Wandering around Intramuros: From historic places to finding a Muslim community and replacing the lenses

My conference ended on June 2, 2018 and I had planned to wander around Manila the next day before I returned to the states the next two days. It was my birthday, too. I was turning 30 on June 3, 2018. Gosh, I was feeling so old. LoL

Taken at Fort Santiago.

Well, actually I had no idea about where to go aside from going to Manila Bay. I asked the lady at the front desk of my hotel. And just so I don’t forget, her name is Irene, she’s really nice, sweet, kind, and beautiful! She even installed Whatsapp for me in case I needed some help and needed to contact her when I was wandering around Manila that day. Whatsapp was not really popular in Philippines, that’s what she told me. The popular apps there were Viber and Instagram. Well, I have Instagram but not so much for instant communication. I didn’t expect her to install anything for me either, but she did. That’s really an extraordinary service and she didn’t even realize that it was my birthday; i.e. she’s doing it purely because she’s kind not because it’s my birthday! Later when I went back to the states, I sent her a postcard and she finally found my Instagram and said that she’s very happy to receive it because it’s the first time someone wrote to her. It made me really happy myself.

The church.

When I asked her to recommend some places to me, considering the time I have and the distance between places, she suggested to go to Intramuros. I had no idea what that was but after I browsed, I found that it was a historic city in Manila. She said that I could go to Fort Santiago and some tourist attractions nearby like Jose Rizal Park, Manila Ocean Park, National Museums, etc. Those places were not so far from each other.

Walking to the park.

I first went to Fort Santiago. It was a nice place. I thought it was free; it turned out that it wasn’t; I had to pay 75 PHP. The officer thought I was either Malaysian or Indonesian. Well, it often happened. I strolled around the place. There was not so much to see, but maybe because I didn’t really know how to enjoy historic places. Some parts were also still under construction so I didn’t really get to see every part of it. I took some pictures. I asked some people to take my pics too. I saw the dungeons. This part really made me sad. It happened in the past, so somehow I tried to get over it. But to think that something similar (the wars!) is still happening on this day, at this age, at this era, well, I don’t know how well to put it. It’s beyond sad. When humans are not treated as humans, I really don’t know what we have learned or if we learn anything at all. But I don’t know what else to do aside from trying to be nice and kind at least to those around me.

It was a bit rainy when I was at Fort Santiago, so I went inside a building where it displayed some beautiful designs (replicas?) of some churches and other buildings. They were so beautiful. And when the rain stopped, I decided to explore some more before leaving. I also bought two postcards there and found that they were slightly cheaper than the ones I bought earlier near Ateneo de Manila University. I asked the shopkeeper how to get to Jose Rizal Park. She told me to take FX (if I remembered correctly). It was supposed to be a kind of public transport. I asked if it was too far to walk there and she said yes it was far.

It’s common to see this around the park.

I tried to find the FX but I couldn’t find it and there were so many tricycle drivers and other people who offered the service to take me around the city for some pesos. I wasn’t sure if it was expensive or not, but it was just suffocating to be approached by so many people like that. It made me really anxious so I decided to just go on foot. I saw my Google Map (Thank you T-mobile for the roaming service!) and I found that it was just around 20 minutes walk. No big deal, that’s how long it usually took for me to go to my campus from my apartment. But, well, I was crazy enough to decide to walk all over the place when I was fasting. (It was still Ramadhan!).

Going on foot was kinda better too since I got to take my time and enjoy the views and the buildings along the way. Still, some people still approached me and tried to get me to use their service to wander around the city. Gosh, I really wanted them to leave me alone. (Why can’t they just leave me alone? If I needed them, I’d be the one coming to them! T_T).

The national museum.

When I arrived at the park, I was kinda stunned because it was really huge. I mean, it was vast and I saw many people. I saw some people with hijabs too (but I also found them in Fort Santiago). They might be tourists like me since I didn’t find too many Muslims here. There were several gardens in the park, but unfortunately it was a bit rainy when I was there so I couldn’t really explore since I needed a shade to avoid getting wet. I saw some homeless, too. (I wonder why there tends to be many homeless people in big cities anywhere ☹).

On my way to the mosque.

Then I got tired of the park; I wanted to go to the Manila Ocean Park, but it seemed there had been a circus. I was dilemmatic about this. I wanted to see but some people said that it’s better not to see since it often included animal abuse (like to the dolphins and other fish/animals) and so I felt guilty about it. I decided not to go, though, but I wouldn’t claim that’s because I was really concerned about the animals and stuff. I’m not that virtuous, I also thought that who knows that the animals were treated well, there. I guess I was just being naïve. Or maybe I decided not to go because the ticket was expensive. Or maybe because from afar I saw the crowd and there were just too many people for me. Or maybe because it was too hot. Or maybe it’s the combination of them all. But in short, I didn’t go, and decided to the find the Muslim “village” that my friend told me about before, where I might find a mosque to pray and rest. And of course, I relied on Google Map for this. (Thank you, Google!)

