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An aerial photo showing the walls and a university located within Intramuros
The Baluarte de San Diego and the campus of the University of the City of Manila
Motto(s): Insigne y siempre leal Ciudad de Manila
Distinguished and ever loyal City of Manila
Map of Manila showing the location of Intramuros
Map of Manila showing the location of Intramuros
Map of the Philippines showing the location of Intramuros
Map of the Philippines showing the location of Intramuros
Map of the Philippines showing the location of Intramuros
Coordinates: 14°35′27″N 120°58′30″E / 14.59083°N 120.97500°E / 14.59083; 120.97500Coordinates: 14°35′27″N 120°58′30″E / 14.59083°N 120.97500°E / 14.59083; 120.97500
Country Philippines
Region National Capital Region
City Manila
Congressional District District 5
Founded by Miguel López de Legazpi
 • Total 0.67 km2 (0.26 sq mi)
Population (2010)[1]
 • Total 4,925
 • Density 7,400/km2 (19,000/sq mi)
Time zone Philippine Standard Time (UTC+08:00)
Zip codes 1002
Area codes 2

Intramuros is a 0.67 square kilometers (0.26 sq mi) fortified area located within Manila. It is the city's oldest district and historic core, with its establishment beginning the city's history and habitation. It name, intramuros, is a Latin word which means "within the walls". During the Spanish colonial times, places located beyond the walls were referred to as extramuros, which means "outside the walls".[2][3] It earned the nickname Walled City because of the thick defensive walls surrounding it that was constructed by the colonizing Spaniards in the late 16th century to protect the it from foreign invasions.

The city was originally located along the shores of Manila Bay and near the southern Pasig River entrance before 20th-century reclamations obscured the city from the bay. Guarding the city is the Fuerte de Santiago, a citadel located at the mouth of the river.

Intramuros was the seat of government during the Spanish colonial period. It was destroyed on the Battle of Manila (1945) and was reconstructed during the Marcos regime spearheaded by Imelda Marcos.

In an October 2010 report titled Saving Our Vanishing Heritage, the Global Heritage Fund identified Intramuros along with Fort Santiago, as one of 12 worldwide sites "On the Verge" of irreparable loss and destruction, citing insufficient management and development pressures.[4]


Ruins of the Aduana
Standing doorway in Aduana
The Gate of Fuerte de Santiago
Santa Lucia Gate, one of the entrances to Intramuros, 1873

The strategic location of Manila, sitting along the bay with a river flowing through it made it an ideal location for the Tagalog and Kapampangan tribes and kingdoms to trade with other Asian civilizations, including Chinese, Indian and Islamic merchants. These merchants have hailed from China, India, Borneo and Indonesia.

Before the first arrival of Europeans in Luzon, the area where Intramuros lies was a part of the empire of Majapahit around the 14th century, according to the epic eulogy poem Nagarakretagama which inscribed its conquest by Maharaja Hayam Wuruk.[5] The region was invaded around 1485 by Sultan Bolkiah and became a part of the Sultanate of Brunei.[6] The site of Intramuros then became a part of the Islamic kingdom of Maynila ruled by Datus, Rajahs and the Sultan.

Spanish Colonial Period[edit]

On 1564, Spanish explorers led by Miguel López de Legazpi sailed from Mexico, and arrived on the island of Cebu on February 13, 1565, establishing the first Spanish colony in the Philippines. Having heard of the rich resources of Manila from the natives, Miguel López de Legazpi dispatched two of his lieutenant-commanders, Martín de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo to explore the northern regions of the Visayas. Spaniards arrived in the island of Luzon on 1570, and after the quarrels and misunderstandings erupted between the Islamic natives and the Spaniards, both groups fought for the control of lands and settlements. On 1571, after several months of warfare, the natives were defeated, and the Spaniards made a peace pact with the Muslim tribal councils of Rajah Sulaiman III, Rajah Lakandula, and Rajah Matanda; who, in return, handed over Manila to the Spaniards.

