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Monday, January 21, 2013

Intramuros - History of Manila's Walled City

Spain announced its sovereignty over the Philippines in 1571 after taking control of Manila. Shortly after, the city was declared the capital of the newly-founded Spanish colony by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, and construction of Intramuros began. This large complex quickly became the political, cultural, and religious center of Spanish influence in Asia. Despite massive damage during World War II, Intramuros still stands in stark contrast to the surrounding metropolitan city of Manila as a remainder of the country's past.
Referred to as The Walled City, construction of fortified walls surrounding the complex began in 1590. The walls themselves cover over 64 hectares of land, standing eight feet wide and 22 feet in height. These walls encompass nearly one-square kilometer along the Manila Bay and Pasig River waterfronts that were once filled with government buildings, churches, monasteries, schools, and homes of the rich. The city was protected by seven bastions strategically placed around the complex, and accessed via eight drawbridge gates passing over an inner and outer moat.
The old saying "if these walls could talk..." must refer to Intramuros. Through its storied history, the walls of Intramuros helped the Spanish hold off threats by Chinese pirates and Dutch forces; the British even took control of the city for two years during the 1760's before Spain was able to regain this important post. The Spanish finally relinquished control after the Spanish-American War ended in 1898. America took control of the Philippines, and The Walled City became the seat of its government and military in Asia. They made drastic changes to the complex, including the removal of massive sections of its wall and destruction of its moats. The Japanese invaded the Philippines in the early stages of World War II and took control of Manila. The city fell under American control again in 1945, after the Battle of Manila; this battle resulted in the near-destruction of Intramuros and the death of over 100,000 Filipinos by the hands of the Japanese army (the bells pictured above were removed from churches destroyed throughout Intramuros and Manila by the Japanese during WWII).
Since the end of World War II, Intramuros has been slowly restored. It will unfortunately never be the same; it is now home to several office buildings, schools, residences, a graffiti-covered skatepark (pictured above), and a golf course (built by the Americans during their control and pictured above with workers removing golf balls from its pools). Intramuros is also marked as one of twelve endangered cutural heritage sites "on the verge of irreparable destruction and loss" by the Global Heritage Fund.

Click here to continue reading about my visit to Intramuros and the best way to see this amazing place.


  1. amazing! good info.

  2. Cool write-up :) Hi! I would like to ask where exactly the graffiti-covered skate park was exactly? I love to visit Intramuros and I always hear about the graffitis of it but never knew where it was exactly. hehehe... Thanks :)

  3. Thank you. The skate park is on Anda Street, just near the Memorare Manila 1945 memorial statue (also known as shrine of freedom) that's pictured above.