A SHORT HISTORY AND GUIDE TO INTRAMUROS Written and compiled by Esperanza Bunag Gatbonton
The Cuidad Morada or Intramuros of Manila is located at the mouth of the Pasig River. It was the Spanish quarter and seat of colonial government. The City of Manila was officially founded on June 24, 1571 and a Royal Decree handed down in 1574 conferred on it the title—"Insigne e siempre leal Cuidad de Manila."
During the first days of conquest, the city was confined to the original settlement of the ousted Rajah Sulayman, which encompassed more or less the inner quarters of Fort Santiago. Later, the entire city covered some 60 hectares of land and 6 hectares of moat, ringed with stone fortress some four kilometers long.
From Adelantado Miguel López de Legazpi up until 1872, during the troubled rule of Governor-General Rafael de Izquierdo, that saw the execution of the martyred priests Mariano Gómes, José Burgos, and Jacinto Zámora, each of the governor general sought to improve the walls to protect the Spanish holdings within. Once its enclosure was secured, much attention was given to the city interior. The Spanish historian, Dr. Antonio de Morga (1595-1603), who served as lieutenant to the Governor and judge of the Royal Audiencia, describes the city’s layout:
It occupies the same site where Rajamora [Sulayman] had his settlement and fort. The whole site was occupied by this new settlement and Legazpi apportioned it to the Spaniards in equal building-lots. It was laid out with well-arranged streets and squares, straight and level. A sufficiently large main square square [Plaza Mayor] was left, fronting which was erected the cathedral church and municipal buildings. He left another square, that of arms [Plaza de Armas], fronting which was built the fort, as well as the royal buildings. He gave sites for the monasteries, hospitals and chapels which were to be built, as being a city which was to grow continually…. The Walled City, more commonly known as Intramuros, had eight gates; two of the loveliest ones—Fort Santiago and Santa Lucía—were badly damaged by American
tanks during the Liberation of Manila in 1945; they have been restored in the 1980s. The Pacific War leveled most of Intramuros leaving only 5% of the city structures; the walls lost 40% to the bombings. The main street of Intramuros is Calle Real, renamed General Luna, after the revolutionary general Antonio Luna. Located on the left side of the street is the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, the former site of Colegio de San José ran by the Jesuits until their expulsion in 1768. Further down, still on the left side of the road, is the San Agustín Church, the oldest church in the Philippines, built in 1571. It suffered several destructions from fire and earthquake and war; the present church was rebuilt in 1587 and finished in1604. Directly opposite, on the right side of the street, is the “San Luis Complex” or "Casa Manila," a museum that showcases the recreated interiors of a typical house belonging to affluent families of colonial Manila. Still farther down to the right is the Manila Cathedral. The heavy bombing and shelling of Intramuros during its Liberation from Japanese forces destroyed the structure. The present church, the sixth construction, was built from 1954-1958. The first wooden structure erected in 1581 was destroyed by fire; the next structure was blown off by a typhoon; the four stone buildings that were constructed thereafter collapsed during major earthquakes that occurred in 1600; 1645; and 1863. Fronting the Cathedral is Plaza Mayor now called Plaza Roma. On it stands the statue of King Carlos IV that was erected in 1824 to honor his decree introducing vaccination against smallpox to the Philippines. To the left of Plaza Roma is the site of the Palacio del Gobernador that was demolished by the earthquake of 1863. It was never rebuilt. The construction of the present high-rise building used as government offices caused the...
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