Where were we? When we last heard from the Little Mail Carriers, they were exploring colorful Manila… but there’s still so much to see from the Philippines! So today they’re back with the second and final report of their adventures in this fascinating country. Enjoy!
Our host Jom (aka jugatmos) had told us about the Grand Marian Procession in Intramuros, and we were really looking forward to it! Hundreds of thousands of Marian devotees and more than a hundred images of the Blessed Virgin Mary from different parts of the Philippines are paraded around the old city of Manila, in honor of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The procession has been taking place since 1619, so for over 400 years — that first year, it lasted 15 days. The procession of beautifully and elaborately-adorned floats (called carrozas) bearing the images of the Blessed Virgin Mary starts at 4pm in front of Manila Cathedral and slowly makes its way through the streets of the Walled City.Have a look!
On the left above, Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu accompanied by the parishioners from San Mateo, Rizal presented to the late Don Ado Escudero, patron of Intramuros and creative master of Villa Escudero with Cofradia de la Inmaculada Conception, Inc. Chairman and 2020 Gawad CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) awardee Danny Dolor.
On the right, the image displayed in front of the cathedral, a 19th century Philippine-made reproduction of the lost centuries-old La Purisma Concepcion of the old San Francisco Church in Intramuros that was destroyed during the Second World War.
Below you can see the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba (Birhen ng Hapis), carried by the parishioners of Saint Peter of Alcantara Parish Church in front of the cathedral landing. The Laguna town of Pakil celebrates the September fiesta of their image, which is a small painting of the Sorrowful Virgin, with a frenzied dance procession that is believed to be another relic of pre-Christian times. The word “turumba” is from the Tagalog phrase “natumba sa laki ng tuwa” or ‘falling over in great joy’. You can see some of their dance here.
It is super impressive, and it goes on for hours! Our host Jom has been designing the event’s souvenir book for the past 10 years, and he usually comes in very early to Intramuros to deliver hundreds of copies to the committee. These are then distributed amongst the carroza owners.
Recovered from all the excitement, we set off to explore Makati city, which felt super fancy! The 350-year-old city is busy with life — from shopping malls, restaurants and business hubs, it’s no wonder that the city holds the most coveted zip code. Indeed, Makati is known to be the classiest city of the Philippines most notably for the residents’ perpetually bustling, busy and ultra-modern lifestyle.
Makati got its name from an old tagalog word, “makati”, meaning receding tide. The city was bought for the hefty sum of 52,800 Philippine pesos in 1851 by an ancestor of Zobel de Ayala. Since then, the development of Makati has remained linked with the Ayala family, who has continued to develop the area over the years and as a result, continues to exert influence within the city. Colonised by the Spaniards and the Americans, Makati today is considered as somewhat of a Christian melting pot with so many of its denominations finding its home here.
Makati’s population fluctuates at various points of the day. By nighttime, the city has more than half a million residents, but the population can easily balloon up to five million during the daytime as people from neighbouring cities converge in Makati for either work or leisure!
But… how does one get around such a busy place? Turns out, pedicabs and jeepneys are never far away, and they’re super convenient to use!
The jeepney (on the left) is a favorite mode of public transportation in the Philippines, also known as “king of the road”. It was made from the surplus jeeps by the Americans left behind during the second World War. The lack of transportation at that time forced the Filipinos to get creative: they gutted and expanded the passenger seats into two rows. The real ones are usually adorned with decorations — we spotted some.
As iconic as the jeepney can be, on the other hand, the pedicab is a small road wonder, an ordinary bicycle that maneuvers a small carriage attached to it. It may look small and primitive but the job it accomplishes in the Pinoy’s everyday routine is enormous. It can ferry about four people to places where access to other public transportation is scarce. The pedicab is one of the most peculiar symbols of the Filipino culture, one that represents ingenuity and spiritedness. And, bonus points: they match the colors of our uniforms! 😍
Using our jeepney and pedicab, we drove to Ayala Triangle, a park shaped like a triangle that sits right in the center of Makati city. Until the 1950s, this was the Nielsen field, Manila’s pre-World War II airport. After the airfield was closed, it remained a barren open space until it was developed more recently. Two old runways became new avenues framing a calming and beautiful contemporary oasis at the center of the Philippine business community.
This area is brimming with art sculptures, statues and important memorials. We briefly joined the revolution with General Pio del Pilar, who led a group of independentists when the Philippine Revolution broke out in the 1890s. Pio del Pilar was then a resident of an area called Culi-Culi, and as a result of his revolutionary efforts, the general has a barangay (a small district) in Makati named after him.
We took a rest on the trunk of a narra tree, Philippine’s national tree. The narra symbolises the Filipino people’s indomitable spirit and strength of character, thus the narra’s characteristics of sturdiness and durability.
Did you know that Makati is the selfie capital of the world? We tried taking a few, but it’s not our strong suit.😅 We’re at the Peninsula Manila, a hotel nicknamed “The Pen”. Built in 1976, its lobby quickly became the place “to see and be seen” of Manila’s who’s who, even military tanks have been seen coming through the front door, creating unforgettable memories and witnessed the variety of life in all its drama and excitement.
Time magazine once categorised the Pen’s special dessert, Halo-Halo Harana (above, on the right), as the world’s “Best Legal High”, so of course we had to give it a try under the iconic ‘Sunburst’ sculpture by National Artist for Sculpture and Father of Modern Philippine Sculpture Napoleon Abueva. Halo-Halo Harana is a mouthwatering mix of macapuno, jackfruit, kaong, nata de coco, sweet beans, garbanzos, pinipig (pounded rice flakes) and ube topped with shaved ice topped with leche flan and ube royal ice cream; a type of Filipino ice cream, is typically made with creamy buffalo milk and purple yam. It’s an amazingly delicious yet complex dish, which seems to reflect in itself the nation’s complex history.
We jumped at the opportunity to meet and chat with Atty. Lulu Tesoro Castañeda, who told us about her mother, the late Doña Salud S. Tesoro. Doña Salud was the “Mother of Philippine Handicrafts”, a souvenir trade pioneer and a patron of local crafts. She was so influential that postage stamps were issued to celebrate her centenary, in 2015.
A visit to the Philippines would not be complete without a visit to the Tesoros shop, so we took our time browsing the lovely souvenirs!
It’s almost time leave, and we’re a little sad at the prospect. To cheer us up, our host has been preparing a balikbayan box, so we can enjoy a little bit of the Philippines when we’re back home. 😊 Also called “repatriation box”, it’s a normal cardboard box containing all sorts of items sent by Filipinos overseas (also known as balikbayans) to their loved ones, returning back home. Oftentimes it is carried with their luggage or they send it to couriers that specialise in sending these boxes. The word itself “balikbayan” means ‘returning to one’s country’.
Finally, we went to Makati Central Post Office, where Ms. Natz stamped our passport and declared us ready to leave the country. Sigh… Time for that last slice of buko pie (aka coconut pie) and off we go to new adventures!
Thank you so much to Jom for this amazing report, and for taking good care of the little guys during the lockdown. Off they go… who knows where they’ll pop up next? 😊