The walled city of Manila is finally reopening some of its historical sites to public after a long shutdown due to the covid-19 pandemic. Some of these sites include the historical Fort Santiago, the Baluerte the San Diego, Casa Manila, and the San Agustin Museum. Early this month, the National Museums in Manila also reopened their doors to public as well as some NHCP Museums outside the Metro including the Museo ni Emilio Aguinaldo and Baldomero Aguinaldo Shrine in Cavite.
Of course, visitors are required to follow all the health protocols to secure safety. Also, they are required to download the StaySafe PH app to access the site. The app is a Philippine digital bayanihan platform with health condition reporting, social distancing, and contact tracing system. Each site in Intramuros will display QR Codes and you can use this app to scan them and add your visit to your Digital logbook.
I went to Intramuros last week to witness the ongoing San Agustin Museum Lenten Exhibit but also took that opportunity to visit the Casa Manila which is just few walks away from the church. Casa Manila is located across the historic San Agustin church and bounded by the beautiful cobblestone streets of Calle Real, General Luna, Cabildo, and Urdaneta (it is also located just beside Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant). The Casa Manila is a colonial lifestyle museum that features the domestic life of the ipper class in 19th century Philippines. It is a replica of an old “bahay na bato” style of architecture (a type of building originating during the Philippines’ Spanish Colonial period.) and was built from 1981 to 1983.
To be more specific, the Casa Manila was inspired from a house that once stood at Jaboneros Street in the Chinese district of Binondo in the 1850s. It’s a three story building and all of which are publicly accessible.
The Ground Floor
The walls of the ground floor are made of adobe or volcanic tuff which was used as the main building material in the colony during the 16th to the late 19th century. What you can find on the ground floor is the so-called Puerta Principal (the main gate) which leads you directly to the Zaguan (corridor). Carriages can enter the Patio and drop their passengers.
The patio as viewed from the third floor. It has fountains and a granite pavement and surrounded by different ornamental plants. Also in the patio are stables where the house owner’s carriages are being parked. There’s also a cafe nearby as well as the Bambike bike rentals.
The First Floor
The first floor of Casa Manila features the OFICINA (office) and BIBLIOTECA (library). The room also houses a certain number of caja de hiero (safe) and baul (treasure chest) in which money (gold and silver coins) were kept.
The despacho or office served as the area where the master of the house conducted daily business transactions relevant to his occupation.
There were at least three wooden office tables in this floor.
Another office table near the window overlooking the patio
The Cuartos or Dormitorios
The Cuartos/ Dormitorios or Rooms in this floor were usually occupied by the unmarried members of the extended family, or visiting guest.
There are two fully-furnished rooms in the upper floor. Each room features antique furniture and impressively-curated items to give the visitors the idea of how old Spanish houses looks like.
The Second Floor
The upper floors are generally made out of wood and much like the first floor, the second floor is also furnished with local and imported antique pieces from the Intramuros Administration Museum Collection. The second floor notably comes with more rooms and while the first floor is mostly for the business transactions and guests, the second floor is where the common amenities can be found.
Also be mindful that the visitors of Casa Manila are only allowed to wander around the museum only to those designated spaces of the house that are marked with red carpet. Most pieces in the house are delicate and you definitely don’t want to break these antiques. You can spot an old yet still functional grandfather clock too.
The first room to welcome you upon entering the second floor is the so-called Caida. The family would usually use this anteroom for parlor games, entering guests, or snacks.
You’ll find several antique pieces in this room including this jar, the antique cabinet, figurines, and a huge old mirror.
The first room to welcome you upong entering the second floor is the very spacious sala or living room. Very important guests were often received in this area, It features some of the finest furniture in the house, showing off the family’s opulence and status.
Tertulias had the young ladies of the household play music or sing that’s why you can spot an old piano in this room as well as an old harp on display.
Another thing that you will instantly notice in all the rooms of Casa Manila are the wallpapers and how they vary per rooms. This one, for instance, is adorned with music sheets and musical instruments.
An unnamed bust sculpture and an old painting
The household would gather in this prayer room to pray the Angelus or the rosary. You’ll find a stunning old altar as you enter this room.
