A Day in Intramuros

One of the main entrances to the walled city just across the Manila City Hall and Andres Bonifacio Shrine.

Last week, I visited Intramuros, Manila to attend a talk about one of our heroes, Andres Bonifacio. I also took the chance to see the place for being a Filipino history geek, I won’t let the National History Month pass by without paying homage to this heritage site. It is like a historical pilgrimage to me; add to the fact that the cobbled pathways are not friendly for those who are fond of wearing leather shoes (I should have known better!). The Philippines was under the crown of Spain for more than 300 years and you could see how Spanish influences pervade in our culture—a prime example is this remnant of a distant past. It is such a great loss of heritage and lives when the Intramuros suffered a lot in the Second World War.

I only managed to see one-fourth of the walled city during my day visit but my eyes were on a feast. Upon entering Intramuros via Calle Victoria, I turned left to Muralla St. First major landmark to be seen is the Baluarte de San Andres (or Fort of St. Andrew). According to the site’s marker, it was built in 1603 and designed to protect the Puerta Real and reinforce the southeastern part of Intramuros. This became an open park for everyone. The Philippine National Police (PNP) has their post in this area after converting the soldiers’ barracks into their station. You could also see the main office of the Manila Bulletin and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) just across the street.

A view from the fortress. Cannons were aimed at spots like this one. What was once the outskirts is now a golf course.
Every one could walk and look back at the past, that is, a trip down the memory lane.
Walk like a guardia civil. Be sure to wear rubber shoes to stroll leisurely in these cobbled walkways.
Every one is welcome to take a break in this open park.
A view from above the nearby police station.
The Puerta Real (or the Royal Gate) is called as such because this gate is exclusively used by the Governor-General for state occasions. It is placed between the Baluarte de San Andres and Baluarte de San Diego. Cannons, barrels, and military paraphernalia are now housed in here.

Just a few walks away is the Baluarte de San Diego (or Fort of St. James). As stated in its marker, it is one of the oldest stone fortifications in Intramuros and was designed and built by a Jesuit priest, Antonio Sedeño from 1586 to 1587. The remains of the ace-of-spades-shaped bastion was first excavated during 1979 and is currently maintained as an archaeological site. Beautiful gardens and a gazebo were added below the main fort which could be rented to hold special events such as weddings and pre-nuptials.

One of the open dungeons in Baluarte de San Diego.
Sceneries of modern Manila complement the antiquity of the site.
At first glance, one could mistake the heart of the fort as a well, or a catch basin. While some proposed that this structure once served as a cistern, this is believed as the base of what was once the Nuestra Señora de Guia tower.
Looking at a different angle. The white stuff seems to be part of Intramuros’ ongoing conservation efforts.
A window overlooking at our past. Baluarte de San Diego has beautiful gardens where private events are held at present times.
Intramuros in the eye of a 17th-century sniper.
One of the dungeons (?) of Baluarte de San Diego.
A closer look.

Intramuros also had her churches during the Spanish period. Unfortunately, Intramuros suffered a lot during the Second World War and the Liberation of Manila in 1945. Along the way to the Ayuntamiento de Manila, I was able to see the San Agustin Church, which is considered to be a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

The face of the church. Originally, the church had two bell towers but the left tower was permanently removed after a strong earthquake of 1880.
Chinese stonecutters from Parian, the Chinatown-equivalent of Intramuros, were commissioned to help in the construction of Intramuros and its churches. Notice the Chinese fu dogs guarding at the feet of St. Augustine.
The main door to the church. It was carved out of molave wood bearing the images of St. Augustine and his mother, St. Monica. at the bottom. Notice the pierced heart and the bishop’s hat—Augustinian symbols—in the top portion of the door. An architecture pundit would notice the baroque, if not rococo, style.
A peek at the Manila Cathedral.

Some of the old structures in Intramuros that were damaged by the war are reconstructed and converted into museums and public places.

A street divided by times. On the left is the Beaterio de la Compania de Jesus, which is now the Intramuros & Rizal’s Bagumbayan Lights & Sound Museum. On the right is the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (University of the City of Manila)
Calesa, or wooden car driven by horse, still roams the streets of Intramuros.
King Carlos IV monument in Plaza Roma, facing the Manila Cathedral. This Spanish King provided the first batch of smallpox vaccine to the Philippines hence a statue in his honor.
Life in the ruins.
Ruins at Arzobispo Street.
Intramuros by night.
The Manila Cathedral’s exterior is illuminated by lights after sunset.
Why travel far North in Vigan if Intramuros is just a few rides away?

Though Intramuros was the Manila of the Spaniards during the time (today’s Manila is now composed with the arrabales, or the slums, and areas in outer Intramuros), she still evokes images of the distant past. They say that heritage speaks volumes about its people and it could help to bring into our sight what is usually lost due to the noises of modern times. By looking to the past, we will see what we were once in order to know why we are what we are and what we will be. I hope to get back soon.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s