City

Intramuros Ghost Walk: Manila Tour with a twist

Do you love both history and horror? The walled capital of Manila tells both! The Intramuros Ghost Walk is an alternative take on the historical tour within the walls.

I remember the All Saints’ Day nights in the 90s when we would turn off the lights, turn on the TV, and grab some snacks. The family would crowd around the television to watch Noli de Castro’s Magandang Gabi Bayan.

Kabayan’s MGB series that ran for nearly two decades famously told horror stories in the Philippines as its Halloween special. The visuals and the costumes may be occasionally hilarious and considered corny now, but it captured my imagination as a child. My brothers would scare each other to sleep and we would glance at the lighted candle by our gate, thinking of the spirits lurking outside.

Reminiscent of this Pinoy-flavored Halloween, I yearned to go beyond corporate Westernized costume parties of the new millennium. The Pinoy-flavored Halloween was composed of scorned lovers, depressed students, devout Catholics, and war victims; not to mention, the non-human creatures of Filipino folklore. The search led me to the Intramuros Ghost Walk, a Manila city tour which fused my love for history and travel.

Intramuros Ghost Walk

Will I see ghosts at the Intramuros Ghost Walk?

Intramuros is the oldest district and at the heart of Manila. Its location near Pasig River and Manila Bay made it a strategic location for pre-colonial era traders. Intramuros literally translates into “within the walls”, the latter of which was built as a fortress to protect the Spanish seat of power from foreign invasion and natural disasters. Tragically, Intramuros was reduced to dust by Japanese and American bombings during World War II.

Before you let your imagination for the paranormal run wild, let me give you some fair warnings. It is best to suspend your disbelief! When you join the ghost tour, going around challenging every claim on the supernatural may be in futile. It’s best to keep your eyes and mind open. You can do your own research and fact-checking afterward.

Here are what to expect from the Intramuros Ghost Walk:

#1 It’s more of a historical tour. Give it up, you won’t be a Ghost Buster or Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the night. That’s not the point! The Intramuros Ghost Walk is meant to take you on a historical tour of Manila, with an inclination to tell paranormal sightings and activities. It’s not a guarantee that you can peer into the spiritual world, for that depends on your beliefs and abilities. But if you’re serious about ghosting, set your camera to burst and watch out for the following:

  • Imprints – residual energy or memories resonating in a place, such as a typing keyboard or crying.
  • Spirits – the dead still roaming our world probably due to confusion or unwillingness to move on.
  • Elementals – non-human creatures you often hear in fairytales or folklore.
  • Demons – malevolent entities causing chaos, thankfully not yet found in Intramuros!

#2 Photographs are hard to take. Because it’s a night tour, expect poor lighting throughout your trip. You will literally visit the nooks and crannies of Intramuros. This includes dungeons, bridges, ruins, and abandoned buildings that you never thought of going anywhere near to. Adjust your expectations and bring high-power cameras or flashlight. Better yet, sit back, relax, and just enjoy the tour.

#3 It’s gonna be a long walk! The three-hour Intramuros Ghost Walk is not a walk in the park. It can be tiring and lengthy, so prepare some food, water, and comfy clothing. You might also reconsider bringing older or younger members of the family who might end up tired and tantrum-prone in the duration of the tour.

Are you comfortable with no guarantees of seeing ghosts or taking spine-tingling photos? Do you think you can endure three hours of marching within the walls? Then, by all means, proceed with the Intramuros Ghost Walk!

Intramuros Ghost Walk Bayleaf Hotel

Looking for Manila nightlife? Read this article!

Intramuros Ghost Walk: the stopovers

During the Intramuros Ghost Walk, I saw the city literally and figuratively in a different light than the Manila nightlife. As a self-confessed history nerd (and a daughter of a former history teacher), I have fallen in love with its cobblestone streets, old ruins, and guards dressed in period uniforms. The places only considered for #OOTD purposes came alive with vivid details of 1940s war stories.

We were introduced to Jade Martin, a tarot reader and psychic adviser affiliated with the Center for Paranormal Studies and Profilers of the Unknown. She started the Intramuros Ghost Walk only recently, and it turned out to be an instant success for city-dwellers and the media. Our group is composed of families, groups of friends, and yuppies. It was easy enough to blend in and enjoy the tour with a bunch of strangers.

