Intramuros: what's inside the walled city Part III
Fort Santiago and Rizal Shrine
Our last stop for Intramuros is the famous Fort Santiago, where the Philippines’ national hero Dr. Jose Rizal was kept until his execution in 1896. The grandest thing I saw was the archway to the interior of the fort. That gate was ruined after the war, but reconstruction efforts did a good job. Inside the fort are dungeons and barracks that served an important part during the 20th century wars. But they are off limits to visitors now.
Inside this part of the fort is also the Rizal Shrine where we saw Rizal’s possessions like books and artworks. Ruins of the original cell block that held Rizal are still in the area, and the hero’s footsteps have been laid on the paved ground so that visitors can follow the last long walk Rizal took before he was executed. If you get there and you observe the footsteps closely, you’ll realize that the steps are very short – not at all like a normal stride. They say this was because he really wanted to take his time to enjoy his last walk alive.
The last thing we did before Berta and I turned our heels towards our cousin’s place was to enjoy the descent of the sun over Manila bay. The sun was quite away from the horizon and we couldn’t stay until sunset itself because gates closed by 5pm. But we saw how the sunlight sparkled on the bay, and it was a great end to our amazing journey inside Intramuros. Don’t you think it’s quite exceptional?
Sunset at Manila Bay
Other points of interest
We were dead tired by the end of the day, but we knew we only got a look at a small portion of Intramuros. Here are some other points of interest you may want to visit if you plan to go to the walled city:
Plaza de Roma. This is the plaza in front of the Manila Cathedral. In the past, this was the main public square of the Spanish settlement. At the centre of it is a monument dedicated to King Carlos IV of Spain who sent the first shipment of smallpox vaccine to the country in the early 1800s.
Palacio del Gobernador. This building sits in front of Plaza de Roma and is adjacent to the Manila Cathedral. It has a very distinct salmon-coloured façade and is another wonderful subject for photographers. The palacio stands on the site of the old Spanish Governor-General’s former residence. Now, it serves as the Comelec building, the agency in charge of overseeing elections.
National Commission of Culture and the Arts building. The NCCA building along General Luna Street and near Silahis is another government building. The agency spearheads the culture and arts movement in the country. The tall white building stands on a former convent for orphan girls established in 1589.
Colegio de San Juan Letran. The school was founded in1620 and is the oldest college in the Philippines and Asia. There’s plenty of history in this school, and their basketball team is one of the most successful in collegiate basketball among universities around Manila.
Manila Bulletin. The Manila Bulletin is one of the major broadsheets in the country. Its building is very visible from outside the walled city. The newspaper was originally owned by a Swiss, and was established in 1900.
Philippine Red Cross. Those who are attached to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement may want to check the local Red Cross headquarters located in Intramuros.
Baluartes. Throughout the walls stand ruins of old bastions that served as defence structures during the chaotic Spanish era. Some still have canons on them! A few of the accessible ones are the popular Baluarte de San Diego and the Baluarte De San Francisco near Victoria Street where we entered.
How to get there
Intramuros is accessible from three entrances that branch from Padre Burgos Avenue and one from Bonifacio Drive. You can get there in any way by jeep, taxi or the Light Rail Transit. Taking the taxi is the easiest way wherever you come from. It’s a bit expensive compared to taking the jeep or train, particularly because of heavy traffic along the roads around the walled city. The flagdown rate is less than around 70 Euro cents, and most drivers would expect a tip of at least 20 Euro cents.
Jeep routes can be found all around the entrance gates of Intramuros. Personally, I think taking the jeep is better than the taxi because this mode of transport is unique in the country. However, you need to be sure where you get on because the jeepneys take on different routes – it can be very confusing. From our place in Malate, we just took a northbound jeep and got down the Manila City Hall, crossed Padre Burgos Avenue and entered via Victoria Street. Outside the gates in this entrance are pedicabs or bicycle rickshaws that can take you inside Intramuros for a fee. We didn’t try it though, but it looks like a fun experience.
If you’re coming from cities outside of Manila, you can take the LRT or the train. The LRT is accessible all over Metro Manila, and the fee can be less than if you’re taking a jeep and is very much cheap compared to taking the taxi at around 80 euro cents from the farthest points. The nearest station to Intramuros is the Central Terminal, which is close to the malls in the area. All you need to do is walk a bit to Manila City Hall and enter Intramuros by Victoria Street.