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