Within the Walls with Jay Buenaflor, A Walking Tour in Manila

Discover Manila and learn more about her history with Jay Buenaflor. His walking tour around Intramuros is entertaining, educational, and great for the whole family. Fall in love with Manila and the Philippines with his walking tour.

Nothing makes me happier than destination weddings where the destination chosen is the Philippines. I mean, really – Filipinos are an emotional, sentimental, romantic lot. We love weddings and love stories.

But what makes me even happier is when Filipinos abroad choose to come home to celebrate their big day – to come back, to share it with family, to wear a barong. With Fil-Am family and non-Filipino friends in tow, they not only share their wedding day, but their country and culture as well.

A few weeks ago, two friends of mine decided to do just that. Desiree Go and Ted Venturanza flew in from New York to tie the knot in Manila. Bringing along about thirty friends and family from the Big Apple, they wanted to share some of our nation’s history with them a few days before the wedding.

Jay Buenaflor
J, the Grandparents and Jay Buenaflor in Intramuros

We were lucky to get Jay Buenaflor as our guide around Intramuros and Fort Santiago. He was as informative as he was entertaining. Starting us off with a visit through the Light and Sound museum, our group was able to catch a glimpse of our pre-colonial history and understand better life under the Spaniards until the execution of Jose Rizal. My favorite professor in college, Dr. Butch Zialcita, would have a very different opinion regarding the Light and Sound museum’s depiction of the Spanish Era (which deserves a totally separate blog and analysis) but for a crash course in Philippine history, the place does its job well. It makes it interesting for kids, and if the dioramas can at least make them more curious about our collective past, then I’m all for it (and I’m sure Dr. Z won’t mind either).

San Agustin
Did you know that San Agustin is the oldest church in the country?

Then, the group piled into two colorful jeepneys and headed towards Fort Santiago. This must have been my favorite part of the trip. Jay’s interactive antics totally got the whole group involved. Complete with name tags and scripts – he got members of the tour group to act out important parts of our history. In one of the corners of Fort Santiago, they acted out the trial and execution of Fr. Gomez, Fr. Burgos and Fr. Zamora. I’m sure what had truly happened years ago was much more somber, serious and frightening, but without disrespect to our heroes, the funny reenactment is a testament that they are not forgotten.

Role-playing time. The group did a good job reenacting the execution of GOMBURZA.

We walked towards the wall facing the Pasig River, viewing the dungeons where many of those that fought for our freedom died. I would like to think that their sacrifices were not in vain. Here we were, walking around Intramuros – a group of Fil-Ams wanting to know more about their history as a people. That in itself is telling. We are free, and we choose to know more about how we achieved such freedom.

Loading onto the jeepney again, we drove to the San Agustin Church, the oldest in the country. The museum was filled with paintings and antiques. We paid our respects to those that were laid to rest in the crypts of the church – going through their last names, comparing them to our own. Jay pointed out how many of our surnames were Spanish sounding (more Spanish sounding than we may look) – and how we may have gotten them quite randomly. Sorry folks – for those that had dreams of having some sort of European lineage, your surname may have been picked from a sombrero.

J’s first jeepney ride in Manila! The whole tour was a laugh trip indeed.

In half a day, our group was able to get a taste of what it was like to be a Filipino more than a hundred years ago. We walked where Rizal walked (literally, following his golden footsteps) and attempted to be a martyred priest (or a misguided one). All these tiny amusing acts, allowed us to understand a little better who we are as a people.

Jay’s tours are normally geared towards kids – his interactive, entertaining antics ready to keep a rowdy bunch of students interested for hours on end. And it’s great! Especially when we’re trying to raise a new generation of patriots. But this kind of tour is just as important for grown-ups too. It makes us all fall in love a little bit more with the country (because we’re romantic like that).

You can check out Jay’s blog here! Take his tour and let’s see if you don’t fall in love with Manila too.