With its world-famous breathtaking sunset by the bay, a sprawling national park, a Spanish-era walled city, century-old churches, Manila is arguably the heritage gem of the metropolis. On weekends, the city is a haven for joggers and bikers for an inexpensive recreation within the urban jungle.
With its facelift under the current administration, the nation’s 449-year old capital has become more enticing and friendly to bikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
With the restricted air and land mobility due to the quarantine, many residents have opted to make biking around Metro Manila the alternative getaway. Below are some of the lesser-known spots hidden from plain sight which are worth pedaling for a rediscovery tour of Manila’s old districts.
1. The redeveloped Kartilya ng Katipunan Shrine was an instant hit on social media because of its Instagrammable dancing fountain show, piped in music, and free Wi-Fi. At the back of the massive tableau is a tree park with the bronze monument of Emilio Jacinto, a Tondo boy and the “Brains of the Katipunan” who wrote the Kartilya which contains the teachings of the revolutionary movement. The park will soon open the Kape Tolyo.
2. The 2.2-hectare Arroceros Forest Park, located at the back of the City Hall, is regarded as “Manila’s last lung” because of its secondary growth forest, scores of tree varieties and thousands of ornamental plants which serve as habitat of various bird species. A river esplanade is being developed which will offer a view of the Pasig River and Quezon Bridge.
3. Tucked at a Malate side street is Ellinwood Malate Church, one of the country’s first Protestant churches which dates back to the arrival of the American Presbyterian missionaries in 1899. Its modern Romanesque-Gothic main sanctuary, designed by eminent architect Cesar Concio, was opened in 1956. The adjacent old sanctuary was dedicated in 1932 and was among the few surviving structures during World War II’s Battle of Manila in 1945.
4. A tree-lined public park fronting the Ermita Church is this plaza named in honor of Fernando Ma. Guerrero, a local resident and acknowledged as the “Prince of Philippine Lyric Poetry.” Over the decades, it was known as Plaza de Mercado, Plaza Nuestra Señora de Guia, and Plaza Ferguson. Surrounded by boutique hotels and restaurants, its centerpiece is a Marian statue sculpted by the late Ed Castrillo.
5. The site of the circa 1920s Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) in Binondo, this building has been given a new lease on life as the 1919 Grand Café and has become a must-try restaurant with its gourmet restaurants. It has been hailed by heritage conservationists as a successful adaptive reuse project for old edifices.
6. Quietly standing in Urbiztondo St. in San Nicolas district is the birthplace of Gen. Antonio Luna, regarded as the greatest Filipino strategist during the Filipino-American War. Built in the typical Spanish-style stone house in the mid-1800s, it still has most of its original structure and materials. It is closed to the public and just comes to life during the general’s birthday celebration every October 29.
7. Referred to as the world’s oldest Chinatown, Binondo was created in 1594 by the Spanish governor general as the settlement for Chinese immigrants. The district exudes an eclectic ambiance with its blend of the old and the new. The area is popular for Chinese specialty dishes, bakeries, Oriental medicines, jewelry, and the Minor Basilica and spruced up plaza named after the first Filipino saint, Lorenzo Ruiz, a native of the place.
8. A forest in the city, Manila South Cemetery is like an oasis in the concrete jungle with its lush greeneries and century-old trees. If you want to rest in peace, not quite literally, this is the place. While it is located within Makati’s territory, it is under the jurisdiction of Manila.