Intramuros is now far from being a walled fortress, always at risk of war and destruction hundreds of years ago. Today, the walled city is the people’s way of escaping Manila’s fast-paced and chaotic way of life. What fascinates onlookers on the walled city is how it beautifully aged over the years amidst the severe damage it suffered in 1953 from the Battle of Manila.
Spaniards built most of the infrastructures in the district of Manila at the onset of their ruling. However, Intramuros’ aesthetics often stand out. Intramuros, in its literal sense, means “within the walls.” It was built in 1571 as an arsenal of Spanish weapons and a walled city where elite Spanish and government officials reside.
If you tour Manila today, the Spanish ruling and war remnants are still evident on its rusted canyons and uneven brick walls. Intramuros is a setting of several events, making it the closest to the Filipinos’ hearts and compelling among foreign onlookers.
Here are the things you must know to appreciate the beautiful walled city of Intramuros better.
- Intramuros has seven churches, and Manila Cathedral is considered the Mother Church. Manila Cathedral was initially constructed in 1571 out of bamboo and coconut palm leaves. The other old churches are San Agustin, Santo Domingo, San Francisco, San Nicolas de Tolentino, San Ignacio and Lourdes.
- The 620-meter-tall fortress you see isolating Intramuros from Manila is called Fort Santiago. It was once storage of weapons, ammunition, and a prison cell for Filipino revolutionaries. Philippines’ national hero, Jose Rizal, was imprisoned in Fort Santiago before being publicly executed in Luneta Park. Filipinos were also tortured and executed in Fort Santiago during the Japanese occupation.
- Intramuros is once an exclusive city for the Spanish elites. Chinese and Filipinos were not allowed to enter the city in the past. Ironically, there is a museum dedicated to Chinese inside Intramuros. Bahay Tsinoy houses thousands of old photos, books, and magazines.
- In front of Manila Cathedral, another attraction is the Plaza de Roma, where Charles IV of Spain’s monument is erected. It has been the venue of bullfights and public events within Intramuros since 1824.
- Puerta Real is a garden right at the entrance of Intramuros. It is an open space famous as a wedding venue in the Philippines. There is also another park created out of a ruined military school called Cuartel de Santa Lucia.