Last April, I had the chance to be a part of a short tour inside The Bureau of Treasury located within the Intramuros complex; the building can be found in the plaza where the Manila Cathedral is. I can not remember how I knew that this white unassuming building had fancy interiors inside. It was probably through an Instagram post but I knew about the Ayuntamiento de Manila more in depth via a blog post in The Urban Roamer (it is my go to site whenever I’m planning for an affordable day trip in Manila). Our Ayuntamiento tour guide told us that they do not advertise the tours as they are not ready yet to handle big tour groups.
Ayuntamiento de Manila 101
Ayuntamiento is a Spanish word which means City Hall thus the land where The Bureau of Treasury now stands used to be occupied by the Manila City Hall or Ayuntamiento de Manila in Spanish colonial times. The building, rather than a restoration, was constructed from the ground up. Our guide told us that not so long ago (before 2010), the place was a parking lot. Instead of constructing an entirely modern building, which would have been out of place in the plaza, they decided to faithfully reproduce the old building-its interiors included. The project was a cooperation among different government cultural agencies and professional consultants were also brought in.
The tour was short (it’s only an hour long) but was pretty packed. The guide brought us in five different places in the building (would have been six had it been the afternoon tour) – the receiving area(which leads to the main halls), the Marble Hall, the Session Hall, the library, and a tiny museum. The guide was very informative and open to our questions.
The Marble Hall
This was where Kris Aquino hosted the wives of APEC leaders for lunch during the 2015 APEC summit in Manila. This hall is used exclusively for important government functions (ordinary citizens can’t reserve this for weddings). The hall looks and feels expensive; I can only imagine the budget used for its construction. Most of the materials used here were exported from Europe.
The Session Hall/ Salla de Sesiones
This was based on the original Session Hall of the City Council of Manila. The place is sometimes a venue for a small conference or seminar.
Their collection, we were told, mainly consists of legal books and most are digital sources. Our guide proudly told us that all their furniture here are Kevin Cobonpue chairs (a.k.a. the very expensive Filipino made chairs that Brad Pitt and Angelina had).
Offers information about the history of the place which were largely already covered during the guided tour. It houses these weird contraptions that were found when they were digging the foundation of Ayuntamiento. The guide said that it was of Roman architecture. The main purpose of which was for flood control. The upside down clay jars are hollow inside and they were meant to serve as a container for water.
Things to Know Before Going
Here are some things you need to know before joining the tour.
- The tours are scheduled every Tuesdays and Fridays. There are 2 time slots you could choose from- 11am-12nn or 4pm- 5pm. I suggest the afternoon slot. I actually joined the lunch time tour but one drawback was that in this time slot, the tour guide would not include the atrium in the tour as it is too hot at that time.
- You don’t have to be in formal attire but shorts and slippers/tsinelas are not allowed. We had one member in our group who was wearing exactly these things to avoid and they had to make a phone call to someone to ask if the guy could still go in. I think they made an exemption for him because they thought he was a foreigner (I overheard the guide during the phone call na “may foreigner na naka-shorts”). As it turned out the guy was Pinoy who has East Asian features.
- Prepare 40 pesos for the tour fee.
- Try not to bring a bulky bag. I was wearing a backpack but the staff did not ask me to deposit it. All the while during the tour I was extra careful because my bag could have hit one of their precious decors (which I would have been unable to pay).
- Bring an ID. We were asked to leave one at the reception before starting with the tour.