Fort Santiago, located in Manila’s Intramuros district, was the symbolic seat of Spain’s military complex during the colonial era. Built for Spanish conquistador, Miguel López de Legazpi, Fort Santiago was the site of the palace and kingdom of Rajah Suleiman, a Muslim chieftain of pre-Hispanic Manila.
Built as a wooden fort in 1571 by the Spaniards after they won the battles with the Islamic tribes who originally settled in Manila, the fort was constructed with hard stone in 1589 . The famous Manila Galleon trade to Acapulco, Mexico, which thrived for nearly 350 years, also begun from the fort or what the Spanish called “Fuerza de Santiago.”
In World War 2, the fort served as one of the main defense and prison headquarters of the Japanese Army. Hundreds of American and Philippine soldiers and civilains were imprisoned in the original Spanish-built complex of dungeons and died either of diseases, starvation or by drowning when the banks of the adjoining Pasig River overflow.
Philippine national hero Jose Rizal was also imprisoned in one of the buildings in the fort which still stands up to this day. The two-storey building has been converted into a museum and memorial shrine, showing the last days of Rizal through a detailed audio-visual display of his books, photographs, letters, paintings, dioramas, period furniture and some personal belongings.
With its wonderful gardens, quiet walkways, Spanish era defense walls and a nice view of the Pasig River, Fort Santiago is well-loved by park enthusiasts and visitors for its serene ambiance and historical significance.
Mabuhay ang Fort Santiago!