Intramuros is a survivor not just of man-made wars, but also of earthquakes and fires. I wonder how it preserved its beauty, even though almost no original architecture remained. The luminous Manila Cathedral was beautified by corner lights, appearing as if it was a real European cathedral. The kalesa (horse-drawn carriage) clopping on the pavement was music to my ears. The streets were empty just around dinnertime, and the breeze coming from the Pasig River was chilly on the eve of November. Plus, it was Halloween. We were extra sensitive, or even a little hopeful, that we’ll be delightfully surprised.

Along the way, we had stop-overs where both history and horror stories were told.

Intramuros Ghost Walk Lyceum University of the Philippines

Lyceum University of the Philippines. Like many Catholic schools, Lyceum tells its own horror stories within the school grounds. Although LPU opened post-war, a woman without limbs is said to have been found in the ladies’ restroom. Meanwhile, a ghost of a child was found roaming the corridors.

Juris Grill. Located near Colegio de San Juan de Letran is an empty food hub. It looks like a beautiful spot for restaurants, but now it has been abandoned and locked up. We peered into the darkness and saw broken chairs and trash. Jade said there were high poltergeist activities here, where the stressed energy of the living was reflected in the physical surrounding, making the area look messed up. She attributes this as one of the reasons why the area was vacated and no business could prosper.

Fort Santiago. Known as the national hero Jose Rizal’s detention place before being executed in Luneta, Fort Santiago is rumored to be the hiding place of the Yamashita treasure. It is also arguably where the death toll is highest during the war. A mass grave of hundreds of Filipino and American soldiers was built within the citadel. The victims died of suffocation, hunger, and suicide as they were imprisoned in the dungeons. Ghosts of American soldiers have been found on its grounds.

Intramuros Ghost Walk Aduana building Intendencia

Aduana Building. The most haunted of all buildings is the sprawling ruins of the Intendencia, which formerly housed government facilities and resembled the Diplomat Hotel in Baguio. Jade dared us to peer into the shadows. Active portals, children running up and down the stairs, and the grim reaper have allegedly been spotted here. It also is said that Aduana Building still attract tragedy, making the streets surrounding it prone to accidents.

Pasig River. Formerly an indispensable element of Manila living, the river was known to be a transport route and a source of water. Sadly, it can no longer sustain life today. Jade claims that the river is now impossible to clean in more ways than one. Aside from its physical filth, the river silently witnessed the city’s grief and remorse in the aftermath of the war. Overwhelming human sorrow is said to be one of the reasons that killed the river.

Palacio del Gobernador. Do you want to go to South America? When the building was invaded by the Japanese, a guard designated to watch over the area allegedly found himself on the opposite side of the Pacific, in Mexico! Jade believes the portal story was a lie, a means to escape accountability on the part of the guard.

Intramuros Ghost Walk Puerto del Sta. Lucia

Cuartel de Sta. Lucia. The hollow ruins of the military quarters and artillery are called “break up” park. Many couples allegedly ended relationships here, so that paranormals can sometimes hear imprints of crying sounds. A ghost of a guard was also said to remain, being unable to move on from his earthly duties.

Suicide Tree in Arzobispo Street. In Arzobispo corner Sta. Clara street is a large tree whose shadows are the only things visible when you look up. It is believed that illusion of fairies and castles have been seen here. But it’s not only the dreamy creatures that can be found. A kapre and a ghost of a student who allegedly jumped to her death from the balcony above was believed to have been caught on camera.

San Agustin Church. The only surviving building after the World War is no less than a church. The oldest church in Manila became a concentration camp of the Japanese for prisoners and hostages. Rumor has it that it was spared from the bombings when an influential devotee pleaded to the Americans to leave it untouched.

Manila Cathedral. More beautiful at night, the cathedral is the final rest of many Catholic priests and nuns, most prominently, of Jaime Cardinal Sin. Not surprisingly, it is popular to see headless ghosts dressed in religious habits. There are also reports of strange offerings, such as a fetus found inside the basket of flowers and fruits commonly offered during the mass.