Citing the rich resources and location of Manila, López de Legazpi declared the area as the new capital of the Spanish colony on June 24, 1571 and proclaimed the sovereignty of the Monarchy of Spain over the whole group of islands.[7] The King of Spain, Philip II delighted at the new conquest achieved by López de Legazpi and his men, awarded the city a Coat of arms and declaring it Ciudad Insigne y Siempre Leal ("Distinguished and ever loyal city"). Intramuros became the center of political, military and religious power of the Spaniards during the time the Philippines was a colony of Spain.

Construction of the Wall[edit]

The planning of the city of Manila was commenced by Santiago de Vera, the sixth governor-general on the islands.[8] The plans for Intramuros were approved by King Philip II of Spain's Royal Ordinance issued in San Lorenzo, Spain.

Gomez Perez Dasmarinas, the next governor, brought with him from Spain the royal instructions to carry into effect the above decree. Hence the work began in 1590 and continued under many governors till 1872. As this construction was carried on during different periods, often far apart, the building was not executed, therefore, according to any uniform plan.[8]

Gov. Juan de Silva executed certain work on the fortifications in 1609 which was improved by Juan Niño de Tabora in 1626, and again improved by Diego Fajardo Chacón in 1644, the erection of the San Diego Bastion (Baluarte de San Diego) being completed in that year. This bastion shaped like an "ace of spades" is the southernmost point of the wall and appears to have been the first of the large bastions added to the encircling walls, then of no great height nor of finished construction.[9] It was the former site of Nuestra Señora de Guia, the very first stone fort of Manila.[10]


As opposed to what was the norm in other European colonies at the time, Spanish authorities allowed all racial groups to settle inside Intramuros. Sir John Bowring, Governor General of British Hong Kong, a well-seasoned traveler who had written several books about the different cultures in Asia, was favorably impressed by the lack of racial discrimination and described the situation as "admirable" on a visit to Intramuros, part of his trip to the Philippines during the 1870s

American Colonial Period[edit]

On August 13, 1898, the American flag was raised in Fort Santiago indicating the start of American rule over the city.[12] The Ayuntamiento became the seat of the Philippine Commission of the United States in 1901. Fort Santiago became the headquarters from the Philippine Division of the United States Army.

In the early years of American occupation, drastic changes were made in the walls and character of the city. In 1903, the walls from the Santo Domingo Gate all the way to the Almacenes Gate were removed as the wharf on the southern bank of the Pasig River was widened and improved. The stones removed were used in various constructions around the city.

The walls were also breached in four areas to ease up access to the city: the southwestern end of Calle Aduana (Aduana Street, now Andres Soriano Jr. Ave.); the eastern end of Calle Anda (Anda Street); the northeastern end of Calle Victoria (Victoria Street, previously known as Calle de la Escuela, Street of the School); and the southeastern end of Calle Palacio (Palacio Street, now General Luna Street).

The double moats that surrounded Intramuros were deemed unsanitary and were filled in with mud dredged from Manila Bay where the present Port of Manila is now located. The moats were transformed into a municipal golf course by the city. The walls of the city which were located along Manila Bay are now obstructed from view from Manila Bay by the reclamations for the expansion of Luneta Park, and by the construction Manila Hotel and the Port of Manila.[13]

World War II[edit]

The destruction of Intramuros in May 1945 after the Battle of Manila.
File:Memorare Manila Monument.jpg
The Memorare monument in Intramuros commemorating the innocent people who died during the liberation of Manila

In December 1941, the Imperial Japanese Army had invaded the Philippines. In Intramuros, the very first casualties of the war was the destruction of the Santo Domingo Church and the University of Santo Tomas following days of intense assault. As the situation deteriorated, General Douglas McArthur declared Manila as an "Open City" as Manila is indefensible. The old walled city remained intact until 1945.

