my manila: escolta/binondo

My teenage daughter Alex and I took a trip to Escolta last Friday to pick up my new glasses from Vision Line there. We didn’t go straight to the shop, though; I took Alex around to see a little bit of old Manila.

The Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arch at the bottom of Jones Bridge on Quintin Paredes Street is the gateway to the Binondo area.

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The left side of Binondo Church. Also known as the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz, it was built in 1596 and is one of the oldest Roman Catholic places of worship in the country.

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The church facade. Much damage was wrought through the years by fire and other natural disasters; of the original architecture, only the octagonal bell tower remains.

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A kalesa driver and his pony wait for passengers in front of the church

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Alex and I took the kalesa to Escolta; on the way, we shared the road with a tricycle (motorcycle + sidecar), a jeepney, and a new Honda CRV (in front of the horse). Here, old forms of transport move beside the new, and both get you to your destination, although the kalesa imparts an air of antiquity, romance, and novelty.

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Our destination – Vision Line Optical beside Luis Store, the fountain pen place

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On the banks of the Pasig River, across the Manila Central Post Office, young boys dive into the water to cool – and show – off.

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Alex poses on Jones Bridge, with the MCPO building in the background.

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On our way home, we passed the ruins of the old Santo Tomas University. The oldest extant university in the country, it was founded by Dominican friars in 1611. The school moved from this site to its much bigger present campus in Sampaloc, Manila, in 1927.

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