According to the shirt that I bought on my recent trip to Intramuros, Intramuros was the citadel of Rajah Soliman, the seat of Spanish sovereignty and a city within a city. In Spanish, Intramuros is called a ciudad murada (walled city). The 0.67-km2 Intramuros was built in 1590 in order to protect the seat of Spanish government from foreign invaders. After 82 years of construction and funneling collection from taxes and gambling fines, Intramuros was deemed fit to house the most influential people in the Philippines at the time—the Spanish elite and the mestizos. The 64-hectare area enclosed by the walls must have been a wonderful playground, eclipsing the fantastic mansion of Jay Gatsby.
If one looks at the map of Intramuros, one will notice that it looks like a slice of pizza (or maybe it is just because I am craving for one now). This irregular shape follows the delineation of the Pasig River. The Spanish officials proceeded with the construction of Intramuros next to the Pasig River because the waterway played a vital role in transportation and commerce and trade.
The money, time and effort put into building Intramuros were not in vain as its 8-foot thick stonewalls were able to withstand attacks from Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese forces. Unfortunately, almost half of the walls were damaged during the Japanese attacks in World War II. Also, most of the edifices were leveled due to the bombings. Only San Agustin Church was able to survive the incessant attacks unscathed.
A day within the confines of Intramuros looks like Throwback Thursday, only grander and centuries farther back in time. Ubiquitous Spanish influence is very present in the remnants of the buildings–in the two-wheeled horse-drawn carriage calesa, the guardia civil that patrol the areas to help the visitors, and the Spanish words that are abundant in every turn.
On the way to the gate of Fort Santiago, there is a well-maintained park with ample grounds for parties and enough number of benches to rest one’s aching legs. While resting, one can look around at the beautiful red bricks that adorn the area. One of the features I like about the park is its fountain. The soothing sound of water in the middle of a hot day in Manila is music to my ears.
Fort Santiago was built under the leadership of Miguel López de Legazpi in 1571. It stands where Raja Soliman’s settlement was previously located. It was named after the patron saint of Spain, Saint James the Great or Santiago. If one looks at the beautiful gate of Fort Santiago, one can see the image of Santiago.
Fort Santiago is replete with historical importance. It served as the prison of José Rizal just before he was executed in Bagumbayan (now called Rizal Park) in 1896. As one of the oldest fortifications in Manila, it was put to good use by the British during their brief stint in the county and by the Americans during World War II. The Kempeitai (Japanese Army) also used it as chambers of horror where they imprisoned, tortured and executed hundreds of guerillas and civilians.
A Rizal Shrine is located in Fort Santiago. For a minimal fee of P10.00 (US $0.22), one can look at the furniture, clothes and books of José Rizal.
OUTSIDE FORT SANTIAGO
Walking outside Fort Santiago, towards the remaining churches within Intramuros, I encounter the following.
How to get to there: Take the LRT-1 to Carriedo Station. Board a jeepney going to Pier. Alight from the jeepney once you see Palacio del Gobernador. Turn right and walk for two to three minutes.
How much: The entrance to fee to Intramuros which includes Fort Santiago is P75.00 (US $1.67). Students pay only P50.00 (US $1.11).