Old bible and prayers encased in old frames
Religious images known as Santos were once important status symbol. Processional images which were brought out for processions or carrozas are kept in this room encased in their respective urnas (protective cases). The photo above shows the image of San Roque.
The Blue Room
The wall paintings in this room were taken from Pompeiian motifs which influenced the Neo-classical style. This style began in Europe during the late 18th century which also influenced Philippine art and architecture from the early 19th century onwards
Another religious item in the Blue room showcasing an encased sculpture depicting crucified Christ with Mary and John at the foot of the cross.
The Cuarto Principal
The cuarto principal or the master’s bedroom was the bedchamber of the master of the house. It features some of the finest furniture including the aparador de tres lunas (armoire with three sections).
The armoire or wardrobe with three sections facing the bed. You can also spot a marble lavavo or washstand.
On the other side of the room are tables and rattan chairs with a so-called Tremor, a dresser with swinging full-length mirror.
The walls of the comedor or the dining room were often lined with plateras (sideboards) to display the families’ porcelain, silver and glassware. Ceramic plates often decorated the walls.
The huge dining table is the most interesting highlight of this room which is made from a single plank of narra wood. Those curtain-like cloth hanging on top of the table is actually called punkah, a manually-operated ceiling fan. It is also used not just to cool the dining room but also to shoo the flies away.
The Cocina (kitchen)
The kitchen in Casa Manila is loaded with functional features. There’s a stovetop that is made of ash and water. The cupboard of also known as the “paminggalan” was used to store preserves and leftovers.
You’ll spot different types of coal stove in this room
Pots, jars, kettles, and a collection of huge wooden ladles.
Protruding outside the window was banggera, a common part of the kitchen in most old houses. Banggera is where the washed dishes were placed and dried upside-down on wooden spikes.
The letrina is good for two and simulates a late 19th century toilet found in affluent homes. This was a novel facility when indoor plumbing was still new.
The bathroom contains two large stoneware tubs. The master would sit in the tub while servants poured water.
The tubs featured here are imported Ming dynasty stoneware pieces.
The Azotea (rooftop)
The tour in Casa Manila will conclude as you exit the kitchen area. This will prompt you to the rooftop or the Azotea. The azotea serves many purposes. The aljibe or water cistern that supplies water to the household is located here. There’s also a rooftop garden showcasing various plants and herbs but this area is not publicly accessible.
It was indeed a great experience to witness this impressively curated antique pieces and how it managed to illustrate the old lavish life of the wealthy Filipino families back in the day.
If you are planning to visit Casa Manila, here are the things you need to know and consider
►Casa Manila is located across the historic San Agustin church and bounded by the beautiful cobblestone streets of Calle Real, General Luna, Cabildo, and Urdaneta
►The entrance fee to Casa Manila is Php75
►In observance with the covid 19 pandemic, visitors can only enter the museum in small batches. It can accommodate 15 people at a time and only five people in a group.
►StaySafePH app is required to be downloaded on your mobile device. You’ll have to scan QR codes three times (before entering the museum, before exiting the museum, and before leaving Casa Manila). If you will enter the museum via Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant, another scanning station is located there.
►Professional cameras (SLR, DSLR, Digital Cameras) are not allowed in Casa Manila. You can, however, use your cellphone camera to take pictures.
►Refrain yourself from touching any of the display
►Only visitors from 15 to 65 years old are allowed.
►Visitors are required to practice safety guidelines, which include wearing masks and face shields, physical distancing, practicing hand hygiene and cough etiquette, and undergoing mandatory temperature screening and sanitizing protocols.
►Casa Manila is open every Tuesdays to Sundays from 8 am to 5 pm
►Visitors can pay in cash, via Beep card, or PayMaya.
Info Source: Intramuros Administration FB Page / Intramuros Administration Booklet
Other Sites in Intramuros you may want to visit
►Museo De San Agustin
►Baluarte de San Diego and Baluarte de San Andres
►The Papier Tole Souvenir Shop
►Exploring Intramuros : Journey to the Past (Part 1)
►Exploring Intramuros: Journey to the Past (Part 2)
►The Seven Great Churches of Intramuros
►Wartime Manila Tour