To the southern bank of Pasig River there’s an old Spaniard city built within a fortress. Nicknamed “Intramuros” which in Latin literally means “within a wall”, the city was founded by the Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi circa 16th century, on the site of the Islamic Malay Kingdom of Maynila. It had become the capital and seat of Spanish sovereignty in Asia until it was surrendered to the Americans post Spanish-American War in 1898, and by the end of WWII most of the structures in the city had been decimated along with 100,000 Filipinos. Restored as one of Philippines historical site and national heritage, Intramuros is now a tourist spot and home to several Universities.
Going to Intramuros on our second day, we took a jeepney heading to Quaipo and got off by the Manila City Hall. The fare was a standard Php8 per person and you could just pass the money to the next person seated near you. It is a common understanding between jeepney riders; the money will be passed from one to another until it reaches the driver, which by then will ask of your whereabouts and return the change the exact same way. It reminds me on our public van ride in Hatyai and the Angkot in Indonesia.
From Manila City Hall we crossed the street via the underpass, and a after a short walk past the golf-course we arrived at one of the Intramuros gate, known as Puertas. During its heyday the city was surrounded by brick and moat, and entrance to the city was passable through a drawbridge which opened and closed at dawn and before midnight. Pedicabs, motorbikes, cars and pedestrians now cross freely over the asphalt road of present day Intramuros.
We decided to explore Intramuros from Fort Santiago, the furthest end of the city where most of the historical buildings are located. It was quite a walk from where we stood, so we flagged a pedicab. The driver was asking 40 pesos for the one way trip, and considering it was a good bargain we accepted his offer.
En route we bypassed the Puerta de Isabel II and the many bastions (aka baluarte) before stopping by an old neoclassical ruin, of which our talkative driver mentioned ‘Aduana’. From his tour brochure we learnt that ‘Aduana’ is a Custom House that governed the taxes of merchants’ imports and exports during the Spanish period, and one of a few that survived the wars. Later the building was used as ‘Intendencia’ (central administration) by the Spanish, and converted into a mint by the Americans (Casa de Moneda) post WWII. The 1979 fire however destroyed most of its structure and the then impressive building was now left to its crumbling state.
A peek inside the grilled windows of the once magnificent Aduana, now covered in shrubberies and moss.
We proceed from Aduana and within minutes arrived at the manicured lawn of Plaza Moriones, the entrance to Fort Santiago. I pulled Php40 from my wallet and handed it to the driver, which suddenly asked for a double. He said that I had misheard him when reminded of the amount we had settled earlier.
“I remember correctly you said Php40 to deliver us to Fuerza de Santiago!” I said hotly. I know it was petty to quarrel about the mere Php40 that will do more good to him than us, but I felt cheated and it raged me.
“But it was a long way and you stopped for photos, so it is a different charge” he tried to justify.
It was just a 5 minutes photo stop and with that he was able to catch his breath, but that fact has been manipulated against us. I was about to argue but seeing his tired looking face and dimmed gaze I suddenly felt ashamed of myself. DH looked at me with puzzling eyes, but he didn’t say anything. My eyes rested on the driver, while his gaze fell on his dirty feet. He was thin and small, and thinking back how hard it must be pulling the pedicab under the hot sun with the two of us inside, I took out another two yellow notes and gave it to him. He looked at me with the unspeakable Salamat Po, took the money and cycled away.
We paid the Php75 entrance fee at the ticket counter, and were given a pamphlet with map. Fort Santiago was just across the promenade, but my attention was distracted by these cute lanterns hanging from the trees at Plaza Moriones.
The execution of Gomburza at Plaza Moriones. Gomburza is actually acronym of Father Mario Gomez, Jose Burgos and Friar Zamora – they were the three Filipino priests that first evoked the nationalist spirit of the Philippines, and the inspiration to Jose Rizal.
Sleepy kalesa driver, in front of the US military barracks next to Plaza Moriones.
The gate of Fort Santiago across the man-made moat, a look alike with the one we have back in Malacca built by the Portuguese.
