Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Simple Dream of Revisiting History

Fa├žade of Fort Santiago
As a normal student who attended history classes during my elementary and high school days, Intramuros has always been part of the lessons. I've heard and read about it countless times. Back then, I sometimes wonder when I can visit this popular historic place. Since I was born and bred in the province, it was like a dream going to Manila during those days. As such, going to Intramuros was also just a dream. When I moved to Manila after schooling, I was busy making a living and so I have forgotten about this simple dream.

I only visited the heritage site few weeks before I left the Philippines in 2010. It was a dream came true (isang mababaw na pangarap)! I travelled with someone who is quite familiar with the place. I forgot how we arrived at the site, but one thing is for sure, we took a jeepney and not the calesa.
As first timer visitor, I was fascinated as I walked through its uniquely structured streets; obviously it has a touch of the Hispanic Culture. The Walled City, more commonly known as Intramuros of Manila or Ciudad Morada, is situated at the mount of the Pasig River. For few centuries, Intramuros was the Spanish quarter, seat of colonial government and home for vast number of Spanish colonist.

We started our walk-through at Fort Santiago or Fuerza de Santiago. This is the oldest Spanish fortress in the country and one of the major attractions inside Intramuros. Some of the must-see attractions at Fort Santiago include World War II artillery and underground tunnels used by the Japanese, the former Spanish dungeon of the main square or Plaza de Armas, and Rizal Shrine - former prison of National Hero Jose Rizal.
The San Agustin Church
We've also visited the San Agustin Church which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage. There's also a museum beside the Church but we didn't bother going in. Instead, we went to souvenir shops which showcasing Filipino crafts. I didn’t buy any because I took a lot of pictures as souvenir, but my companion did. (Later on, she found out that they gave her defective products.)
We went further into the streets to see what else that needs to be seen, only to be dismayed by litters, unpleasant smell, pollution and the slummy area in some portion of the historic site. Nevertheless, I’ve read in the newspaper, quite some time ago, that the historic site is up for rehabilitation through public-private partnership programmes by the Aquino government. Let’s just hope that they can come up with a comprehensive solution in dealing with the urban poor now squatting inside Intramuros.

Back then, I was dreaming of just revisiting the history; but now, I'm hoping for a litter-free, crime-free and shanty-free Walled City. It may be just a dream for now, but I look forward to the day that it will come true. Perhaps on my next visit to this place, I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Inside Fort Santiago
Calesa or Spanish-era horse-drawn carriage

Trompe l'oeil ceiling
Hispanic style front door


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