Intramuros Ghost Walk Manila Cathedral

At the end of the tour, Jade thanked us for helping her advocacy to promote tourism in Intramuros. She also gave positive encouragements to adopt a positive outlook in life, since this was the primary reason why most spirits still walk our world!

I can honestly say that I liked the Intramuros Ghost Walk even though I don’t believe in ghosts. I wouldn’t mind bringing friends here or even going through the grueling three-hour tour again. It made me see Intramuros for what it was — a place that thrived, was struck by man-made tragedy, and is now rebuilding and moving forward.

Preparing for your Intramuros Ghost Walk

  • How to commute to Intramuros. The meet-up place is for the Intramuros Ghost Walk is at McDonald’s near The Bayleaf Hotel located within the walls. If you’re coming from Quezon City and Manila, simply take a jeep, van, or FX headed for Vito Cruz, Lawton, or Buendia. If you’re coming from Pasay City, you can take a bus or jeep going to Lawton or Quiapo. Get down at Manila City Hall, the landmark of which is the clock tower. Take the underpass going to the golf course and enter the Intramuros gate. Straight ahead is McDonald’s.
  • Call Time. Note that guests should be in McDonald’s by 5PM. The group leaves as 5:30PM because the Intramuros walls will be closed by 6PM.
  • Fees. The tour fee is at PHP 250 per person. You are required to at least fill in 8 slots, which is not a problem usually for weekends and holidays. A part of the proceeds will go to Tribu ni Bro, a community initiative.
  • Food. There are many fast food restaurants and convenience stores in Intramuros. Just be sure to eat a heavy meal prior to the tour because you won’t be able to stop for a full dinner.
  • Best time to take the tour. The most important must-do is a weather check prior to your trip. Because it is a night tour, the sweltering tropical heat won’t be much of a problem. For the thrills, you might want to take the tour during the Halloween!
  • What to bring. Some must-haves are bottled water, snacks, face towel, flashlight, and an umbrella in case it rains. Pack light!
  • What to wear. Because it is a walking tour, it’s best to wear your comfiest clothes. Wear flip-flops, sandals, or rubber shoes for footwear, and breezy tops that you can afford to sweat through.
  • Intramuros Ghost Walk contact number. Reach Jade Martin via the Intramuros Ghost Walk Facebook page or message (+63) 998-851-4516.

To believe or not to believe? It’s entirely up to you. What the Intramuros Ghost Walk presents is thrilling perspective on the history of Manila.

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30 Comments

  • Reply
    Kcalpesh Ajugia
    January 25, 2017 at 7:06 PM

    Although I have never had a paranormal experience, I wouldn’t believe in “not believing” the paranormal existence. One of my friends had one such experience and he sure looked a bit traumatized by the happenings so not believing isn’t a choice at all. I’d most certainly be excited to take one such Ghost walk for sure 🙂

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      January 28, 2017 at 11:34 AM

      Awesome story. You’re right, there are some things you can’t unsee… and can’t unbelieve so to speak. It might make ghost walks extra chilling!

  • Reply
    Marge Gavan
    December 9, 2016 at 11:58 PM

    This post gave me so much feels hahaha… Well not the scary feeling, but I do remember watching MGB when I was a kid, it was a Halloween favorite. Also I studied in Lyceum of the Philippines, which is in Intramuros so I know that city oh so very well. In my years of being there, nope, didn’t encounter any ghostly sighting.

    I have walked there at night but never to do a ghost walk. Now that you mentioned it, I think I wanna go back and do it also. I love anything paranormal related, I don’t get spook easily actually so this may be fun for me.

  • Reply
    Oi Meira
    December 7, 2016 at 1:20 PM

    This is just pretty cool! It is similar to Night at Museum in my hometown, Jakarta. I just got back from Manila btw. And I only know about Intramuros. I went there and walk around with my local friend. But there were many things to do there beside walking around. I think when I am back to Manila, I will just try to join them for the ghost walk. And it’s pretty cheap, 250 php 🙂

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      December 7, 2016 at 11:32 PM

      Thanks Oi!! What did you go to Manila for? The next time you do, I also encourage you to try other attractions in Manila. I blogged about them here 🙂

  • Reply
    Ana Rose
    December 1, 2016 at 8:44 PM

    I had goosebumps while reading your post about Intramuros. I have never tried visiting it at night time. I am really scared of ghosts and I do not want to see one. You are such a brave soul. But based on this post, I think I will never ever really visit Intramuros at night. Haha!

