we have a rich history to tell, from the beginnings of Intramuros and Chinatown during the country's Spanish colonial period to the rapid geographical and cultural changes that Filipinos dealt with during the Japanese and American invasions. The stories about Old Manila is quite a handful that it only takes a few good storytellers with an eye for the truth to share a deeper angle about it and the events that transpired in the area, such as finding out what's really tucked on the walls inside Intramuros or on how Filipinos used to splurge their hard-earned money at the fab and lavish, busy streets of Escolta.
The main street entering Chinatown
What's great about the tour was that it is fairly priced at around Php1,300 for a four to five hour walking tour (that's around 23 USD at the time of writing) but the good news is they currently have a promo rate of only Php850 (around 15 USD) which is valid only until the end of 2022.
And while I would love to put every bit of our night walking tour into detail (being the frustrated historian that I am), I've instead shared some snippets below alongside my top 5 tips on how to make it a more enjoyable experience!
Escolta Saturday Market
1. Get enough rest before the tour - and try to arrive on time
For majority of the people living in the Philippines (or should I say, majority of Filipinos), call times can be really challenging, especially with the sudden traffic and weather changes. However, coming in earlier than expected shouldn't be a burden. Because tours usually fall on a Saturday, you can have some time to go around the hip Escolta Market at First United Building where you can shop for pre-loved and vintage items, have some coffee at The Den, get a bottle of San Mig at Fred’s Revolución or even get a haircut at the barbershop located inside the market.
Wet cobblestone streets in Intramuros after a slight drizzle
2. Be prepared for anything
Make sure you have the following items before the activity:
Water and some snacks - the entire walking tour takes a few hours, so best to have these
Fan, Extra Face Mask, Umbrella - good to use when it the humidity outside is higher and it's warm, if your current face mask fails to do the assignment, or if it rains
Some cash - and in a safe space, please! Don't bring any valuable items if possible. The streets are fairly safe to walk but it would be best to be cautious as well
Some salt - not for sprinkling on your food, but over your shoulders (which is said to bring luck as well). Kuya Butch, our guide, can also provide some if you don't have any. Salt is know to have spiritual benefits, so whether you believe in ghosts or not, there's really no harm in having it inside your pocket during the course of the tour.
Memoriam inside Intramuros dedicated to war victims
3. Listen to your tour guide
There is a reason why you are taking this activity, and selfies/photo ops can be done later after the tour guide is done sharing information about the areas that he's leading you to. You don't want to have too much fun taking that perfect selfie and get lost along the way (believe me, my friends who I adore got lost a bit when I did the tour LOL)
Front gates of the Manila Cathedral at night
4. Try not to get tricked at the street parking
So here's a story - I parked my car and two men talked me into paying extra on top of my usual parking so they can still look after it later that evening (since the city parking enforcer only works until a certain time). At the end of the day, no one looked after my car and another guy was asking me to pay again. Don't give into these tricks. Just as long as you're parked in the right area, you should be good!
Many heritage / old restaurants within the walled city are only open until 8-9pm
5. Here are places where you can eat / hang out after the tour
There are only a handful of restaurants that are still open after the tour (ours ended at around 930pm) so you can still have some late dinner at the La Cathedral Cafe (overlooking the Manila Cathedral) or for a heavier option, the classic Chicken Barbecue and Java Rice combo at the Aristocrat is always a good idea.
Finally, here's a shoutout to Kuya Butch who has been very friendly, informative and super helpful all throughout our tour! From the popular stories to city legends and some eerie facts about Old Manila, the walking night tour gave me a better appreciation of our past and partly blame it for our failures too. Overall, a must if you're looking of something new to do while in the city. It's truly a unique experience for all you curious folks out there!
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