Intramuros (Spanish for ‘within the walls) is the heart of old Manila. Founded by the Spaniards in the mid-16th century right after the Philippines Spanish rulers colonised the islands, Intramuros was the center of the Spanish government and the Catholic Church in the Philippines.
Brick-walled and turreted, the walls were designed not only to protect the Spanish elite who lived in Intramuros but also to segregate the Spanish population from the native Filipinos and other ethnic minorities such as the Chinese, Japanese and Indian immigrants, among others. Thus, with its churches, administrative buildings, a military fort, schools and hospitals, Intramuros was a ghetto for the upper or ruling Spanish elite.
Known as the ‘city within a city,’ Intramuros sustained heavy and irrevocable damage during World War 11 when US military forces bombarded the district to purge and drive out the Japanese army which used Intramuros as headquarters in 1940s.
Many of Intramuros fine Catholic cathedrals were destroyed and only two survived the bombardment, the Manila Cathedral and the San Agustin Church. Today, the Casa Manila complex, located opposite the San Agustin Church, is a faithful reproduction of Spanish villas complete with authentic period furniture, costumes and gardens.
A lazy afternoon walk in Intramuros is recommended to Manila visitors as it provides a glimpse into the Philippines Spanish past. Ruins of military depots, courtyards converted into gardens and period buildings recreates the old city. Horse-drawn carriages also service Intramuros visitors for short runs to Chinatown, Rizal Park and Fort Santiago.
Mabuhay ang Pinoy!