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Intramuros: Discovering Old Spain, Manila

Away from the gridlocked traffic and high rise buildings of Manila, lies a old Spanish quarter quite unlike anything you’ll see in the city. Intramuros, meaning “within the walls” once claimed position as the military, political and religious of the Spanish empire in Asia and now ironically is one of the most peaceful places for miles. We spent two days exploring this forgotten world and all its dark, secrets.


I fell in love with the Spanish architecture bearing shutters, balconies and archways.


Tiny balconies overlooked cobble-stoned streets and buildings were refurbished to regain their original Mediterranean Charm.


And arches are a common theme throughout this old seat of the Spanish.


Bright red shutters and arched doors lead the way through thick, white walls of this Bureau of the Treasury building.


The citadel’s violent past is revealed in this building where war and bombings have only left rubble and some walls behind.


Within Intramuros, you’ll find a combination of old and new. Horses and carriages from an era past, tricycles with sidecars and jeepneys ( constructed from the US military jeeps left behind after the war.)


Drivers relax and wait on every corner to ask you if you’d like a tour or a ride.


Although the space in a sidecar is tiny, it was a welcome reprieve from the midday heat.


We visit the San Agustin Church, one of the only buildings to have survived an earthquake and World War Two.


Built in 1589 by the Monastery and Augustinians, it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Elevated statues of Jesus Christ and Mary line the passageways alongside confessionals and arched windows.


Gold cherubs blow their trumpets and float poised in the air.


Stain-glassed windows open up to a tropical garden filled with palm trees below


Artwork such as the famous painting of the Last Supper still hang from the walls.


Along with Hispanization, friar missionaries worked to convert most of the Philippines into a Catholic society.


Horses and carriages bring tourists to this fortified place of worship which has survived over four centuries.


We braved this tiny side-car in blistering heat.


We stopped at this Memorare built to honour the memory of over 100 000 of innocent men, women and children killed in the Battle of Manila.


The majestic Cathedral of Manila.


We sat beside the fountain in Plaza de Roma in front of the Manila Cathedral ( closed for renovation).


Next we visited the Fort of Santiago.


This defence fortress built by the Spanish still has traces of its military past at the hands of the Americans and the Spanish rulers.


Inside you’ll find statues of friar missionaries,


Bronze embedded footsteps of the Philippines’ National Hero, Jose Rizal, who took his final steps from the dungeon to his execution and


dungeons where the Japanese Army left American and Filipino prisoners of war to suffocate and starve during World War One.


The first fort was built out of palm logs and earth and was promptly destroyed by Chinese pirates.


Later in 1590, The Spanish reconstructed the fort using stoned made of volcanic tuff from Guadalupe.


After WWII, the Philippine government declared the Fort a Shrine of Freedom.


This main gate of the fort was reconstructed after being damaged badly in the liberation of Manila.


From Muralla Street we could get up and walk along the walls of Intramuros.


Once used to guard the city,


but now used by Filipino school children as a place to relax after school.


Teenagers picnic and enjoy the last rays of sunshine over Manila.


Down below, the bustle of the late afternoon continues…


and we made new friends on the wall.


Whilst Intramuros first saw the rise and fall of Spanish Rule and Philippines revolt against America,it finally gained independence on 12 June in 1898 but not before over 100 000 Filipinos lost their lives in the battle for Manila’s freedom.

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