During the battle for the liberation of Manila, American troops reentered Manila in January 1945, and an intense close combat occurred between the American GIs, local Filipino troops of the Philippine Commonwealth Army units, recognized guerrillas and the 30,000 Japanese defenders. As the battle dragged on, the Japanese destroyed the city, razing buildings and slaughtering Filipino civilians (see Manila Massacre). The Imperial Japanese Army was slowly pushed back, eventually retreating into the Intramuros district. General MacArthur, though opposed to the bombing of the walled city, approved the heavy shelling which resulted in deaths of 16,665 Japanese alone within Intramuros[14] and over 100,000 Filipino men, women and children from February 3 to March 3, 1945.

At the end of World War II, all of the structures in Intramuros were destroyed by both the Japanese Imperial Forces and U.S. Air Force. Of all the churches, government buildings, schools and residences, only one structure, the Church of San Agustin survived the heavy bombardment but not without any damage.[15][16][17]

Rehabilitation of the Walled City[edit]

The restored Puerta del Parian

In 1951, Intramuros was declared as a historical monument and Fort Santiago, a national shrine with Republic Act 597, with the policy of restoring, reconstructing, and urban planning of Intramuros. Several laws and decrees also followed but results were deemed unsatisfactory due to limited funds. [18]

In 1979, the Intramuros Administration was created by virtue of Presidential Decree no. 1616, signed by then President Ferdinand Marcos on April 10 of that year.[19] Since then, the Intramuros Administration (IA) has been slowly restoring the walls, the sub-features of the fortification, and the city within. The remaining five original gates have been restored or rebuilt: Isabel II Gate, Parian Gate, Real Gate, Sta. Lucia Gate and the Postigo Gate. The four entrances made by the Americans by breaching the walls at four locations are now spanned by walkways thereby creating a connection, seamless in design and character to the original walls.

In 2003, during the Visit Philippines Year, Tourism Secretary Richard J. Gordon cleaned up Intramuros with the help of student and civilian volunteers as well as raised funds to improve the lighting of the place and build a lights-and-sound museum.

Present Time[edit]

The restored gate of Fort Santiago

The walled city is the only district of Manila where old Spanish-era influences are still plentiful. Newer buildings are built in the style of the era. As in the Spanish Colonial period, Intramuros still houses some of the higher education institutions in the Philippines. Located within its walls are the city-owned Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, the technical college Mapúa Institute of Technology, Lyceum of the Philippines University, Colegio de San Juan de Letran and high schools such as the Manila High School, and Colegio de Santa Rosa. Fast food restaurants though, like Jollibee, McDonald's and Starbucks are also sprouting within its walls alongside the educational institutions.

Of the eight churches that were located within its walls, only two remained: San Agustin Church, the oldest building in Manila completed in 1607, and the Manila Cathedral, which was reconstructed in the 1950s. The other religious orders reconstructed their churches away from Intramuros after the war. There are plans of reconstructing the San Ignacio Church in its vacant original location to serve as an ecclesiastical museum for the IA collection.[20]

Fort Santiago is now a well-maintained park where visitors can enjoy the nostalgic legacy of the bygone Spanish Colonial Era within its gardens. Next to Fort Santiago is one of the big projects of Intramuros Administration - the reconstruction of the Maestranza Wall - the wall removed by the Americans in 1903 to widen the wharves thus opening the city to Pasig River. One of the future plans of the administration was to complete the perimeter walls that surround the city making it completely circumnavigable from the walkway on top of the walls.[21]


Map of the Walled City in 1851

The main square of the city was Plaza Mayor (later known as Plaza McKinley and Plaza de Roma) in front of the Manila Cathedral. East of the plaza was the Ayuntamiento (City Hall) and facing it was the Governor's Palace, the official residence of the Spanish viceroyalties to the Philippines. The earthquake of June 3, 1863 destroyed the three buildings and much of the city. The residence of the Governor-General was moved to Malacañang Palace located about 3 km (1.9 mi) up on Pasig River. The two previous buildings were later rebuilt but not the Governor's Palace.

