Monday, April 14, 2008

Intramuros on my mind

Today, Ateneans make references about going down from the hill. But to the dwindling few who went to Intramuros and Padre Faura, it was all about “the bridge” that connected the Jesuit Mission House and the Ateneo Municipal along Anda street. The Mission House was next to the San Ignacio Church, one of the five churches in the area and the one run by the Jesuits. There was another Jesuit property where the Pamantasan ng Manila stands today.

The bridge was said to be representative of Jesuit doctrine back then – somewhat at a distance from those it served and worked with but at once among them and in their midst. It was also reflective of the passing of knowledge for in the Mission House were said to be wizened men – brilliant minds of Europe and later North America who went about their work in making fishers out of Manila’s finest.

The world passed by under the bridge. Kalesas and later the first motor vehicles made their way through. Some have ventured about the romanticism of the bridge’s symbolism, but in truth, the ramparts where the seafront wall still stands maybe offered that better view for beyond lay the sea before the Americans reclaimed from Neptune.

I was weaned on Philippine colonial literature and as it fascinated me, I longed to discover the Old Manila; our colonial past. You could finagle me into saying that I read Nick Joaquin who kept those memories alive through his pen. My childhood geography finds memories of my parents taking me to Binondo to watch Bruce Lee films have that grainy feel of a black and white film. Those days seem an age ago but remain cherished in the way people used to stick pictures by the mirror instead of using them as wallpapers of laptops. Binondo was where people went for Cubao was in its nascent stages of development while Makati was brand new. I walked the streets of Avenida, Ongpin, and Quiapo before it became synonymous with snatchers, contraband goods, and urban decay. Remember when you saw those Love Buses of Imelda Marcos that traversed the city en route to Escolta? No you don’t of course. Stupid me. Who cares about Old Manila? My sense of nationalism may have taken a huge dip in recent years, but there are some things I am passionate about.

I rejoiced when Intramuros was “restored” to a semblance of its former beauty. But looking at it now, it will never be a “heritage” site.

In the old Ateneo site sits an ugly Clamshell where debuts, parties, and other functions are held but today after the tenure of former Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon, is more often than not silent because of inactivity. Outside the San Ignacio Church is a basketball court – a whole court to pique your interest. On occasion the ruins incredibly are refuge for the homeless. The Memorare statue is dirty and filled with homeless people sleeping on the benches and reeks of human waste.

A thirty-minute kalesa ride tour (Php 150 per pax don’t let anyone else fool you) is not so bad. The history lesson is not so bad (did you know that the original site of the University of Santo Tomas is now a Banco Filipino building – I quipped, since they’re the oldest university in Asia the old tagline fits, “Subok na matibay. Subok na matatag.”

Another joke here, “The Starbucks in Intramuros” was a remnant of the American Period.” The kutsero and the guide had a laugh about that.

I traced my roots, my grandfather, my father, and my uncles who went to the Ateneo in Intramuros and Padre Faura and that will always remain in my heart and mind. Forever a part of my geography.

There's the court -- next to the ruins of the San Ignacio church.

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