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Paper on Intramuros

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Topics: Manila, Philippines
Paper 6 – Intramuros Augustine Ignatius V. Ong Vaño 56

Last Saturday, July 20, I took the trip to Intramuros alone. I thought I would have appreciated the trip better if I did it by myself. So I took the train ride to Central Station and took the walk to the entrance of the historic “Walled City.” It was my first time visiting Intramuros and my only knowledge of the geography of the place was just a screenshot of the streets via Google Maps. I was not really sure where I was going, but I realized only after the trip that it was a good experience to “get lost” in Intramuros. I entered through the gate along Anda Street and the first thing I noticed was the presence of security guards wearing nice blue uniforms with large hats. I only found out later that they were wearing Guardia Civil attire and it did add a Spanish touch, as well as added security in the district. I would see dozens of them during my trip. The first museum I visited was the Kaisa Heritage Center as it was the one closest to where I entered. One officer was kind enough to direct to me to the museum and I found myself walking along Anda Street. It was not long before I saw a kalesa making its way through the old streets of Intramuros. The streets did feel old and also most of the buildings along the road looked old and had a hint of Spanish influence. And as I was walking to the Kaisa Heritage Center, I passed by the Palacio del Sana, which was the first clear tribute to the Spanish influence I saw. It was painted in the unmistakable bright red and yellow colors of the Spanish flag. After my tour of the Heritage Center, my next stop was the Casa Manila at the Plaza San Luis Complex. As I got closer, I noticed the concrete streets turn into cobblestone and the buildings had more of that Spanish tinge. The area around the Plaza San Luis Complex, which is situated just across the San Agustin Church and Museum, was clearly restored and maintained to recreate Intramuros as it was during the colonization: a city for the privileged Spanish and mestizos. The Casa Manila Museum provided a closer look into lifestyle of the Mestizos and the Spanish elite. They did a great re-creation of the interior of a Spanish home. I would have preferred to have a closer look at the rooms but they limited viewers to a red carpet path that goes around and throughout the museum. The display was very well-thought out and even the tiniest of details, especially in the Cocina, were present. Some of the furniture and even some of the design looked familiar to me, and I realized I had seen similar wooden furniture at my grandmother’s ancestral home back in Cebu. The rooms were very huge, especially the sala area, and it was very hot despite the many electric fans placed in the corners of the rooms. I can only imagine how hot it was for the Spanish residents, moreso for those who came from Spain, where they had a more welcoming climate. Being sent to the Philippines could have been the last thing any Spaniard would have wanted. However, at least they were better off than the people living outside the walls of Intramuros. I exited the museum through an old, worn-down stone staircase and outside I could see a stone fountain and the Spanish-era architecture of the Complex. When I went down the steps, I was greeted by souvenir and antique shops that looked very promising. I was hoping for memorabilia or at least replicas of any antiquities of the Spanish period. I could not help but laugh at all the odd trinkets they were selling, which had nothing to do with Spanish. Origami dragons and a Kim Possible action figure were just a pair of things that seemed very out of place. I crossed the street over to the San Agustin Church and it just so happened that I visited in the middle of a wedding ceremony. The stone church walls were old and worn down but the interior was amazing. It is a great testament to how Spain brought about Christianity to the Philippines. The museum was huge and it would take you at least an hour to view everything on display. They showcased statues of the Holy Family, the saints, apostles and other Catholic figures. They had giant paintings of Augustinian priests along the corridors and a rooms devoted to the different Augustinian churches in the Philippines and even vestments of Catholic priests. What surprised me the most during my tour around the museum was the room they called the “Cripto.” It was a crypt built within the monastery that held the bodies of 141 prisoners of war and it also displayed a monument to honor those fallen dead. My last stop was Fort Santiago which was on the far end of Intramuros. It was a long walk and I passed by the Shrine of Freedom, another monument dedicated to the victims of war. Then I passed by the Manila Cathedral, which was still under renovation. The great structure was more evidence of the importance of Christianity which was brought upon by the Spanish rule. When I arrived at Fort Santiago, I saw a large group of people, foreigners and even some Filipinos, gathered around a tour guide. However, I decided that I would explore the area on my own. At the entrance of the actual fortress, I got to see the bronze footsteps of Rizal, the last steps he took. There was also an exhibit of Rizalian furniture which displayed the tables, books, paintings and all that were related to Rizal. I also got to view the dungeons where prisoners were kept and where even some had died. There was also a monument that honored those who passed within the fortress. My experience during the trip to Intramuros gave a pretty good picture of what life was like during the Spanish era. Although it may have been a very difficult time for our country, it played an important role in our history. I really support the whole idea of remembering and preserving at least some Spanish culture and some structures. It was easy to see that the people living within Intramuros during the Spanish era were living good lives (i.e. Spanish and Mestizos). They were living relatively extravagant lives as compared to those outside of the walls. It also repeatedly showed the significance of Christianity back then, and we can see that persevere until today. However, we must also remember that it was a place of imprisonment and death; a burial ground for others. It gives us a pretty picture of how life was like for the average Spaniard, and a very common part of that picture is the death of thousands during those times. Even though the Spaniards built up those walls as barriers, they could not escape the reality of violence and death.

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