day one hundred and twenty-two: january 29, 2016: intramuros

Originally we had wanted to do this bike tour at the beginning of our trip, but since we arrived during the holiday between Christmas and New Years BamBike was justifiably closed. Thankfully, we had a free day at the tail end of our time in the Philippines so we called up the cousins and had them skip work to come join us.

BamBike is a socio-ecological company based in the Philippines that hand-makes bamboo bicycles using fair-trade labor and sustainable building practices. They also employ their bike builders (or Bambuilders as they refer to them as) from Gawad Kalinga, which is a Philippine based community development organization for the poor. Thru their business, they have been able to create stable jobs in this community as well as provide scholarships, sponsorship for a preschool teacher and provide a weekly feeding program for children. In addition, they've also been able to provide a safe playground for the children using bamboo and recycled tires. Not only are they doing good, but they are building a beautiful, ridable piece of art.

Our tour guide, Ian, separate from being an incredible tour guide with endless knowledge about Intramuros, also spends time raising money for children with cancer by gaining sponsorship thru walking and riding his BamBike around the country. In the past year he has both walked and ridden across the entire country of the Philippines. Wow!

Intramuros literally means "inside the walls". Previously used by the Spanish government during colonial times, it was also used by Japanese during their occupation as well as the Americans. Our first stop on the tour was San Agustin Church, built in 1607 making it the oldest stone church in the Philippines. Notice the Chinese dog statues in the front of the church, which shows the early Chinese influence as well.

Ian also pointed out the cobble stones below our feet originated as ballast stones used by the Chinese trading vessels. After selling their wares in the Philippines they no longer had use for these granite ballast stones so they were left behind and eventually used as cobble stones for the streets in Intramuros. Below you can see one stone that is inscribed with Chinese characters.

After dropping by the Philippine Presidents' Gallery, where Ian told us brief facts about all the past Philippine presidents, we headed toward the fortress walls where we climbed up on top and walked around.

Up on top of the walls, we peered over a golf course that was once a moat that surrounded the walls of Intramuros.

Our next stop was Manila Cathedral. Apparently this church is rumored to be cursed with bad luck for newly married couples. If you look closely you can see the column dividing the entrance/exit. As newlyweds exit the church, they're forced to separate, which superstitious people believe brings them bad luck.

Our last stop of the tour was Fort Santiago, where José Rizal was held in prison and brought to his execution. José Rizal is one of the most famous Philippine national heroes. He strongly supported the equality of the Spanish and Philippine community, but stood accused of starting the rebellion. The oil painting below depicts the day José Rizal was executed by firing squad. He was shot by Philippine soldiers; however, only one gun was loaded and that single bullet hit him in his vertebrae. Not having been killed, he was given a mercy shot to the head. This vertebrae is on display in the museum, which we found a little bit odd. His remains are held in an urn at another memorial, but previous to their placement there, his mother kept them. When people would visit her, she would ask if they wanted to see her son and she would show them his skull. Also a little bit strange.

From his cell, there are footsteps showing the path he walked to his execution.

After the museum, we cruised back to the BamBike HQ.

day one hundred and twenty-three: january 30, 2016:

We were sad to see Jamie head back to the states today. We met her at the airport to say our goodbyes and then hung out with some friends in Fort Bonifacio for lunch and quickly hit the National Museum. Always great to spend some time with great people who live across the world. Glad we got to see Dimples, Cookie and Julia!