Casa Manila Museum Intramuros: A Journey to the Past

Being a Manileña allows me to visit Intramuros countless times. I recently revisited this place when I attended a Sunday Catholic mass with my family at the Manila Cathedral. After hearing mass, we strolled along the cobbled stone pathways of Intramuros and visited some museums.

Although most places in Manila have been modernized (high rise buildings and large shopping centers sprouted all over the city), one thing I am sure of is that Intramuros remained its timeless charm.

Let’s get to know a bit of our ancestor’s past by getting inside the Casa Manila, Intramuros.

Casa Manila

It is a museum that highlighted the domestic life of the upper-class citizens in the 19th century. It is a replica of an 1850’s San Nicolas house that was once located in Calle Jaboneros. It was constructed by the then-first lady Imelda Marcos during the 1980s, modeled on Spanish colonial architecture. The museum featured rare collections of antique wooden furniture, crystal chandeliers, Chinese ceramic vases, oil paintings, and authentic kitchen tools, to name a few.

At the ground floor are the Zaguan & Patio, Cabbelariza, and the souvenir item store.

The walls of the ground floor are made of Adobe (vulcanic tuff), which was used as the main building’s material in the Spanish Colony during the late 16th to late 19th century. The same material used to build the walls of Intramuros.

Zaguan -It is through the zaguan (corridor) that carruaje (carries) entered, dropping off passengers by the stairs which lead to the entersuelo.
Patio- it has a granite pavement and a fountain at the center. The fountain is a feature that appeared after running water was introduced to Manila in 1882.
Cabbelariza (stable) this is where the house owner’s carriages were garaged.
A souvenir item shop is located at the ground floor where locally made products are available

Entresuelo– A sort of mezzanine, the entresuelo usually contained a receiving area for tradesmen, an office, and some bedrooms. Starting from the late 19th century, some entresuelo inside Intramuros were rented out as an apartment for students enrolled in the different universities in Manila.

A 19th century portrait of Melchor delos Reyes in oil canvas. A commoda (commode) made of narra wood with a carabao inlay from Bulacan dated 1891
A 19th century portrait of Liberata delos Reyes in oil canvas. A commoda (commode) made of tindalo wood with carabao inlay from Nueva Ecija dated 1870

Cuarto – the room in the entresuelo usually occupied by an unmarried aunt or uncle. Other rooms were used for a siesta or for the accommodation of overnight guests.

The elaborated carved Ah-tay bed is a status symbol during 19th century. It was named after the Chinese furniture maker in Binondo who carved it.

The second floor displays the finest pieces of furniture in the house, showing off the family’s luxuriousness and their status to the society during those times.

Narra wood Bastonero (cane or umbrella rack) date: late 19th century


These stoneware bathtubs are from China.

Comedor the walls of the dining area were lined with plates or several sideboards which display families porcelain, silver, and glassware. The furniture was used not only for storage but also to impress visitors.

Note the punkah, a wide, manually operated ceiling fan brought from India during the British occupation of Manila in 1762-1764. Its function was not only to circulate the air to cool the guest but also to drive away the flies from the table.

Cocina– This is the typical kitchen in the 19th century. The cement- like top of the stove is made of paste composed of sifted ashes and water. Bread was baked by piling live charcoal along the interior side of the oven, with the bread at the center.

Table and bench is a molave and balayong wood from Batangas
dated early 19th century
At the table are 19th century old hardwood biscuit molder from Pampanga and flat iron in various sizes
Banguera a wooden dish rack in 19th century

the azotea serves many purposes. The aljibe or water cistern that supplies water to the household is located here. Activities that require a large amount of water is done here like laundry, gardening as well as butchering of pigs and chicken for a family meal. Rainwater from the roof, gutters were collected through the stone column, which led to the filter of charcoal, gravel and sand and then into the cistern.

Various herbs used for cooking are grown in the azotea like tanglad or lemon grass, pandan to name a few.

The guards served as our museum guide. They are friendly and very knowledgeable about everything inside the museum.

Address:Plaza San Luis Complex, Cor. Real & Gen. Luna Sts. Intramuros, Manila


Museum Hours:9 am – 6 pm

Closed On: Monday

Entrance Fee: Adults Php 75 ; Students/Teachers/Senior Citizens Php 50

Thank you for reading!

God bless always❤️

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