The photos you will see below are the Filipino people’s only link to Intramuros’ beautiful architectural gems. These wonderful, old works of art were brutally destroyed, burned, and/or bombed by either the losing Japanese soldiers or the Americans supposed to “liberate” the Philippines. More on the destruction of Manila in another blog.
The old walled city of Intramuros is considered one of the oldest areas of the city of Manila. As José Victor Torres writes in his book Cuidad Murada (2005), Intramuros was capital of the entire archipelago during the 300-year rule of the Spaniards. Housing the provincial houses of the major religious orders, their schools, and the palaces of the civil government as well as large warehouses for Spanish trade goods and military ammunition, Intramuros was the center of the humongous Spanish Empire in Asia (Torres, 1, 2005).
Originally a settlement of nipa and thatch, Intramuros burned due to a single candle that got toppled during a funeral rite in 1583. Thereafter, the move to fortify the city and make use of stone was initiated by Fr. Antonio Sedeño of… you guessed it, the Society of Jesus. The fortification of Intramuros wasn’t a one shot try: it was completed only in 1872. This was because through the centuries, Intramuros was constantly rocked by earthquakes, shocked by assaults, whether they be Chinese revolts or invasions, British or Dutch threats as well as changes in plans and whatnot. The walls of Intramuros were made of volcanic tuff, stone, earth, which measured roughly 22 meters high and eight feet thick. Intramuros was surrounded by a moat of considerable depth and had seven gates accessed by drawbridges that were brought down at six in the morning and pulled up at 12:00 midnight.
Only Spaniards and mestizos were allowed to settle in Intramuros. The natives who were able to reside inside the storied walls of Intramuros were most likely servants. The Chinese were strictly forbidden from staying in the Walled City. They even had their own gate; they were to enter and exit only through that gate, the Puerta del Parían, the gate closest to the Chinese quarter extramuros – outside the walls.
The main heart of Intramuros was the Plaza Mayor. Surrounding it were the Cathedral, the Mother Church of all churches in the archipelago since it was the Seat of the Archbishop of Manila, an office that wielded so much power in the islands that there have been moments in the Philippines’ history that the Archbishop can openly oppose the Governor General. Ironically, also located beside the Plaza Mayor was the Palacio del Gobernador. Facing the Palacio del Gobernador, at the other side of the plaza was the Ayuntamiento. Behind the Plaza, opposite the Cathedral, was the Fuerza de Santiago , the military stronghold that served as the headquarters of the Spanish military unit in the Philippines.
Intramuros though wouldn’t be as famous and marvelous if it weren’t for its ten grandiose and legendary churches, which were all adjacent to huge monastery/convent complexes or schools. The distance separating these structures were limited; a stone’s throw away and there’s another church. From the harbor, visitors aboard ships can see the huge towers and domes of Intramuros’ churches from afar giving a mysterious but sense of holiness to the city. Rich in architecture, these structures boasted of the different forms and styles of art. There was the Neo-Gothic 1880s church of Sto. Domingo. There was the Romanesque Manila Cathedral and the Neoclassical church of San Ignacio. The massive and exquisitely symmetrical tower of the church of the Recoletos Friars was a sight to behold while the facade of San Francisco captivated the faithful.
Being the center of the archipelago and of the Spanish conquest in Asia, Intramuros served also as the home of the Mother Houses of the Religious Orders and the main headquarters of the Catholic Church in the Philippines and even in some points in history, of South East Asia.
The interiors of the churches differed. There was the Gothic feel in the Dominican friars’ cavernous Sto. Domingo, with the vaulted ceilings, spiraling pillars and pointed arches. There was the magnificent barrel-vault of San Agustín, painted by Italian artists hired by the Augustinian friars in the trompe l’oeil method. There was also the post-suppression San Ignacio of the Jesuits with its graceful interiors that could charm any atheist. The ceilings of San Ignacio featured carved Molave panels, the design and finish of which is of the highest artistic merit. Its most famous feature is its beautifully carve pulpit.
This same Intramuros of the Spaniards was home to different educational institutions. Before the suppression, there was the Universidad Máximo de San Ignacio of the Jesuits (1595), the first Western-type school in the Philippines, the Universidad de Santo Tomás (1611) and the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán (1620-oldest secondary school for boys) of the Dominican Fathers and the post-suppression Ateneo Municipal (1859). Also located within the walls were Colegio de Santa Potencianca, Colegio de Sta. Isabel, Beaterio-Colegio de Sta. Catalina, and Colegio de Santa Rosa for girls, founded in 1750 by Madre Paula de Santissima Trinidad.
The very first hospital in the country too, the Hospicio de San Juan de Dios, was found within the ciudad murada. Founded upon the arrival of the Franciscan friars, the first hospital was a nipa and thatch affair. The Franciscans studied well the different medicinal plants found in the Philippines. In 1595, management was transferred to the Hermanidad de Misericordia. In 1603 and 1645 though, fires engulfed the hospital and the confraternity’s resources were depleted. The hospital was then transferred to the Hospitallers of Saint John of God and from hence, the name of the hospital. In years to come, the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul would be managing the hospital in accordance to the Royal Order of Queen Isabela II. (http://www.rcam.org/ministry/health/sanjuandedios.htm). According to Dr. Antonio de Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas , “A great many natives, suffering from all diseases are treated there with great care and attention. The physicians, surgeons and apothecaries are so skillful and useful that they cause many marvelous cured, both in medicine and in surgery.” (Mexico 1609)
Also located within Intramuros was the most advanced meteorological and scientific hub, the Jesuits’ Observatorio Meteorológico del Ateneo Municipal de Manila. What began as a mere newspaper article by Jesuits evolved into Asia’s most advanced and trusted agency for predicting typhoons and other meteorological activities (YES! In Asia, it started here, in Manila!).
