The City Within Walls
photography & words by Jereek Espiritu
“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
― George Orwell
With four-wheeled vehicles honking their horns at the traffic, people across different ages braving the busy streets and vendors occupying the already congested alleys, Manila City has long been considered a package of adventure and exploration. But roaming around, you'll realise that behind this fast-paced city life within it all there is a charming surprise. True enough, just in the midst of the hustle and bustle lies its historic core, Intramuros, a destination that possesses an overwhelming treat of historical past.
Built by the Spaniards through a series of stone blocks and bricks, the construction began in the late 16th century to protect the city from foreign invasions. Eventually, the fortifications ended up covering almost 64 hectares of land with thick and high walls rising up to 22 meters. Within, the protective defence sprouted landmarks inherit the same architectural design as that of traditional Spanish culture.
From the oldest stone church currently standing in the Philippines, San Agustin Church, to the former military headquarters, Fort Santiago, where Jose Rizal - the national hero of the country - was imprisoned, every corner of the city tells its own compelling story. Since the entire district is surrounded by walls, it is not hard to tour around and learn more about the place. Near the gates of the city await the horse-drawn carriages called Kalesa, a classic mode of transportation first used in the old streets of Manila. Another good way to get around is through a tricycle. Although it may be a bit modern, the feeling of awe is still present. If you dare to explore the city at its finest, walking on foot is the way to go. Just be mindful on your travels, the scorching sun emits rays of sultry winds. Do not worry, there are shades to stop by and snacks are available to satisfy your hunger and thirst. Not to mention the attractively decorated blooming plants and tropical flowers of the way that create a soothing experience to refresh.
Many of the city’s ancient gates and archaic structures have since been restored. Regardless of this, the facade of the bulwark hints the deep characteristics it bears. Despite being hit by numerous natural calamities, bombarded with missiles and gunfires, and invaded by different armed forces, the citadel still resonates its enchanting heap of history in the design and construction of its architecture. The magnificence of Intramuros has not yet faded and continues to emanate its historical journey throughout centuries.