From Academic Kids

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Intramuros ca. 1920s
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Another Restored Gate of Intramuros photographed by Robby Dela Vega in 2004

Intramuros, located along the southern bank of the Pasig River, is the oldest among the districts of the city of Manila, the capital of the Philippines. In structure, Intramuros was surrounded by thick, high walls and moats. During the Spanish Period, Intramuros is considered Manila itself.


Before the Spanish

The site of Intramuros was originally a large and prosperous Malayan Muslim settlement named Maynilad. The name came from may nilad, nilad being a water plant whose star-shaped flowers clustered in abundance along the low-lying riverbanks. The strategic location of Maynilad, being on the Pasig River and the Manila Bay, made it an ideal location for the locals to trade crafts and produce with other peoples of then pre-Hispanic Philippines and other Asian countries, especially with Chinese merchants. Maynilad was also the seat of power for native chiefs that ruled the area before the Spaniards set foot on Philippine soil.

Spanish Rule

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Restored Gate of Intramuros photographed by Robby Dela Vega in 2004

In 1570, Spanish conquistadors led by Martin de Goiti, Juan de Salcedo and Miguel Lopez de Legaspi began to set foot on Manila. De Goiti and Legaspi's men waged battles with the Muslims and indigenous tagalog peoples before they were able to established a permanent settlements in the area. In 1571 after the Spaniards were victorious in battle, Legaspi made a peace pact agreement with the native muslim rulers, who, in return, turned over Manila to the Spaniards. Citing the strategic economic, political and military importance of Manila, Legaspi declared Manila as the new capital of the Spanish colony in the Philippines on June 24, 1571. The King of Spain, delighted at the new conquest done by Legaspi and his men, awarded Manila a coat of arms and declared it Insigne y Siempre Leal Ciudad ("Distinguished and ever loyal city"). Planning in the City of Manila was first manifested in the Spanish period plan for Intramuros, which was based on King Philip II's Royal Ordinance issued on July 3, 1573 in San Lorenzo, Spain.

Intramuros served as the center of political, military and religious power of the Spaniards during the time that the Philippines was a colony of Spain. Inside Intramuros were Roman Catholic churches, like the Manila Cathedral and the San Agustin Church, and convents and church-run schools, which were usually being run by religious orders such as the Dominicans, Augustinians and Franciscans; the Governor's Palace, the official residence of the Spanish governor-general to the Philippines before it was officially moved to Malacaņang Palace; and Fort Santiago, the main Spanish garrison in the archipelago where martyr Jose Rizal was once held by Spanish authorities. Only Spaniards were allowed inside Intramuros; the natives and Chinese residents were only limited by the Spanish authorities to live outside the walls of Intramuros.

World War II

During World War II, Intramuros was used by the Japanese as their garrison and prison and was severely damaged, along with most parts of Manila, during the Allied bombings to liberate the city from Japanese occupation.

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Ruined Garden of an Augstinian Friar, Fr. Blanco photographed by Robby Dela Vega in 2004

Present Day

At present, Intramuros is the only district of Manila where old Spanish-era influences were retained. Much of the development of present-day Manila occurred outside the gates of Intramuros, leaving the old walls, streets and churches of Intramuros minimally touched by modernization, although a Starbucks and a McDonald's now sit alongside distinguised educational institutions within its walls. The old moats that surrounded Intramuros have been transformed into a golf course where locals and foreign nationals play the sport. The garrison that was Fort Santiago is now a tourist spot where visitors can see how Manila was like during the Spanish Era. The old cobblestone streets of Intramuros are now sites for cafes that cater to a variety of clientele and cultural presentations that feature native Filipino heritage.

Through the WOW Philippines campaign of then Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon, Intramuros had been spruced up, making it one of the most-visited tourist attractions in Metro Manila. Intramuros is then known as History Town Philippines. New attractions had been opened since then. The Clamshell 1 and 2 was built to host numerous trade fairs that showcase indigenous products from the different provinces of the country. The Light and Sound Museum depicts the colonial rule of the Spaniards in the Philippines and the Filipinos struggle to gain independence from the foreign invaders. An added feature in Intramuros is the installment of lamp posts which seem to date back in the late 1800's. For added security, security guards dressed as a guardia civil had been scattered around the area.


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