Manila Part 1: Intramuros “A Walled City within a City”

Most people around the world will characterize the Philippines as a culturally diverse country. Having been influenced by early settlers, our history reflects how we are today.

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The defensive walls of Intramuros

The Spanish colonization of the Philippines, as we all call it, is the main source of the Philippines culture. These influences can be seen from old building architectures, schools, language and even food. It all started during the expedition set by Ferdinand Magellan in Cebu, depicted and celebrated now as Sinulog. It was the longest era the Philippines was under ruling from another country, stretching from 1521-1898.

During the Spanish Colonial Period, the Philippines was in constant attack from foreign invaders. A fleet of Chinese pirates attacked the country in 1574 which prompted the Spaniards to the construction of a walled city, Intramuros.

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An old map of Intramuros. Source: Wikipedia

It was strategically constructed along the bay of Manila and at the mouth of the Pasig River because it was the best location for trade. Intramuros, which is Spanish means “within the walls“, was the oldest district and historic core of Manila. A 0.67 kilometer wall was built to protect the city, and several Governor-Generals and Jesuits took part in the planning and implementation of this massive defense constructions under the approved royal ordinance of King Philip II. The main square of the city was Plaza Mayor (later known as Plaza McKinley then Plaza Roma) which is front of the Manila Cathedral. East of the plaza is the Ayuntamiento (City Hall) and the Palacio del Gobernador on the other side, which was the official residence of the Spanish viceroyalties in the Philippines. The Palacio del Gobernador now house the Intramuros administration, I, NCR HDMF, and the Ayuntamiento now houses the Bureau of Treasury. An earthquake destroyed these three buildings and much of the city. Two of the structures needed to be rebuilt except for the Governor palace. It was moved to a new location we now know as the Malacañan Palace.

Point of Entry

There are several point of entries on the walls of Intramuros. These are known as Puertas, which in English means “gates“. There are 8 puertas in Intramuros, namely Puerta Almacenes, Puerta de la Aduana, Puerta de Santo Domingo, Puerta Isabel II, Puerta del Parian, Puerta Real, Puerta Sta. Lucia, and Puerta del Postigo. Drawbridges were the only passageway into the walled city and these gates are always closed from 11PM until 4A during the Spanish era. After the earthquake, it was mandated that the gates remain opened during night and day.

Defense Structures

Defense was the main purpose of the Spaniards for constructing the walled city. Several bulwarks (baluartes), ravellins (ravellin) and redoubts (reductos)also surrounds the city alongside the walls of Intramuros. There are seven bastions/bulwarks in Intramuros namely Bastion of Tenerias, Aduana, San Gabriel, San Lorenzo, San Andres, San Diego, and Plano. Oldest among the 7 is the Bastion of San Diego (Baluarte de San Diego).

Inside the Fort Santiago itself, there are also bastions that were constructed in each corner of the triangle. They are Baluarte de Santa Barbara, Baluarte de San Miguel and Medio Baluarte de San Francisco.

Fort Santiago, a citadel that was first built by the Spanish conquistador, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. This defense fortress is part of the structures of the walled city, Intramuros. This fort is one of the most historical sites in Manila. Several lives was lost inside this fort including the life of Dr. Jose P. Rizal, our country’s National Hero. Inside Fort Santiago, we can find the Rizal Shrine, old dungeon ruins, a memorabilia of Dr. Jose Rizal, park houses from Spanish colonial times, Dr. Jose Rizal’s footsteps to his execution, and a replica of his ancestral house in Laguna.

There were several educational institutions that were built inside the walled city of Intramuros. These are Ateneo De Manila University, University of Santo Tomas, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, Colegio de Santa Rosa, and Colegio de Santa Isabel. Most of these institutions were moved to different locations after being destroyed during the war except for Colegio de San Juan de Letran. New institutions were also built within the walled city, namely Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (1965), Lyceum of the Philippines(1952), and Mapúa Institute of Technology(1925).

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Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila

Intramuros is also famous for its old Churches. There actually 7 churches built inside the walled city built by different religious orders. However, most of them were destroyed during the Battle of Manila in 1945 except for San Agustin Church. The other churches were Manila Cathedral (reconstructed after the war), Dominicans rebuilt Santo Domingo Church (moved to Quezon City and is now a National Shrine), Augustinians moved to their other church: San Sebastian Church, Capuchins moved the Lourdes Church to Quezon City (now a National Shrine), and the San Ignacio Church which is currently being reconstructed mimicking the original facade.

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San Agustin Church

There are also several museums that you can visit inside Intramuros. We have the Intramuros Light and Sound MuseumBahay TsinoyCasa Manila, Museo San Agustin, Rizal Shrine MuseumThe Silahis CenterThe Bonsai Library and Museum, and Archdiocesan Museum. All of them have different opening hours, take note of these so you can plan your visit ahead of time. Each museum has their own entrance fees:

Rizal Shrine Museum – P75.00, the shrine is only available to guest Tuesdays through Saturdays from 8AM-4PM.

Museo San Agustin – P200.00 for adult guests, students/senior comes in a lower price. Operating Hours: 08:00 am to 12:00 pm / 12:00 pm to 06:00 pm

Casa Manila – P75.00. Take note that guests are not allowed to take photos inside. Operating hours: 9AM-6PM, Tuesdays through Sundays

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Casa Manila

Bahay Tsinoy – P60 (students) ∼ P100 (adults). Operating hours: 1PM-5PM, Tuesdays through Sundays. Picture taking not allowed inside the museum.

Archdiocesan Museum – contact the museum office specially if you are in a large group.

Intramuros Light and Sound Museum – P150 per group of 10. Operating hours: 10AM-6PM, Tuesdays through Sundays.

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Intramuros Light and Sound Museum

The Bonsai Library and Museum – Free.

The Silahis Center – P20. Opens every day from 10AM-7PM.

Other Architectural Structures

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Queen Isabel II Monument
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Previous Presidents of the Philippines
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Muralla Street
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An old cannon placed on the walls of Intramuros for defense.

After touring around the walled city, it is time to grab a bite to eat. Intramuros also houses some pretty good restaurants inside. Some of the famous restaurants are Barbara’s Heritage RestaurantRistorante dela Mitre, Patio de Conchito and Illustrado. They serve some of the best local cuisines in the Philippines.

So if ever you get the chance to visit Manila, do not hesitate to drop by this walled city of Intramuros.

Explore and be part of the history of the Philippines!

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