Inside the walls were other Roman Catholic churches, the oldest being San Agustin Church (Augustinians) built in 1607. The other churches built by the different religious orders - San Nicolas de Tolentino Church (Recollects), San Francisco Church (Franciscans), Third Venerable Order Church (Third Order of St. Francis), Santo Domingo Church (Dominican), Lourdes Church (Capuchins), and the San Ignacio Church (Jesuits) - has made the small walled city the City of Churches.

Intramuros became the center of large educational institutions in the country.[2] Convents and church-run schools such as the Universidad de Santo Tomás, the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán and the Ateneo Municipal de Manila were run by the Dominicans and the Jesuit religious orders.

Physical Features of the Walls[edit]

The outline of the defensive walls of Intramuros is irregular in shape, following the contours of Manila Bay and the curvature of the Pasig River. The walls covered an area of 64 hectares (160 acres) of land, surrounded by 8 feet (2.4 m) thick stones and high walls that rise to 22 feet (6.7 m). An inner moat (foso) surrounds the perimeter of the wall and an outer moat (contrafoso) surrounds the walls that face the city.

Defense Structures[edit]

The San Pedro Redoubt (Reducto de San Pedro)

Several bulwarks (baluarte), ravelins (ravellin) and redoubts (reductos) are also strategically located along its massive walls following the design of medieval fortifications. The seven bastions (clockwise, from Fort Santiago) are the Bastions of Tenerias, Aduana, San Gabriel, San Lorenzo, San Andres, San Diego, and Plano.[22]

Inside Fort Santiago are bastions on each corner of the triangular fort. Santa Barbara Bastion (Baluarte de Santa Bárbara) faces the bay and Pasig River; Baluarte de San Miguel, faces the bay; Medio Baluarte de San Francisco, Pasig River.[23]

Gates of Intramuros[edit]

Before the American Era, entrance to the city was through eight gates or Puertas namely (clockwise, from Fort Santiago) Puerta Almacenes, Puerta de la Aduana, Puerta de Santo Domingo, Puerta Isabel II, Puerta del Parian, Puerta Real, Puerta Sta. Lucia, and Puerta del Postigo.[24] Formerly, drawbridges were raised and the city was closed and under sentinels from 11:00 pm till 4:00 am. It continued so until 1852, when, in consequence of the earthquake of that year, it was decreed that the gates should thenceforth remain open night and day.[22]

Notable Landmarks[edit]

The Manila Cathedral

Note: Parenthesis () indicates the new buildings that occupy the same site today; an asterisk (*), same occupants before and after the war.


Former Current Note
Lourdes Church El Almanecer
Manila Cathedral Same Occupant
San Agustin Church Same Occupant
San Francisco Church Mapúa Institute of Technology
San Ignacio Church Ruins to be rebuilt by the Ateneo University
San Nicolas de Tolentino Church Manila Bulletin
Santo Domingo Church Bank of the Philippine Islands
Third Venerable Order Church Mapúa Chapel
Facade of Colegio de San Juan de Letran with the Bastion of San Gabriel in the foreground

Convents and Schools[edit]

Former Current Note
Ateneo Municipal de Manila Clamshell 1 Until 1932 before it moved to Padre Faura in Ermita, and later, to Loyola Heights, Quezon City) then occupied by Adamson University in 1939
Manila Cathedral Same Occupant
San Agustin Church Same Occupant
San Francisco Church Mapúa Institute of Technology
San Ignacio Church Ruins to be rebuilt by the Ateneo University
San Nicolas de Tolentino Church Manila Bulletin
Santo Domingo Church Bank of the Philippine Islands
Third Venerable Order Church Mapúa Chapel
The ruins of the Intendencia or Aduana

Other Buildings[edit]

Political Subdivision[edit]

In present day Intramuros, the district is divided into five different barangays.

Barangays of Intramuros
Name Population (2010)[26]
Barangay 654 841
Barangay 655 1,789
Barangay 656 242
Barangay 657 281
Barangay 658 1,772

Preserving Intramuros' Heritage[edit]

"Square foot for square foot, no other site in the country holds as much national historical interest as Intramuros. Even its very ground is unique as it holds artifacts that recount the ages of trade even prior to Spanish conquest. Every single conqueror of this country flew its flag over the Intramuros, and all – except the Americans – retreated to the safety behind its walls prior to ejection."