By 1879, it was already releasing typhoon forecasts. The then Jesuit scholastic Federico Faura, SJ led in the systematic observation of Philippine weather. The very useful Faura Barometer was named from the same Jesuit.
Also located within Intramuros was the Aduana or the Customs House, which housed the goods from abroad to be declared. Within it were the Intendencia General de Hacienda (Central Administration) and the Casa de Modena (Mint).
On the area of trade and commerce, Intramuros played a pivotal role since it was during the Galeones de Manila-Acapulco or Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade when the Philippines was finally recognized by both the Western and Eastern hemispheres. Begun in 1565 by virtue of the route founded by the Augustinian soldier friar Andrés de Urdaneta, OSA, the galleon trade allowed Manila to become the venue of commerce and exchange between East and West. Mexican silver, cocoa, corn and other prized products of the Orientals poured into Manila while the humongous ships that were said to have measured a good 40-50 meters long brought to Mexico prized spices, porcelain, silks from Asia and China as well as ivory figures of the saints and finely embroidered clothes made in Manila, which were, in turn, shipped from Veracruz, Mexico, to Spain and the rest of Europe. Manila became known for the various products held and made here such as Manila cigars, Manila paper, Manila canes, and the mesmerizing Mantones de Manila, which Spanish and other European women adored because of the intricate embroidery and burda on these large shawls.
When the Galleon Trade became a promising source of trade, other Asians also began migrating to Manila, the Chinese and the Sepoys (Indians) leading the pack. Manila, not Singapore, not Hong Kong, was Asia’s main entrepot and most known harbor and Intramuros was right in the middle of it all. When Mexico gained independence in the early decades of the 1800s, the Galleon trade died but Manila and other port areas such as Pangasinan, Legaspi, Cebu and Zamboanga were opened to different businessmen such as the French, British and the Americans. Businesses became fledgling and promising, making access to wealth a little bit easier.
Thus, the country produced its first middle-class citizens who benefited from the new economic set-up. It will be from this class where the Ilustrados or the “Enlightened ones” would emerge, finally being able to go to the schools located in Intramuros and even go to Spain for further studies.
Intramuros by then was the heart of Spain’s outpost in Asia and the singular most important place in the Philippines. From its walls would radiate the different arrabales or suburbs. The closer one lived to Intramuros, the more prominent or powerful one was. With Intramuros at the southern banks of the Pasig are the districts of Ermita, famous for its church to our Lady (it was said that while a Spaniard was strolling on the beach of what is now the location of the US Embassy, he saw a group of natives venerating an image of Our Blessed Lady. Nobody knows how it got to their hands!) and finely embroidered handkerchiefs, as well as the homes of Spanish-speaking Filipinos, Malate and Paco, famous for its circular cemetery. At the other side of the Pasig were the districts of Binondo, Quiapo, Sta. Cruz Escolta and Sampaloc, busy areas of commerce and trade as well as entertainment. There was also the San Miguel area, famous for the beer a cerveceria there produced as well as for the palatial river-side mansions built in the relatively quiet and sincere arrabal. It was also in San Miguel where the Gobernador General’s summer house was located, where, after the 1863 earthquake’s destruction of the Palacio del Gobernador, the Goberndor General’s residence and office would be thereafter transferred.
The history of Intramuros reflects so much of the history and heritage of the Philippines. From the churches found inside Intramuros came the sermons that would shape a people, hymns that would inspire a race and bitter lessons that would compel its people to fight for independence. From its monasteries came the missionaries who actually preserved pre-Hispanic dialects and practices by recording these in countless books and ethnographic works, contrary to the belief that missionaries destroyed pre-Hispanic native culture. From its palaces did noble and eventual world-renowned people worked and played. And lastly, from the mansions and houses of Intramuros came what this author (as well as many historians, cultural commentators and other oridinary Filipinos) believes as Spain’s most lasting gift and contribution: the art of cooking and dressing food.
One could just imagine how many thousands of cocidos, pocheros, calderetas, adobados, asados, costillas ala planchas (inihaw na liempo!), jamons, quesos, callos, tartas, ensaimadas, sopas and paellas and all other familiar-sounding and familiar-tasting dishes were cooked, eaten and shared within the hallowed and storied walls of Intramuros!
Intramuros may have been a Spanish fortified city but it surely is on Philippine soil, built with Philippine stones and defended by Philippine blood. To this day, despite the immense difference between present-day Intramuros with the original Intramuros, however, Filipinos still have this sacred duty to visit, study, defend and take pride in what is Manila’s oldest city that was surely an artistic (and political, economic, and religious) product hecho ayer.
*The next blog will feature the destruction of Intramuros in 1945 caused by Japanese and American atrocities. Here’s a link to that entry: https://hechoayer.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/liberation-that-destroyed-the-end-of-manila-queen-of-the-pacific/
Source: José Victor Torres’ Cuidad Murada (2005, Vibal Publishing)