I only read this popular tourist destination in the history book when I was still studying my primary and secondary in our hometown school before. Being destined to be raised up in a rustic part of south east Mindanao, with a far distance of 660 nautical miles away from the capital city of the country, my boundless imagination was the only recourse in the scrutiny of the historical scenario based on what the historians had said in the book. Now that I have all the time to witness and visit it, I went there without thinking twice. I was indeed curiously piqued by the intuitive notion that suddenly bobbed-up into my unsmug mind.

It was sunny midday of Saturday; the piercing ray of the sunlight while riding my motorcycle had been absolutely scorching. It utterly penetrates deeply into my skin even if my body was thoroughly wrapped with my favorite ebony jacket. This time, I was heading en route to the historical site of Intramuros. It’s merely a thirty minutes drive from our office and an illustrious tourist spot too that made a mark in the Philippine history. An interesting place indeed that’s rich in preserved relic and yore stories.

According to the information that I’ve gathered, I learned that long before the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines, villages abounded along the banks of the Pasig River. One of these was a palisaded fort called Maynila. Ruled by Rajah Soliman, a native chieftain, the citadel was a trade center for Asian goods.

Peace in the thriving community was shattered upon the arrival of the Spaniards led by master of camp Martin de Goiti and later by conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. The fort was burned twice, first by the Spaniards under Goiti and later by the natives themselves before it was completely left to the Spanish colonizers.

On June 24, 1571, Legazpi founded the city of Manila on the site of the old settlement. The city became the capital and seat of Spanish sovereignty in the Orient for over three hundred years.

Threats of invasion by Chinese and Japanese pirates prompted the construction of defences consisting of the high stone walls, bulwarks and moats. The walls stretched to 4.5 kilometres in length enclosing a pentagonal area of approximately 64 hectares. The area consisted of residences, churches, palaces, schools and government buildings. Entry was made possible through gates with drawbridges which were closed before midnight and opened at the break of dawn.

It was in this manner that the city earned the name Intramuros, meaning “within the walls”. Honored by King Philip II with the title Insegne y Siempre Leal Ciudad (Distinguised and Ever Loyal City), it served as the political, cultural, educational, religious and commercial center of Spain’s empire in the East. The riches of Asia were gathered in the Ciudad Murada or Walled City (as Intramuros later known), and loaded on Galleons for transport to Acapulco, Mexico.

But the walls did not discourage other ambitious European powers. Dutch pirates were driven off several times from Philippine waters. The walls suffered heavy damage and valuable properties were looted when the British invaded Intramuros in 1762. They ruled for almost two years before returning the country to Spain.

The Spanish-American War in 1898 brought the Americans to the Philippines. Intramuros was surrendered to them after the mock battle. The Filipinos began a different lifestyle with their new colonial master. Major portions of the walls including two gates were destroyed to make way for roads to Intramuros.

The Japanese occupied the Philippines at the outbreak of World War II. For three year, fear and death stalked the city. Fort Santiago became a hell house where the Japanese army tortured and killed hundreds of hapless civilians and guerrillas.

After surviving a number of earthquakes, typhoons, fires and wars through the centuries, Intramuros took the death blow when the Americans liberated the Philippines from the Japanese in 1945. Artillery shells reduced the walls and buildings into ashes. Thousands died during the eight-day siege.

When it was over, Intramuros was a dead city. In 1946, the United States recognized Philippine independence but the city did not spring back to life. Decades after the war, it became a vast wasteland overrun by informal settlers and warehouses. Trucks and container vans rumbled through the streets, further damaging the ruined buildings and endangering the foundations of the four-century old San Agustin Church.

On April 10, 1979, Presidential Decree 1616 created the Intramuros Administration to restore and develop the Walled City as a historic site and major tourist destination.

Today, efforts to preserve the Walled City and revive its illustrious past are stronger than ever. The present generation of Filipinos has come to realize its value as a national heritage. As in the days of our forefathers, Intramuros is a priceless treasure to be shared with the world.


This is the eight structure to rise on this site. The first cathedral was built of nipa in 1571 and was razed by fire in 1583. The second was made of stone and mortar in 1591 but was destroyed by earthquakes in 1599 and 1600. The third was built in 1614 and was again wiped out by earthquakes in 1621 and 1645. The fourth was constructed from 1654 to 1681, damaged by typhoons and earthquakes, and subsequently demolished in 1751. The fifth was inaugurated in 1760 and destroyed by earthquakes in 1863. The seventh was inaugurated in 1879, damaged by the 1880 earthquake and totally destroyed in the 1945 Battle in Manila. The present cathedral completed in 1958 was elevated to the rank of Basilica Minore by Pope John Paul II in 1983. It is officially named Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.


One of the oldest fortifications in Manila. Built in 1571, on the site of the native settlement of Raja Soliman. First fort was a palisaded structure of logs and earth. Destroyed in the Lamahong attack in 1574. Stone fort built between 1589 and 1592. Damaged in the 1645 earthquake. Repaired and strengthened from 1658 to 1663. Became the headquarters of the British occupation army from 1762 to 1764. Repaired and renovated in 1778.

Former headquarters of the Philippine Division of the U.S. Army. Occupied by the Japanese military in 1942 where hundreds of civilians and guerrillas were imprisoned, tortured and executed. Destroyed in the Battle in Manila in 1945.

Used as a depot of the U.S. transportation Corps before turnover to the Philippine government in 1946. Declared Shrine of Freedom in 1950. Restoration and maintenance of the fort began in 1951 under the National Park Development Committee. Management was turned over to the Intramuros Administration in 1992.


State residence of the Governor General of the Philippines. First palace in 1599 near Plaza de Armas in Fort Santiago. Destroyed in in 1645 earthquakes. Moved to present site. Became Governor-General’s residence and office as well as the Real Audiencia (Supreme Court). Reconstructed in 1733 and 1747. Damaged in the 1771 earthquake. Spanish-type façade added in 1850. Destroyed in 1963 earthquake. Abandoned when Governor-General moved to Malacañang.

Used as an air-raid shelter during World War II where 80 male civilians were massacred in 1945. Present building constructed in 1976 to house government offices.


A tunnel-like passage built in with a drainage canal emptying out into the moats, its primary use was to transport ammunitions to Reducto de San Pedro. The site was known as “No.1 Victoria St.,” when it was served as Gen. Douglas McArthur’s headquarters in 1941.

Thirty minutes before the clock sets at five in the afternoon, the heavy rain poured and it made me arrive in my abode at 10:25 in the evening. I didn’t regret it though because I earnestly know that I have a priceless trove of pictures that I can generously share to all of you.

More pictures:


~ by sherwinportillo on April 26, 2012.

2 Responses to ““INTRAMUROS””

  1. nice very interesting !

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