Walking Tour of Intramuros
Touring Intramuros is an exercise in imagination. A bit of nostalgia and romance helps because, despite efforts to restore Intramuros, the old city is a mere skeleton of its once opulent self. First hit by Japanese bombs on 26 and 27 December 1941, the city suffered damage on its riverside flank. Among the casualties of this bombardment was the Neogothic church of Santo Domingo. But the city remained very much intact until February 1945 when in the space of about two weeks 300 years of history were obliterated by fires and bombs, triggered by retreating Japanese troops, and fierce bombardment and mortar fire by Americans.
This was not the only time Intramuros suffered destruction-earthquake, fire, war -but, from 1595, when stone walls began surrounding the city the fortifications and buildings were repaired, even improvedafter each disaster. The Second World War, however, tolled the end of the city as city. Manila of the post war years were the outlying districts: classy and gentile Ermita and Malate, frenetic Santa Cruz and Quiapo, and entrepreneurial Escolta and Binondo. Fifty years later, Intramuros has completely lost its centrality to new business and commercial districts in Makati, Mandaluyong, San Juan, Quezon City and the outlying suburbs of Alabang, Muntinglupa and San Pedro, Laguna. And the city continues to sprawl, the only continuity with its old core is the name “Manila.”
Intramuros was a living space, buildings came and went as they were damaged, renovated or expanded. Because Intramuros has a long history and complex development, the same site may have been occupied by more than one structure over time. Institutions may have transferred sites and streets renamed, closed or reconfigured. This poses a challenge when organizing a tour. How retain the sweep of history while walking through a city so laid out that structures from different centuries stand cheek by jowl. We hope that we have solved some of that dilemma in the five itineraries proposed. Surely there are a number of ways of touring Intramuros beyond and different from the five delineated.
Of the five itineraries (one primary tour and four alternate routes) the first reflects our own preference while the alternate routes are based on published guides. While we acknowledge indebtedness to these previously published guides, the final shape of the tours proposed is the result of our personal choice and experience.
In and around Intramuros is can be complemented by other published material on the walled city. Where such material exists like a more comprehensive guide or history to a particular place, this is listed in the Resources section of this guide. We strongly recommend that the serious visitor get copies of these publications and read them before hand because much more can be said about Intramuros, which are omitted in this guide.
Done at a leisurely pace, each tour should take between one and a half to two hours to complete. However, stops at the San Agustin Museum, Casa Manila and Bahay Tsinoy can add about 30 to 40 minutes each per visit.
* The Primary Route
Tour 1 BEGINS south at the monument to Legazpi and Urdaneta, then proceeds to Puerta Real, exits through the ravellin, enters the city through a breech at Gen. Luna (formerly Real) turns west (left) toward Bastion de San Diego, walks part of the wall, and descends at Victoria to reconnect with Gen. Luna, stopping at San Agustin, Casa Manila, Bahay Tsinoy, Plaza Roma and heads north to Fort Santiago
* Alternate Routes
Tour 2 BEGINS north at Fort Santiago and heads south to Puerta Real stopping at Plaza Roma, San Agustin, Casa Manila, walks south to Gen. Luna, turns west (left) at Muralla toward Bastion de San Diego.
Tour 3 BEGINS at Puerta Real, through Gen. Luna (Calle Real del Palacio) turns west (left) at Calle Real to Calle Sta. Lucia, heads north (right) to Postigo, turns east (right) to Plaza Roma, turns north (left) to Fort Santiago, backtracks, turns east (left) at Andres Soriano Jr. (Aduana) to Puerta Isabel II, then through Muralla, following the perimeter of the city toward Puerta Real where the tour ends. This is the route outlined in A Walking Tour of Historic Intramuros by N.P. Cushner (1971: out of print).
Note: To add a visit to San Agustin church and cloister and Casa Manila, turn east (right) at Anda walk toward Gen. Luna. After the visit, return to Gen. Luna and walk toward Plaza Roma for the rest of the tour. To visit Bahay Tsinoy proceed to the corner of Anda and Cabildo.
Tour 4 BEGINS at Puerta Isabel II and follow the perimeter of the city, then turn east (right) at Postigo toward Plaza Roma and north to Fort Santiago. This is the route outlined in the Intramuros Administration 1980 publication, Intramuros: A Historical Guide by Esperanza Bunag-Gatbonton.
Note: To add a visit to San Agustin church and cloister and Casa Manila, turn east (right) at Anda walk toward Gen. Luna. To visit Bahay Tsinoy proceed to the corner of Anda and Cabildo. After the visit, return to Gen. Luna and walk toward Plaza Roma for the rest of the tour. The above two guides were written before the construction of Casa Manila and the expansion of San Agustín’s museum space.
Tour 5 WALKING THE WALLS offers an altogether different vantage point for touring the city. The walls are no longer complete nor continuous because the northern section was torn down early in the 20th century for better access to the wharf along the Pasig and sections of the wall were removed to ease vehicular traffic. BEGIN at Puerta Santa Lucia, at the end of Anda St. Follow the wall moving south until the Bastion de San Diego. Walk to Puerta Real, however, backtrack to San Diego for an easy descent to street level. Return to the top of the wall along Muralla, ascending the restored ramp at Baluarte de San Gabriel. Continue until Puerta del Parian and descend. Walk along Muralla toward Puerta Isabel II. Because of the heat and humidity, this tour is best done early in the morning or late in the afternoon, after four.
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- February 20, 2007 / 6:39 am