Last July, my family and I revisited the history of the Philippines in Intramuros, Manila – the oldest historic place in Manila that takes you back in time by hundreds of years. Intramuros is a Latin word which means “within the walls” because of the thick defensive walls built around the area to protect it from foreign invaders. In 1951, it was reconstructed after being heavily destroyed during the World War II. Even though Manila is fast changing and the old splendid colonial past is vanishing, Intramuros still has charm and history because of its beautifully preserved architecture and artefacts dating from the Spanish and American colonial era.
We spent about 4 hours there just walking and enjoying the past. Inside the Walled City, we saw many heritage structures – history, architecture, culture, and food. We were so interested in how it’s made; the stones looked very old and are cut precisely. Personally, I would certainly have loved to see the place a few hundred years ago.
We started our Intramuros walking-back-in-time tour in Plaza de Roma, a public square during the Spanish years and the center of Intramuros. A long time ago, public events were held there, but in 1797 it was converted into a garden. We saw a statue of King Charles IV of Spain, which was built in his honor for sending the first batch of smallpox vaccine to the Philippines.
Then we walked to the south of Plaza de Roma to visit the Manila Cathedral, which was first built in 1581. I have learned that the cathedral has been damaged and rebuilt several times. Former prelates and former Archdiocese of Manila, Jaime L. Cardinal Sin were buried inside the cathedral.
Few steps away from the Cathedral is the Palacio del Gobernador, a residence of the Governor-General during the Spanish Regime. At present, it is a government building that presently accommodates a number of offices of the Government of the Philippines such as the Intramuros Administration, the Commission on Elections and the NCR office of the Home Development Mutual Fund.
Then, we headed to the Fort Santiago, a defense fortress built by Spaniards in 1851. It is one of the oldest forts in the Philippines and it is where the Philippine National Hero Jose Rizal was imprisoned before his execution in 1896.
From there, we took a trisikad (cycle rickshaw, powered by human pedaling) to visit the San Agustin Church. On our way, we passed by the Memorare Manila, a monument built in the memory of more than a hundred thousand innocents killed and of all those who died during the Battle for the Liberation of Manila (one of the most brutal episodes of World War II) between February 3 and March 3 of 1945.
The Baroque style San Agustin Church is one of the Philippine churches recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1976, it was named as a National Historical Landmark by the Philippine Government.
Then we explored the Plaza San Luis Complex, which is composed of several houses such as Casa Manila, Casa Urdaneta, Casa Blanca, Los Hidalgos and El Hogar Filipino that represents different eras of Filipino-Spanish architecture and represents the lifestyle of the Illustrados (the privileged citizen) during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the Philippines. This cultural and commercial complex houses a hotel, museum, souvenir shops, cafe and restaurants.
And to complete our walk-back-in-time experience, we walked through the cobblestone streets in General Luna Street (in between San Agustin Church and Plaza San Luis).
We ended our tour with a nice lunch at Ristorante delle Mitre. I love the ambiance of the restaurant – it’s unique and depicts how Filipinos were during the Spanish era. The food there is definitely good and the staff is friendly.
My parents were so pleased to visit the place as it was their first time there. Indeed, our family’s trip down memory lane in Intramuros was such a great one. If you are keen to know about the old Spanish Manila and its way of life, Intramuros is the place for you and is well worth all your time.
What did you like best in Intramuros? What other place could you recommend in Intramuros?