"The oldest fortified city in the country needs help. It needs increased funding to provide, among others, more restored sites, an appropriate museum for the Intramuros Administration’s collection, removal of informal settlers, further archeological assessment and so on ad nauseam."

"The administration has been doing a valiant job despite its myriad internal problems, but much of its work had been delayed by lack of funds and political will, just like nearly every other government agency. The last thing it needs is to keep fending off covetous government officials whose minds are far, very far, from heritage."[27]

Intramuros Gallery[edit]


  1. ^ "Total Population by Province, City, Municipality and Barangay: as of May 1, 2010" (PDF). National Statistics Office. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Journal of American Folklore, Volumes 17-18. United States: American Folklore Society. 1904. p. 283. ISBN 1248746058. Retrieved August 22, 2012. 
  3. ^ O'Connell, Daniel (1908). Manila, the Pearl of the Orient. Manila Merchants' Association. p. 20. ISBN 0217014798. Retrieved August 22, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Global Heritage in the Peril: Sites on the Verge". Global Heritage Fund.
  5. ^ Gerini, G.E. (1905). "The Nagarakretagama List of Countries on the Indo-Chinese Mainland (Circâ 1380 A.D.)". The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (July 1905): 485–511. JSTOR 25210168. 
  6. ^ "Pusat Sejarah Brunei" (in Malay). Government of Brunei Darussalam. Retrieved March 4, 2010. 
  7. ^ U.S. War Department 1903, p.434.
  8. ^ a b U.S. War Department 1903, p. 435.
  9. ^ U.S. War Department 1903, p. 436.
  10. ^ "Baluarte de San Diego". Intramuros, the Walled City. Retrieved on 2011-11-13.
  11. ^ L. Hunt, Chester, "Sociology in the Philippine setting: A modular approach", p. 118, Phoenix Pub. House, 1954
  12. ^ Beede, Benjamin R. "The War of 1898, and U.S. interventions, 1898-1934: An Encyclopedia", p.303. Benjamin R. Beede, 1994.
  13. ^ City of Manila. "Annual Report of the City of Manila, 1905", p.71. Manila Bureau of Printing.
  14. ^ Ramsey, Russell Wilcox (1993). "On Law & Country", pg. 41. Braden Publishing Company, Boston.
  15. ^ Bernad, Miguel A. "Genocide in Manila". California, USA: Philippine American Literary House ( PALH Book. Archived from the original on 2010-08-07. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  16. ^ Quezon III, Manuel L. (2007-02-07). "The Warsaw of Asia: How Manila was Flattened in WWII". Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Arab News Online ( Opinion. Archived from the original on 2010-08-07. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  17. ^ "The Sack of Manila". The Battling Bastards of Bataan ( Archived from the original on 2010-08-07. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  18. ^ "History of Intramuros". Intramuros, the Walled City. Retrieved on 2011-09-14.
  19. ^ "Presidential Decree no. 1616". The LawPhil Project. Retrieved on 2012-04-04.
  20. ^ "San Ignacio Church". Intramuros, the Walled City. Retrieved on 2011-09-14.
  21. ^ philstarcom (2010-06-18). "Maestranza Wall Restoration". Retrieved on 2011-09-18.
  22. ^ a b U.S. War Department 1903, p.443.
  23. ^ "Intramuros Walkthrough". Intramuros, the Walled City. Retrieved on 2011-10-01.
  24. ^ "IA Trivia - Eight main gates of Intramuros". Intramuros, the Walled City. Retrieved on 2011-09-14.
  25. ^ (2007-03-11). "Fire hits Comelec headquarters".
  26. ^ "2010 Census of Population and Housing", pp. 4-5. National Statistics Office of the Philippines. Retrieved on 2012-06-05.
  27. ^ Rose Beatrix C. Angeles (2008-09-07). "Intramuros, Manila". Retrieved 2008-09-09 


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