Intramuros is one of the most popular and nostalgic tourist spots in Manila. There is so much history here. This site, whose name in Spanish literally means “within the walls”, is an entire city within a century-old wall made from stone blocks. The wall was built by the Spanish when the Philippines was under Spanish rule. It is 8-feet thick and 22-feet tall, covering 64 hectares of land. Every Filipino has visited the city within the walls at least once in his or her lifetime, either as part of a school field trip or touring a friend from a foreign country. Any tourist on a tour package in Manila or a foreigner visiting a friend or relative is sure to be taken to Intramuros.
Manila is the busiest city in the Philippines. Yet amidst the modern developments and industrialization, Intramuros has preserved its original Spanish colonial atmosphere. Old buildings and roads show old Spanish architectural designs. The nostalgia is exactly what makes the place special, although there are now Jollibee burger chains and Starbucks inside, as well as a modern golf course.
What’s preserved inside the walls are an old garrison called Fort Santiago, which is also an important tourist attraction; the Manila Cathedral; San Agustin Church, which is the first religious structure built in the island of Luzon; seminaries; gunpowder rooms; old sentries and bulwarks; and museums. It is also home to a number of national schools such as the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (College of the City of Manila), Lyceum of the Philippines University, Mapua Institute of Technology, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, Manila High School and Colegio de Santa Rosa. Also inside the wall are the Commission on Elections office, Philippine Red Cross, Palacio Arzobispal, medieval ruins, and the Beaterio de la Compañia de Jesus, which is the first Filipino congregation of religious women. But the real attraction is what the eyes cannot see.
The walled city is important to Filipinos because it stands to remind them of Manila’s rich history. Before the Spanish came, the site where the walls now stand is where the first Malayan settlers established their community. Near an important body of water, which is now the Pasig River, the place was called “Maynila” or “may nila”, which means “there is nila here,” pertaining to the water plant, nila, that used to abound by the riverbanks. This is where the name “Manila” came from.
In 1521, the Spanish came to conquer the islands. They heard about this bountiful settlement in Maynila, and took over the place as its own capital city on June 24, 1571. The wall was completed by the Spanish conquistadors in 1606 to protect the city from possible invasions by British and Dutch forces, and Chinese sea pirates. At that time, Manila was what was inside the walls. It was the seat of Spanish political, military and religious power.
Recent history saw the development and preservation of Intramuros as a national park. Gardens, paths and light posts were built, following the Spanish medieval design. Today, Intramuros is an easy to find and a must-visit spot when in Manila. It is accessible by taxi or jeepney coming from all directions in metro Manila. All taxi drivers know how to get there. It is also just a short walk from the Light Rail Transit’s central station. Intramuros is near Manila Bay, Luneta Grandstand and the famous Rizal Park.