Around the mosque. I screenshot this from the video that I uploaded on my Instagram because I have deleted the pictures n the video from my device.

Fortunately, the national museum was en route so I decided to stop by and see. I saw some displays that were similar to what we have in Indonesia. Seeing this kind of similary in history and cultures, I wonder if we really have the right to claim that something is OUR culture moreover fight over it. (Like you know, Indonesians and Malaysians often fight over it because one claims that it’s originally theirs and the other also claims the same). The national museum was big and the gallery was not only in one floor. Honestly, I was getting tired of walking all over the place. Fortunately, there were several benches available for the visitors to sit in case they were tired. I didn’t use it much, though since I wanted to rest at the mosque soon. I guess I was getting bored. And, oh, one thing, I came with a small hand bag (well, some people called it a purse). I asked the lady at the front desk of the museum if I should put it in the locker and she said yes. (We had the screening section when entering the museum, by the way). So I queued to get a locker for my bag. The line was so long as there were many people putting or retrieving their bag. And guess what? When I was in front of the locker man, he asked what I had in my bag. I showed him, it was just camera. And he said that I could just take the bag with me inside. He reminded me that it was okay to take pictures but no flash or video recording. It was good to be told in person like that because, seriously, the warning notice wasn’t that visible.

At the mosque 😐

Anyway, the time for the museum was over. I really wanted to go back to the hotel but first I wanted to check the mosque. So I went on walking. It was another 20ish-minute walk. It wasn’t that hard to find the mosque by following the Google map directions, it was just kinda overwhelming 😐 I mean, it wasn’t exact but I could still manage to ask around and there was signs on the road, too. But, it was really unexpected. It was like a slum. I am serious. It was really like a dump.

I am not a really clean person, but I’m not that dirty either. And as far as I know, we Muslims have this saying or hadist (the words/teachings of the Prophet PBUH) that says “النَّظَافَةُ مِنَ الْإيْمَانِ”, which means “Cleanliness/sanitation is a part of the faith”, so I really don’t know how Muslims can be so dirty. This really makes me sad, i.e. to see how filthy the area for the Muslim community is 😭 I don’t know if they’ve been marginalized or discriminated and I don’t want to assume that since I didn’t get to talk a lot with the people there but I don’t think it’s supposed to be that dirty. *Sigh They didn’t really speak English either so it was kinda hard for me to communicate with them since I didn’t speak their local language. But in general, I guess Muslims understand each other. They knew I needed to take Wudhu (ablution/holy water) so they found the key for me. I thought since it was locked, it would be clean but I was wrong. It was dirty and stank; i.e. it smelled of the cats’ piss and it was so strong😭 And on my way from the ablution place to where I prayed was dirty too. I could see rubbish on the floor, the laundry was hung on top. It was sad. Well, I know Indonesia is not that clean either, but I don’t think I’ve ever found a mosque this dirty in my country. Thus, while I originally planned to rest for a while there, I decided to just pray quickly and then leave.

New lenses. Yay.

I ordered Grab to UP Town center (it was like a mall, I think) because I wanted to change the lenses of my glasses. I browsed for nearby optical stores and Google said UP Town center had them. I had planned it in advance because getting a new lense or glasses in the US is quite expensive; it is costly so I thought maybe in Manila it was cheaper like in Indonesia, and I was right. The thing is that I’ve been wearing the same glasses and I wanted to wear my old glasses – the ones whose frames I really liked. However, my old glasses still had the old lenses and I needed a new (upgraded) one because apparently, my “minus” increased. Jeez, I don’t know how to explain it well, but you know what I mean. Anyway, I was surprised to find that they could put the new lenses to my frame very quickly. It took them only one hour. And it took me around 2000 PHP, equal to 500k-ish IDR, or around USD $37. It was fair and they said it was the good lense with the UV protection and stuff and it was also light. In the US, it would’ve cost a lot more. (And, oh, when the staff in the optical store realized it was my birthday (because they asked how old I was and I just showed them the birthday that I wrote on the form. LoL), they wished me a happy birthday. Hhe Probably the only people that wished me a happy birthday that day (aside from few Indonesian friends who texted me and wished me a happy birthday)).

UP Town Center. I took this pic to remind me where to pick my glasses 😅🙈

And while waiting for my new glasses, I strolled around UP Town Center. Well, I am not really a “mall” person, so I just checked the grocery store. Gosh, I was going nuts seeing the prices. It was much much cheaper that US (of course!). I wanted to buy a lot but then I didn’t want my luggage to get heavier. So I just bought the essentials and some fruit to eat to break my fast and for Suhoor the next day. I bought milk and yoghurt too. I felt like I needed to nutrition my body back to health even though I wasn’t sick actually. But I hadn’t eaten so properly so I really felt that I needed to eat better. And fruits were there for that job.

And I think that’s all. After that I just went back to the hotel, re-packed my bag, and rest. It was a tiring day but I was happy 😊

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