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      December 5, 2016 at 11:44 PM

      Haha! Sorry for the scare! But I do hope you visit it… perhaps in daytime. It’s absolutely romantic 🙂

  • Reply
    Emma Zhequia Madrid Bardos
    December 1, 2016 at 6:39 PM

    What an amazing idea, bridging history and paranormal. I guess, it will be 90% history and a tad bit of ghost stories. But definitely a great idea for Halloween. It’s nice to know that the initiative helps fund a tribe. It’s one of those things that makes your stay err walk rather worthwhile in the end. I would certainly prepare for a 3 hour long walk: food, drinks and a few towels. What if you want to pee though?

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      December 5, 2016 at 11:43 PM

      Hi Emma! Loving your insights here. Yes, it makes the walk even more worth it, and it’s 90% history! If you need to pee, there are many fast food establishments right inside Intramuros. Mostly though, you’ll sweat all those refreshments out!!

  • Reply
    ROBERT LEE | Amazing Life Daily
    December 1, 2016 at 11:59 AM

    Ghosts? BAH! LOL. I will tell you what I may be scared or, or at the very least, wary of. If I am walking at night in Intramuros, there are parts that are pretty safe. BUT, there are a lot of areas there that are dangerous when alone. Its not the dead, but the living who worries me. 🙂

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      December 5, 2016 at 11:40 PM

      That’s true, though, especially Halloween is part of the Pinoy Christmas season! Let’s be careful. Tho in my two nights of being there, it’s really mostly deserted.

  • Reply
    ASKSonnie
    November 28, 2016 at 9:22 AM

    A 3 hour walk? That sure is enough for the calorie burn requirement for the day, haha!

    Since the RDO (BIR Regional Office) where I file max tax returns used to be located in Intramuros, and my daughter is studying in the area, I have frequented the walled city, and have done several photo walks in the past. The place is indeed a good destination for historical tour and instagramable scenes.

    Though I believe in spirit beings, I have not done ghost walk in the past, but this initiative is sure a twist in promoting local Manila tourism in a different angle.

  • Reply
    mumwrites (@vixquips)
    November 21, 2016 at 8:42 AM

    MGB Halloween edition is one of the gems of the 90’s that this generation will miss. I have joined a Manila walk before but I am not sure I am cut out for a ghost walk in the walled city. I might have a heart attack or something! Nevertheless, no matter how you explore our capital City, whether for the historic treasures or otherwise, it sure is a worthwhile activity to visit the place anytime.

  • Reply
    Mary Ann Clemente
    November 21, 2016 at 1:23 AM

    This is really interesting for me. I’m not scared of ghosts, but going on this one will surely shed a different light on it. Thank you for the helpful tips on how to prepare for this one. I’ll definitely pull Lloyd on this one next year. I think going to Intramuros this December won’t be that eerie anymore since it’s a festive mood. Really excited to try this out.

  • Reply
    Stargazer Writes
    November 20, 2016 at 12:03 PM

    I have been here but during the day time. I never thought that the night life there is beautiful as well! I don’t think walking around is not that scary at all. But if it happens that something will show up or something, I think I’d be more excited.
    Your pictures aren’t that bad at all!

  • Reply
    Andrea
    November 19, 2016 at 11:59 PM

    The Intramuros Ghost walk looks fascinating and very long. Looks like the walk is really about history rather than paranormal activity although looks a little creepy. Did you experience any oddities at all even though you don’t believe in ghosts? Although I agree with you about ghosts, I must admit to be fascinated with the subject. It is good that the guide is encouraging a positive outlook on life. The place looks very atmospheric and worth visiting and the video was insightful too. Thanks.

  • Reply
    Charlotte Anne
    November 18, 2016 at 11:41 AM

    Thank you so much for sharing this ate Sam! I’ll definitely try this kapag nagawi akong Intramuros. Didn’t know may ghost tours na din pala ang Intramuros. Hehe. Well, Intramuros, known to be as one of the most creepiest in the Philippines, well this is something really worth a try. Pwedeng pwede eto especially sa mga blogs na thanatourism ang topics.

