Intramuros, or the ‘Walled City’, was built by the Spaniards, more specifically by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, in 1571, is situated on the southern bank of river Pasig, and is one of Manila’s oldest districts. It is bound on all sides by moats and thick high walls, with some over six metres high, hence the name.
Although, previously the site served as a large Indianized-Malayan-Islamic settlement, during the 16th century, it was the centre of religious, political and military power, when Philippines were under the control of Spain, and were a Spanish colony. Only the elite Spaniards and Mestizos were allowed accommodation in Intramuros. In fact, during this era, Intramuros was itself regarded as Manila.
History, Highlights and Features
Within the vast walled enclosure lie 51 blocks, with seven fortified gateways, which grant access in or out of the city, with a total area cover of 163 acres and over three kms in legth. The moat was actually added to the main structure in the year 1603. Distributed throughout the entire 51 blocks are numerous hospitals, military barracks, domestic accommodations, schools, 12 churches, and the Governor’s palace. Owing to its massiveness and well-planned strategic infrastructure, the city defied and repelled numerous attacks throughout history. The Dutch, the Portuguese and the Chinese all failed in their attempts to penetrate the fortress city.
During the era of World War II, Intramuros was used as garrison and prison facilities by the Japanese but Allied bombings resulted in it, and other parts of Manila, being severely damaged and destroyed. After the Allied occupancy of Manila at the end of the war, the US Administration took charge of the city and filled the moat, so as to prevent the onset of any contaminated disease. Nowadays, a golf course has substituted the place where the moat once existed.
Today, this is the only district in Manila that has been successful in retaining a part of the old Spanish-era influences. Present-day developments in Manila have not been able to break into the walls of Intramuros, leaving the old walls, churches and streets of this fortress unscathed and untouched by the winds of modernization. A visit to Intramuros is incomplete without seeing San Agustin Church & Museum (see below), Fort Santiago (see below), Manila Cathedral, Casa Manila Museum and Rizal Shrine.
What deserves special mention is how the Tourist Authority has been successful in retaining a piece of history which otherwise would have been lost forever. The transformation of Intramuros into one of the Philippines’ most visited tourist destination is nothing less than praiseworthy, as visitors can now get a glimpse of the glorious as well as sad past associated with this place, although the cobbled streets of Intramuros now house various cafés. The installation of lamp posts, which add at taste of the late 1800s, has been a feather in the hat of the Tourism Authority.
San Augustin Church & Museum
Built between 1587 -1606, this is the oldest church in the Philippines and one of the few that remained intact after WW II. The structure you will see nowadays is in fact the third to stand on the site and has survived seven major earthquakes, but is nonetheless in demand for weddings and other religiously affiliated celebrations. Admission includes entrance to the San Augustine Museum which lends insight into the riches of old Manila.
- Opening Hours: 08:00 - 12:00 and 13:00 - 18:00
- Location: General Luna Street
- Opening Hours: 08:00 - 17:00
- Location: If you are coming to Intramuros by LRT, get off at the United Nations Station. From here it is only a 20- to a 25-minute stroll to the gates.