Quiapo Church. Photo by Anson Yu for Coconuts Manila
Quiapo and the neighboring district of San Miguel started out as sleepy villages, but in the 19th century they blossomed into fashionable riverside enclaves. By the 20th century, Quiapo transformed into one of the city’s main commercial districts thanks to the popularity of the Black Nazarene, while San Miguel remained strictly residential due to the presence of Malacañan Palace, seat of the Philippine government.
The contrast between the two districts makes it ripe for exploration as both offer a treasure trove of insights into the Filipino soul. You will most certainly be surprised as to what you can find here.
12 noon: There are no good hotels — yet — in Quiapo, but a relatively upmarket recommendation is Lido De Paris Hotel (1036 Ongpin St, Sta. Cruz, Manila; +63 2 7088888 to 91) in front of Sta. Cruz Church. Aside from having in-house restaurants, a gym and spa, it is also a mere five-minute walk to Quiapo via Carriedo Street. A double deluxe rooms starts from P3,000 per night, but they also have "wash-up rooms" at P1,500 which you can keep for 12 hours.
If you'd rather stay in the heart of Quiapo, Citystate Hotel (475 Quezon Blvd, Quiapo, Manila; +632 7369091) has clean rooms and basic facilities; the wash-up room rate for 12 hours is P680.
1 p.m. Take a taxi. Open only on weekdays, the Malacanan Palace’s Presidential Museum and Library (1000 JP Laurel St, San Miguel, Manila;+63 2 784 4286 loc. 4945/4649. P50 adults, P30 children) focuses on the history of the presidential palace as well as the 15 Filipino men and women who have occupied the country's top post since since the 20th century.
The exhibit also highlights the country’s colorful electoral process as well as presidential spouses. Kalayaan Hall, where the museum is housed, is worth a visit for its beautifully restored rooms and offices. Book two weeks in advance.
2 p.m. Time to explore the San Miguel district on foot. Aside from the presidential palace, it was in this district that Don Enrique Ma. Barretto started brewing the famous San Miguel Beer in 1890. The original brewery was purchased by the government as additional office space for the palace in 1936. During World War II, the Japanese Army used it to produce their own line of beer. When the American Army took over, all that Jap brew was given away. People started lining up with bottles, pails or any containers that could hold liquid. It took them two weeks to dispose of the entire stock! The brewery was demolished in 1978. In 1989, the structure became the site of a new Executive Building.
Upon exiting the palace grounds, turn left and keep walking straight till you come across a small church again on your left. This is the San Miguel Church, known formally as National Shrine of Saint Michael and the Archangels (1000 Gen. Solano St, San Miguel, Manila; +632 734 1271). The church served as the temporary site of Manila Cathedral after the original one in Intramuros was destroyed during World War II. Another milestone: this is where then-Senator Ferdinand Marcos married beauty queen Imelda Romualdez in 1954.
3 p.m. Walk back towards Malacañan Palace but stop by Casa Roces (1153 JP Laurel cor. Aguado St, San Miguel, Manila;+632 735 5896). Located in an old house, the restaurant honors newsman and publisher Joaquin “Chino” Roces even if, technically, it was his relatives who lived here. There is even a life-size bronze sculpture of a newsboy hawking a copy of The Manila Times. The interiors have been thoroughly modernized, but it still exudes an old world elegance. Top up your energy with a cuppa (P95) and a slice of the Belgian chocolate cheesecake (P190).
Chocolate cheesecake from Casa Roces. Photo by Anson Yu for Coconuts Manila
4 p.m. Go back to JP Laurel St. and walk past the presidential palace to the National Shrine of Saint Jude Thaddeus (1420 JP Laurel St, San Miguel, Manila;+632 7356408) located inside St. Jude Catholic School. This is a popular spot as St. Jude is the patron saint of desperate causes. Thursday is the day for the shrine’s novena, so school classes are moved to Saturday so that students will not be hampered by the crowds of devotees.
Go back down San Rafael Street towards Legarda Street. Once you reach a 7Eleven store, turn right toward Chino Roces Bridge. Formerly known as Mendiola, the bridge has witnessed some of the most violent public demonstrations during the Marcos and Aquino regimes. It was renamed when Chino Roces was already in his 70s. Roces has bravely led demonstrators against President Marcos despite being drenched by the water canons.
Cross to the left side of bridge to get to San Beda College. Walk past the first two gates and enter through the third one via the open side gate for the school chapel, Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat (638 Mendiola St, San Miguel, Manila; +63 2 7356011). Your jaw will drop in amazement at the beautiful Neo Baroque interiors painted by two monks, Dom Lesmes Lopez and Brother Salvador Alberich, in the 1930s. The candy-like glass doors at the entrance are a recent addition and done by local artist Ed Castrillo. There is a small memorial honoring Maximillian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan friar who served in Manila before returning to Europe just before World War II. While held in a Nazi concentration camp, he volunteered to die in place of a stranger. He was later canonized by the Catholic Church.
Go back to the 7Eleven store on Legarda Street and then cross to Minor Basilica of San Sebastian (Plaza del Carmen, Quiapo, Manila; +632 734 8908). Built in 1881, it is the only all-steel church in Asia. Designed by Spanish architect Gener Palacios, it was prefabricated in Belgium, then shipped to Manila and assembled on site. The church's Gothic exterior continues inside with a trompe l’oeil marble interior by local artist Lorenzo Rocha. It also has stained glass windows from Germany and locally carved Gothic furnishing and details. The structure is pretty strong as well — it has survived 14 major earthquakes, 10 of which were above 7.0 on the Richter scale. However the church has to be repainted every few years to prevent rust from spreading.
6 p.m. Walk back to 7Eleven and proceed to San Rafael Street for dinner. Like Malacañan Palace, you need to make a reservation at La Cocina de Tita Moning (315 San Rafael St, San Miguel, Manila; +63 2 7342146). It is the one of the few stately heritage houses open to the public. The 1930s mansion belonged to Dr. Alejandro Legarda and his wife, Doña Ramona (aka Tita Moning). When the house was converted into a restaurant, the interiors of the house were lovingly preserved in their memory. Guests can choose from 19 different menu sets and features some of Tita Moning’s best loved recipes. Prices start from P1,000 for a four-course meal that includes lengua cooked in white wine, paella Valenciana and their famous bread and butter pudding.
Old Manila Walks conducts a San Miguel-Malcañan Palace walking tour that includes merienda and a shot of beer at La Cocina de Tita Moning. Casa Roces offers a similar package with six set menus to choose from at their restaurant.
For the Day 2 itinerary, read the original article on the Coconuts Manila website.