Situated right at the heart of the Philippines’ capital Manila, the historical walled city of Intramuros holds the stone tablets that showcase and view greater impact of Filipino real life tales. The seeds of deep stories that blooms over the years. From more than 300 years of Spanish colonialism, its footprints of caliginous past still remains on the narrow cobblestone streets, aged buildings, ruins and wall edges. Well, just a piece of history on the table for you guys. For the first wave, Spain got the first punch of the round and began spreading Christianity and afterwards suddenly the Philippines became their precious empire in the pacific. That’s somehow it goes. Like any other walled city on earth, Intramuros was also built by number of thick stones and bricks that enclosed the area in protection against invaders and yes it was.
So, to steer the course on the other way, what can you expect to see within the walls? As much as this place looks like an ancient village somewhere in Madrid or Barcelona, of course don’t forget that you are in Manila and yeah! You’re in Asia. Intramuros is the major tourist destination in the capital and to think genuinely, your visit is incomplete if you miss to roam around the extensive walls and embrace the spirit of Filipino culture, tradition and narrative history.
To guide you upon entering on one of the walls’ Puertas or gates, I came to merge everything in focus and liquidating all the interesting spots, here are some of the fascinating places to check within the walls. To start, look on your map and point the San Agustin Church, a Roman Catholic Church and a UNESCO World Heritage. The present edifice is verily the third that erected on the same site. The church was firstly built by the Spaniards then it was sacked by British forces, withstood major earthquakes and even been turned into a concentration camp during the Japanese occupation.
Just across the historic San Agustin Church is the Casa Manila. A museum delineating colonial lifestyle during Spanish occupation which is where correspondingly the traditional lifestyle adopted by the Filipinos ever since. If you have been to a Filipino ancestral house then you can find the exact resemblance.
Located at the southwestern part of the defensive wall, you’ll able to find the Baluarte de San Diego (en: Fort of Saint Didacus). From the entire bastioned fort around Intramuros, this is distinctively unique considering its shape like an ace of spades. It is one of the oldest stone fortifications within the walls, built from 1586 to 1587 and once a foundry way backs the 18th century. Its current appearance were erstwhile the results of British cannon fires as they breached to the fort during their short occupation and the 1954 Battle of Manila.
As a widely Catholic country, there’s no reason for skipping the Manila Cathedral-Basilica. Been constructed and raised around seven times than three times San Agustin Church because of fire and numbers of strong earthquakes that hit Manila. But still standing! Several Popes did their holy masses here during their papal visit and the recent was Pope Francis. Enshrined inside are the statue of Saint Peter from the Vatican and a wooden cross which have said contains a piece of small part came from the real cross where Jesus nailed.
And last but not the least is Fort Santiago (en: Fort of Saint James the Great) knowingly named after the patron Saint of Spain and one of the most important historical sites in Manila. Why? During Spanish occupation and World War II, many lives were lost in its prisons and the well known respected Philippine National Hero – Dr. Jose Rizal imprisoned here too before his execution in 1896 by the Spaniards. Inside the premise you’ll be able to see his footsteps embedded on the ground in bronze representing his final walk from his cell to the place of the actual execution. You can visit the Rizal Shrine too inside Fort Santiago; a museum displays the hero’s memorabilia.
It’s not that complicated to explore the walled city by feet because I did it the same way and found everything exquisite. From walking to those walls and entering Baluartes or Forts, really the place is magnificent and eye catching though there’s a lack of maintenance on some parts but still you can feel the ambiance of Filipino history during the regime of Spanish empire. The name Intramuros is a Spanish word for “Within the Walls”.
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How to get to Intramuros
Intramuros is just the neighbor of Rizal Park (Luneta). The best point to start is at Maria Orosa Street, cross along Padre Burgos Avenue, you can choose either General Luna Street or Palacio Street but that is not a big deal because the two streets will lead you on the same exact entrance of Intramuros.
Where to eat
There are numbers of places where you can have your stop for your starving stomach. You can find several 7eleven and Ministop stores, there are Karinderia or Local Filipino small eatery and fast food chains and restaurants along Andres Soriano Street.
Where to buy souvenirs
A stop at Silahis Art and Artifacts is my favorite. It’s along General Luna Street just across City of Manila University. They offer wide selections of souvenirs depend on your taste.
Easy Guide for expenses
You can hire a tricycle to take you around for just 100 Php is the other option if you’re not feeling well to get yourself within the walls by walking. San Agustin church is normally closed and being opened if there’s a mass or any significant occasions. You can also visit San Agustin Museum on the next door. Casa Manila has a fee of 70-75 Php, Baluarte de San Diego fee of 75 Php, Fort Santiago fee of 75 Php in inclusion of Rizal Shrine and the Manila Cathedral-Basilica which its doors are always open for you.