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Map of the Manila showing the location of Binondo
City Manila
Population (2000) 7,466
– Density
Area km²
Barangays 5
Cong. Districts 5th District
Intramuros circa 1920s

Intramuros, located along the southern bank of the Pasig River, was built by the Spanish in the 16th century and is the oldest district of the city of Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Its name, taken from the Latin, intra muros, literally "Within the walls", meaning within the wall enclosure of the city/fortress, also describes its structure as it is surrounded by thick, high walls and moats. During the Spanish Period, Intramuros was considered Manila itself.


Before the Spanish

The site of Intramuros was originally a large Malayan Muslim settlement named Maynilad headed by Rajah Sulayman. The name came from may nilad, nilad being a water plant whose star-shaped flowers clustered in abundance along the low-lying riverbanks. The strategic location of Maynilad, being on the Pasig River and the Manila Bay, made it an ideal location for the locals to trade crafts and produce with other peoples of the then pre-Hispanic Philippines and other Asian countries, especially with ethnic Chinese merchants. Maynilad was also the seat of power for native chiefs who ruled the area before the Spaniards set foot on Philippine soil.

Spanish Rule

In 1570, Spanish conquistadors led by Martín de Goiti, Juan de Salcedo and Miguel López de Legazpi arrived in Manila. Goiti and Legazpi's men waged war on the Muslims and indigenous tagalog peoples before they were able to take control and establish a permanent settlement in the area. In 1571 after the Spaniards were victorious in battle, Legazpi made a peace pact with the native Muslim rulers, who, in return, handed over Manila to the Spaniards. Citing the rich resources, strategic economic, political and military importance of Manila, Legazpi declared Manila as the new capital of the Spanish colony in the Philippines on June 24, 1571. The King of Spain, delighted at the new conquest achieved by Legazpi and his men, awarded Manila a coat of arms and declared it Ciudad Insigne y Siempre Leal ("Distinguished and ever loyal city"). The planning of the city of Manila was commenced by the Captain General - Governor, Miguel López de Legazpi, who established forts, roads, churches and schools. The plans for Intramuros were based on King Philip II's Royal Ordinance issued on July 3, 1573 in San Lorenzo, Spain. Its design was based upon a medieval castle structure and covered 64 hectares of land, surrounded by 8 metre thick stones and high walls that rise 22 metres.

Ruined Garden of an Augstinian Friar, Fr. Blanco photographed by Robby Dela Vega in 2004

Intramuros was completed in 1606 and it served as the center of political, military and religious power of the Spaniards during the time that the Philippines was a colony of Spain. Inside Intramuros there are several Roman Catholic churches, like the Manila Cathedral and the San Agustin Church, convents and church-run schools, such as the Universidad de Santo Tomás, the Colegio de San Juan de Letran and the Ateneo Municipal de Manila, which were usually being run by religious orders such as the Dominicans, Augustinians, Franciscans and Jesuits. The Governor's Palace, the official residence of Spanish Viceroyalties to the Philippines was originally in Intramuros before it was officially moved to Malacañang Palace and Fort Santiago. Only Spaniards and Mestizos were allowed to take part on political issues and take residence inside the walled city, Christian natives and ethnic Chinese were also allowed inside, but Spanish officials prevented them living there. The vast majority of the natives and ethnic Chinese residents lived outside the walled city.

Pre-war buildings

(*Still on the same site today)

Churches, convents and chapels

The Santo Domingo Church


Colegio de Sta. Rosa

Other buildings


World War II

During World War II, much of Intramuros was damaged by bombings from both Japanese who occupied it and used it as their headquarters and prison and by U.S. forces who besieged the Japanese. During the days of February to March of 1945 the Japanese closed the gates of Intramuros & begun killing the civilians & burning the buildings. Almost 100,000 civilians died during the liberation of Manila. Intramuros was in ruins after the war & the only structure that survived was the San Agustin; almost no other buildings remained standing.

Present day

In the 1980s, under the direction of former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos, the Intramuros Administration restored the city and at present the walled city is the only district of Manila where old Spanish-era influences were retained. Much of the development of present-day Manila occurred outside the gates of Intramuros, leaving the old walls, streets and churches of Intramuros minimally touched by modernization, although outlets of Jollibee, McDonald's and Starbucks now sit alongside distinguished educational institutions within its walls. The old moats that surrounded Intramuros have been filled up and transformed into a golf course where locals and foreign nationals play the sport. The garrison that was Fort Santiago is now a tourist spot where visitors can enjoy the nostalgic romance of a bygone Spanish era within its gardens.

Intramuros now houses some of the higher education institutions in the Philippines. These are the city-owned Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, the technical school 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.

There are also places in Intramuros called Baluartes. Baluarte is a Spanish word for "bastion". These places are strongholds of Spaniards during the Spanish era. There are notable baluartes in Intramuros such as Baluarte de San Diego, Baluarte de San Gabriel, Baluarte de Sta Barbara and Baluarte de San Andres. Also Intramuros is also restoring its old "Puerta" or "Opening" which was the main entrance to the walled city.

Intramuros Images


  1. ^ Fire razes old COMELEC Building

External links



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