Words by Gabi Fresnido
Photos by Gabi Fresnido and Rianna Bernabe
Aside from being arguably the most beautiful part of Manila, Intramuros is perhaps also the most historic. Being there can give you both a heavy yet euphoric feeling, as if you’re walking back through time. It makes you think, “who have walked these steps?” “What was it really like back then?”
Well, in this century, Intramuros hosts not only relics and history. Tourism is a big part of this place—there you can see people taking selfies, having photoshoots, buying souvenirs, and making most of the whole Intramuros experience. One of the activities that’s both historically accurate and fun, is the kalesa ride.
But the question of ethicality behind this tourist practice is one that’s been brought up too many times in the recent years. News about the kalesa horses collapsing due to exhaustion continue to circulate in the media. These horses carry overloaded carriages and are overworked while subjected to poor health conditions, seething Manila heat, and the dangers of traffic.
But despite the public’s urgings and petitions demanding better care for the horses and the total ban of these rides, it is still very much available in many areas of Manila.
Although this particular activity is still evident in our country’s tourism, a new alternative activity is available in Intramuros: Bambike Ecotours.
Bambike Ecotours is a project that promotes eco-tourism and sustainable livelihood in less fortunate communities. But, besides all that, Bambike Ecotours provides a more fun and interactive tour as an alternative to riding the kalesa. With just 100 PHP per hour (50 PHP if you’re a student), you can rent one of their beautiful bamboo bikes to explore the heavily cultured streets of Intramuros.
They also offer group bamboo bike tours wherein a guide will lead you to the major historical sites of Intramuros, while giving you a little history lesson along the way. Plus, for every tour, they also offer a free bambike beer drink!
Although it was quite unnerving at first, riding a bike at an open and busy street with cars driving past you, you’ll soon get the hang of it. The guides are quite helpful; they make sure that cars in the intersection have stopped before the riders pass. Once you get in the zone, it feels so relaxing and serene. As you travel from one place to another, it’s as if you’re whizzing past the thick history of that place. It makes me want to go back there over and over again to unwind and immerse myself in our country’s harsh past, now beautifully represented through the museums and parks.
Going to Intramuros anytime soon? Make sure to stop by! Read more about the Intramuros Bambike Ectour at here: Bambike Ecotours: Learn about the history of Intramuros with this guided bike tour
Facebook: Bambike Ecotours
Intramuros Experience (Manila)
Poblacion Community Tour (Makati)
BGC Mural Art Tour (Bonifacio Global City)