IMAGES:Does Makati have a soul?
I found out the answer this week after I got a chance to see the cultural and historical landmarks of the Philippines' prime commercial-business district.
The Makati Tourism Foundation Inc., in partnership with Ayala Land Inc., Le Clefs d’Or Philippines, Jeepney Tours, and the Makati City Government, launched "Soul of a City," a city tour showcasing Makati's heritage sites that are dwarfed by the city's skycrapers.
The tour starts at the project's partner hotels, which include InterContinental Manila, Holiday Inn, Dusit Thani, New World Makati and The E-Hotel. These are the pick-up and drop-off points for the tourists’ convenience.
Walk-in guests are also welcome to avail of the package tour.
A 20-seater, air-conditioned jeepney was used for the tour around the city, giving us--local and international tourists--a complete Filipino experience by riding a jeep.
Onboard with us were licensed tour guides from the Department of Tourism.
They briefed us about the history of the roads, establishments, and sites. The jeepney driver and tour guide were wearing Baro’t Saya and Camisa de Chino, Philippines' national costume.
The city tour lasts 4 to 5 hours. But the city tour held for us, reporters and bloggers, was compressed to two hours, in consideration of our deadlines.
Our first stop was the Church of Saints Peter and Paul. It was built in 1620 and was the first parish church of the town.
Parallel to the history of the church is the history of the city. Its unique architecture and religious icons are examples of Makati’s cultural wealth.
In the altar, life-size figures and images of saints are installed. The religiosity of the Filipinos is showcased in the ‘Soul of the City’ itinerary, which features historical churches built in Makati.
From the church, the jeepney driver drove down to J.P. Rizal Street and went to the Rockwell Center. From an electric power plant, it was redeveloped and made into Makati’s newest integrated shopping and residential community.
Along the way is the Pasig River, the Philippines’ most famous river, which was an important transport route during the Spanish colonial era.
Passing through the Pasig River was very nostalgic, with many songs and other literary works dedicated to the river. The local government and non-government organizations are doing their best to revive the historical river.
We spotted water taxis as we passed by the river. It would be another entry in my “must-try” bucket list.
We went straight to the Guadalupe Shrine also known as “Guadalupe Ruins.” It was built in 1629 by the Augustinian Priests. According to our guide, this church has never been renovated since it was built. The bullet marks and other traces of the wars are still visible.
Just by seeing the façade of the church, there is no doubt why this church is now a popular site for weddings.
From the Guadalupe shrine, the tour’s next stop is at the Makati Park and Garden or “Liwasang Bonifacio.”
It is a well-kept park beside the river. Its manicured lawns, fountains, waterfall, pond, aviary, amphitheater, pavilion, and gazebos add to its tourism value.
Across it are the buildings of the Pamantasan ng Makati (University of Makati).
Our ‘Soul of a City’ tour continued to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.
It houses the graves of military men who died during the World War II, most of whom lost their lives in operations in New Guinea and the Philippines.
The Manila American Cemetery and Memorial is one of the cleanest and most beautiful cemeteries I have been to. The headstones are aligned in 11 plots on manicured lawns. The American Battle Monuments Commission takes charge of the park’s maintenance.
The names of the military men who dedicated their lives for America are inscribed on the walls built inside the 152 acres of land it occupies.
Aside from the beautiful park itself, it has a good view of Laguna de Bay and Laguna’s distant mountains.
The place is very peaceful, serene and calm.
Another attraction is Forbes Park, established in 1950 as the first planned community in the country.
Along the way the way are exclusive clubs of the rich and famous such as Polo Club and Manila Golf Club.
From Forbes, our tour continued to Ayala Avenue.
Ayala is Makati’s version of Wall Street, with corporate headquarters of domestic and multinational companies, embassies, banks, and 5-star hotels.
With its high-rise buildings and signature brand boutiques, Makati certainly can compete with other countries’ urban and shopping districts.
Before our tour ended, we had a stopover at Balikbayan Handicrafts.
Traveling always comes with shopping for souvenirs and ‘pasalubong’.
From freshwater pearls, hand-woven bags and hats, and wood sculptures, Balikbayan Handicrafts is a complete pasalubong hub showcasing the Philippines’ native products.
Our last stop was the Ayala Museum which showcases Philippine history and culture.
It features dioramas of the milestones in the Philippine history, archaeological and ethnological artifacts, and classical and contemporary artworks.
In every tour package, a minimum of 45 minutes will be allotted to roam around the museum. Tourists may opt to stay longer while those who wish to return to the hotel will be brought back after the allotted time.
As city traffic jam is inevitable, built-in karaoke machines are available inside the jeepneys to entertain tourists on board.
From the heritage sites to the prominent and high-end shopping districts, Makati City has proven its versatility when it comes to what it can offer.
Starting June 1, tourists can avail of the package and choose either the morning or afternoon tour, which starts at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. respectively. Afternoon tours will open to the public starting May 27.
The tour package costs P1,000 per person, although there will be an introductory promo rate of P1,000 for two persons. Interested parties may approach the concierge desks of the participating Makati City hotels.