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      December 3, 2016 at 4:13 AM

      Charm! Ginoogle ko pa talaga ibig sabihin ng thanatourism… Very interesting! I’m also new to the concept, but I really liked it. I can’t wait to try the ghost tour in Baguio! Hope you can try that and let me know how it works 🙂

  • Reply
    Milton Coyne
    November 17, 2016 at 3:56 PM

    ahh! I was looking for something like this last month huhu.. I really want to be part of a ghost tour kaso I can’t find any group who organize such event.. Didn’t know na meron palang Intramuros Ghost Tour.. i should have joined you huhu.. anyway, i make sure to be part of it next year!

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      December 3, 2016 at 4:06 AM

      Hi Milton! Yes, balitaan mo ko when you take it. I would love to read it from your blog esp that you write about churches!!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Dominic Barrios
    November 17, 2016 at 1:18 PM

    Wow! Basing on the article, it sounded like a really nice tour. I also found a photo from one of the tours in Intramuros and they found something on the photos. From history, we all know what happened in Intramuros, the war and the deaths. I was surprised that there were stories also in Manila Cathedral about fetuses. That’s just a bit weird to hear and it sparked my curiosity. Of course, you’ll have to take everything you hear in this tour with a grain of salt. I would want to try this out maybe next time with friends and I hope to see some ghosts there. 😛

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      December 3, 2016 at 4:05 AM

      Hi Dominic 🙂 I agree that you really have to take everything with a grain of salt. It really depends on what you personally believe. I know the history, but I’m not sure about the paranormal and some of the stories. Either way I appreciate it as a form of an emerged culture that surrounded what actually transpired 🙂

  • Reply
    Klaudia
    November 17, 2016 at 3:01 AM

    Oh , that looks exciting ! Although I find your images rather romantic than ‘ghostly’ , I actually do believe in ghosts or spirits. I would probably get scared …wuuuaaahhh 🙂 The only thing that would turn me off a very little bit , why does McDonalds need to be involved ?! LOL , but that’s just me , I know how they all work together , which is a good thing actually. It is the same here with touristy attractions and excursions. They all work hand in hand. Anyhow, I really enjoyed this entertaining read-

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      December 3, 2016 at 4:04 AM

      I agree Klaudia, it’s really more of romantic, which I love! Thanks, Mcdo is a common meeting place for tours because it’s cheap and often open 24/7. Otherwise we’d be waiting on the streets or have to dine at expensive cafes!

  • Reply
    Jade Martin
    November 16, 2016 at 9:29 PM

    Ms. Sam Coronado. I am so thankful to you for writing this article. I shed tears after reading it because I felt more inspired to keep the advocacy of Intramuros Ghost Walk alive. A 3-hour walk is never easy. But I will never get tired of doing it because I know what I am fighting for.

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      November 16, 2016 at 11:43 PM

      Hi Ms. Jade! So glad you were able to comment here. I really did like the tour, that’s why I also wanted to bring my dad next time. All the best on your tours! Happy to be of help 🙂

  • Reply
    Ma. Clarice Lao
    November 16, 2016 at 3:40 PM

    Thank you for sharing this Sam. I stayed in Metro Manila for more than 5 years but never got the courage to visit Intramuros because of the ghost stories. I am a scaredy cat and not a fan of horror movies or stories. But I agree that we should visit Intramuros for historical purposes + enjoy food. I had read good reviews of restaurants there but perhaps I would schedule my visit next time in a cool afternoon (not in the night time) 🙂

    • Reply
      Sam Coronado
      December 3, 2016 at 4:02 AM

      Really? Wow I didn’t know you haven’t seen Intramuros for the ghost stories… I wasn’t informed of(or at least, I didn’t appreciate) its role during the war until I went to the tour. Thanks for sharing your story. Maybe someday you’ll finally see it at night!

  • Reply
    Eleanor Llabore
    November 16, 2016 at 2:40 PM

    Hi Sam…this is very interesting. I would love to experience this Intramuros Ghost Walk one of these days! I was only able to visit Fort Santiago, San Agustin Church and Manila Cathedral but in broad daylight. Thanks for the tips and insights you shared. I do love your photos, Manila’s sights become more picturesque.

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