Fort Santiago was once a fortified military post built by de Legazpi as part of the Intramuros defensive structure. The site originally belongs to the Islamic king of Rajah Sulayman, which has been taken over by Spanish after the colonization of Philippines. It was also the place where Philippines national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal was imprisoned prior to his execution in 1896.
Inside the fort was the bronze-plated foot step of Jose Rizal, that represent his final walks from the prison cell to the execution site in Luneta.
The statue of Jose P. Rizal in Fort Santiago. A patriot that reformed the conventional thinking of the Philippines and support the Filipino nationalism against the Spanish colonization through his writings.
Facing the statue is the Rizal Shrine, a memorial built on the Spanish military barracks where Rizal was incarcerated, and home to various memorabilia belongs to the nationalist.
Ruins of the Spanish barracks, next to Rizal Shrine.
Old candles at Rizal Shrine in Manila.
DH and our new friend at Rizal Shrine.
A mural illustrating the execution of Rizal hung at the wall inside the shrine.
We entered the dark Chamber of Text quartered at ground floor, which dedicated to Rizal’s photos, manuscripts, books and artworks. His masterpiece and the main reason for his death penalty, the excerptions of “Noli Me Tangere” (The Social Cancer) - a novel he so boldly written condemning the Philippines catholic church for their support of Spanish colonization was imprinted on the black pillars in five different languages.
From the Chamber of Text we wandered to the pantry and store room, where replica of Rizal’s prison cell was setup. Some of Rizal’s last words were etched on the surrounding walls.
A doctor by profession, Rizal tended to his patients if he’s not busied with writing the anti-Spanish movement articles. This painting was hung at the stair on the way to Reliquary Room at second floor, where Rizal’s artifacts inclusive a piece of bone with bullet hole were kept.
The notable Mi Último Adiós – the last poem written by Jose Rizal on the eve of his execution on 30th December 1896. The poem was secretly written and was found by his family concealed in a small alcohol stove, shortly after his death.
Exiting the shrine we walked along the walled passageway that connects with the Baluarte de Santa Barbara, a bastion that once protect the entrance of the Pasig River, now facing the booming Manila.
Another view of Pasig River from the Falsabraga de St. Barbara, the tip most wall of Fort Santiago.
Powder Magazine of Baluarte de St. Barbara.
Initially all the ammunitions were kept in the storage vaults down below, but due to its dampness it was relocated to the new powder magazine on top of the baluarte. The dungeons were then used as prison cells.
Street lamps on our way out of Fort Santiago.
Walking across Plaza de Roma we arrived at the Manila Cathedral. Also known as the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, this building was the eighth reconstruction of the original building, which had survived several earthquakes, typhoon and war.
Pedicab drivers waiting for passengers behind the Manila Cathedral. I think I’ll walk this time.
Colorful Palacio del Sana at Cabildo Street.
Escaping the embattling ambience of the Spanish fort and dungeons, we sought refuge at the warm and beautiful Casa Manila at General Luna Street. Rebuilt by Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos in 1980, the museum let us experienced the lifestyle of the Spanish high society during the colonization era. From the antique furniture and crystal chandeliers, to the intricate renaissance drawings of angles and cherubim that usually adorns the ceilings of the Roman chapels - I’m thinking of moving here!
The door knocker at Casa Manila, with Roman impression.
Courtyard of Casa Manila, the only place where photo is allowed.
DH at the door of San Augustin Church, the oldest church in Philippines and UNESCO world heritage site.
A street in Intramuros.
A window at Baluarte de San Andres, a bastion named after St. Andrew, brother to the apostle St. Peter. It was designed to protect the Puerta Real and southeastern part of Intramuros.
From Baluarte de San Andres we took a walk along the parapet, a path that in the past was beaten with marching army.
Walking along the Intramuros southeastern perimeter we were brought back to the Baluarte de San Francisco de Dilao, our initial starting point. Surrounded by Philippines University, Mapua Institute of Technology and Manila High School, the bastion where the Spanish artillero would stand to shoot is now teeming with students.
That was the end of our tour to Intramuros.