I have walked around the walled city of Intramuros many times, and the historical forts and buildings as well as the colorful ancestral houses have always been charming to me. Intramuros is an attraction I also recommend to foreigners who are visiting Manila for the first time.
Recently, I was given the chance to see Intramuros another way – riding a bamboo bike on a guided tour. Bambike is a social enterprise that builds bamboo bikes with fair-trade labor (employees are paid fairly) and sustainable building (bamboo is a great eco-friendly material!). They also take guests on bamboo bike tours around Intramuros and Bonifacio Global City.
The enterprise was founded by Filipino-American Bryan McClelland, who worked on his master’s thesis on sustainable development for impoverished communities in the Philippines. He partnered with Gawad Kalinga, a community organization focused on poverty alleviation, and hired his bamboo bike builders through the organization’s community development program. Prior to working with Bambike, his employees were working in menial, low-paying jobs. (If you want to know more about Bryan and his bamboo building and testing experience, see this article.)
Bambike’s bamboo bikes are as strong as steel bikes (yes, they’ve tested it!) yet so lightweight and easy to bike. Each bike takes 50 man hours to build. Bambike has also won an award for its design at the Katha Awards at Manila FAME.
I could feel the ease and lightness of the bamboo bike when I tried riding it.
We went on the 2 hour and 30-minute tour of Intramuros (P1,200) which took us to nine attractions around the walled city. Our group was assigned a tour guide (which they call a Bambassador). Russell Leyco was already a seasoned Intramuros tour guide before he joined Bambike, and he support’s the organization’s advocacy.
Our safety was secured as there was Russell riding out front, and a “sweeper” at the back (much like in mountain climbing) to ensure that no one is left behind. They also direct vehicles sometimes to ensure that we safely cross the busy roads.
During the tour, I was happily surprised as I found us visiting spots in Intramuros I haven’t been to yet, like Puerta Real Gardens. It was also nice revisiting classic Intramuros spots like Fort Santiago (Jose Rizal’s prison) and Manila Cathedral.
The Bambike ecotour was a fun tour that helped me see Intramuros with fresh eyes. It is definitely worth trying, both for Intramuros first-timers and old-timers!
Try it for yourself. The rates are reasonable too!
Bambike Ecotours details:
Tours start at P600, which is the 1-hour express Intramuros tour.
Other tours are:
Intramuros experience tour – P1, 200, 2 1/2 hours (what we experienced. It is their most comprehensive Intramuros tour)
Intramuros sunset tour – P1,200, 1 1/2 hour, with the sunset at Bayleaf Hotel’s roof deck. Perfect for summer
Intramuros night edition – P1,200, 1 1/2 hour. Even better for summer.
Filipino experience tour – P600, 1 1/2 hour. The tour is done in Filipino.
There is also a tour outside Intramuros, particularly the BGC Mural Art Tour in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig (P1,200, 1 1/2 hour)
If you want to ride the bike on your own, you can rent one for P100/hour.
Bambike contact details:
E-mail address: email@example.com
Address: Bambike HQ, Plaza San Luis Complex, Real Street corner General Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila