Experience the historic Walled City on bamboo bikes with Bambike Ecotours
Bambike has made a name for itself as a sustainable and ecologically-conscious brand with ties to Gawad Kalinga. Apart from providing an environmentally friendly alternative to commuting, Bambike also provides full-time employment to chosen communities in impoverished areas with programs including education and bamboo reforestation.
Since a few years back, the bamboo bikes have become a more common sight, especially within the walls of the historical Intramuros. With a base set right in the heart of the walled city at Plaza San Luis, Bambike offers tours at set times from morning to sunset, and even at night.
The full Intramuros Experience Tour (PHP 1,200) is two and a half hours long at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Choose a bamboo bike and go through eight historical stops within the walled city. The Express Tour (PHP 799) lasts an hour and a half in unison with the full tour and brings you to four to five stops.
1. Plaza San Luis
Headquarters and first stop of the tour, the plaza is a reconstruction of ten residences that used to stand within the walled city. It gives visitors a glimpse of the typical homes of the elite class, who were exclusively Spanish. During the Second World War, specifically in the Battle of Manila in 1945, 95 percent of Intramuros was destroyed. Many of the buildings have been reconstructed to showcase its former glory.
2. Japanese Cannon
Along the longest street in Intramuros, Muralla Street, is the last original cannon installed by the Japanese forces when they invaded Manila. Using Intramuros as their base and fortress where they held numerous prisoners—Americans and Filipinos alike, the Japanese installed necessary firearms for defense. The particular cannon faces the Manila Bay.
3. Puerto Real Gardens
A picturesque gardenscape now mainly used for events, the Puerto Real Gardens was mostly part of the massive moat that surrounded Intramuros. It offers views of the museums around Manila that were once the legislative buildings built during the American Occupation.
4. Puerta del Parian
Presently a manicured garden as an homage to ASEAN delegates, the Puerta del Parian was once ripe trading grounds for the Chinese community because of its vicinity to the Pasig River. It served as the official gate of entry for the governor-general post-British Occupation from 1762 to 1764.
5. Aduana Building
Now merely a facade of the glorious building that once stood there, the Aduana served as the headquarters of Customs and General Administration as well as the Mint House where coins were made during the Spanish colonization. A fire consumed it in 1979 and it has been abandoned ever since.
6. Plaza de Roma/Manila Cathedral
In front of the town square, or Plaza de Roma, is one of the most historical churches in the country—the Manila Cathedral, which is actually named the Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. First built in 1571 out of nipa and bamboo, the church has survived numerous tragedies, including the 1880 earthquake and heavy bombardment during World War 2 that reduced it to rubble. The cathedral that stands there today is designed by Fernando Ocampo, who wanted to stay as close to its original design while adding numerous fortifications and neoclassical and Romanesque designs in the process.
7. Fort Santiago
The famous Spanish stronghold is where Jose Rizal was kept prisoner in his last few days leading up to his execution. The fort was also used by the invading Japanese army as a base and prison where they held numerous Americans and Filipino insurgents—many of whom did not make it out alive.
8. San Agustin Church
The final stop of the Bambike Tour, the San Agustin Church is the oldest stone church in the Philippines. Completed in 1607, the Spanish used Chinese artisans to build the baroque-style church, thus noticeable Chinese influences such as smaller eyes on the bas relief wood carving on the original doors and the Imperial guardian lion (the other had been stolen) guarding the entrance. The San Agustin Church also houses the ashes of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the first governor-general of the Philippines and the founder of the city of Manila. However, the church only opens its doors to tourists a few minutes before mass hours.
The next time you find yourself in the area, why not refresh your memory of Intramuros by booking your Bambike Ecotour?