Few places in the Philippines are as historically significant as Intramuros. Being the country's capital city prior to the American colonization, Intramuros is rich with Spanish-era influences that you can still see today.
Even though the city is now little better than a ghost town, it still has an old-fashioned charm that leaves a lasting impression. Whether you're a history buff or not, visiting this tourist spot won't be complete without passing by the places below.
Once you see the gate with the image of Santiago Matamoros carved into it, you know you're in the right place. Aside from being a defense fortress of Intramuros, Fort Santiago also housed several important prisoners, including the Philippines' current national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal. Since then, the fort has become a living memorial to the hero.
If you walk around the fort, you'll see bronze footprints embedded into the ground, supposedly tracing Rizal's last route before his execution on December 30, 1896. You can follow the route through places such as the aptly-named Contemplation Rooms and Prison Cell of Rizal, before capping it off with a visit to the Rizal Shrine, where you can read a plaque immortalizing Rizal's life in stone.
San Agustin Church
As old as it looks from the outside, the current San Agustin Church is actually the second replica of the original. The original was built in 1571, making it the oldest religious structure on Luzon, but was destroyed by the invading forces of Limahong three years later. Another was built in its place, only to be destroyed again in 1583 when a fire from a funeral candle went out of control. The third, and current, San Agustin Church was rebuilt using stone, and has survived several calamities ever since.
Now, you can marvel at the church's distinctly Spanish-Baroque beauty inside and out. You can also drop by the San Agustin Museum opposite the church, and be wowed by the large collection of religious art crammed into its every nook and cranny. There's also the Library of the San Agustin Convent, but visitors are not allowed inside. Instead, you can only stare at and admire the thousands of books that have been stacked there since 1522.
Museums, Museums and More Museums
Apart from the one near San Agustin Church, there are other museums you can visit within Intramuros. For example, you have:
- Bahay Tsinoy. As its name suggests, Bahay Tsinoy details the history of the Chinese in the Philippines through a series of dioramas. Among others, you can see a life-sized replica of a sari-sari store, where early Chinese settlers used to do business with Filipinos in the pre-colonial era.
- Casa Manila. If the Chinese have Bahay Tsinoy, the Filipinos have Casa Manila. Like its Chinese counterpart, Casa Manila shows how Filipinos lived during the Spanish era. Unfortunately, visitors aren't allowed to take photos, but you can make up for it by heading for the museum's resident souvenir shop.
- Bagumbayan Light and Sound Museum. Of all the museums in Intramuros, this is possibly the most modern. Unlike other light and sound museums, however, this one has a historical twist: The Bagumbayan Light and Sound Museum features a stunning one-hour show on the life and times of Rizal.
An active golf course may seem out of place in this city of rock and ruin, but there's an interesting story behind it nonetheless.
Prior to its construction in 1907, the Club Intramuros Golf Course was a smelly, swamp-like moat surrounding the city of Intramuros. The Americans decided to drain the moat, fill it with soil and cover it with grass maintained by water sprinklers and sand traps. Today, you can still see what's left of the moat, and play a two-hour game of golf for Php300.
Originally, the Intendencia housed many of the Spanish government's administrative units, including the customs office, since its construction in the 1820s. When the 1863 earthquake struck, however, the building was destroyed and reconstructed, and destroyed again during World War II.
The Intendencia was then transformed into the Central Bank of the Philippines' headquarters, only to burn down in the 1979 fire. Although there were plans to restore the building as the National Archives' new home, those plans have yet to be executed as of this writing.
Plaza de Roma
Like many of Intramuros' landmarks, Plaza de Roma is a seemingly dull place with a not-so-dull history behind it. At the center of the plaza, you can see a statue of King Carlos IV of Spain, erected as a token of gratitude to the monarch after he ordered a shipment of smallpox vaccine to the Philippines within the early 19th century.
What other places in Intramuros are must-visits for tourists? List them out in the comments section, and don't forget to explain why they're places you can't miss!