From the latin words intra muros which means “within the walls”, Intramuros is the famous walled city built by the Spaniards during the 16th century when they came upon Manila. The area covers 64 hectares of land and is surrounded by 8 meter thick stones and high walls that rise up to 22 meters. The architectural traits are patterned with medieval castle structures and that of the Spanish defences. It’s located along the south of Pasig River and is considered as the oldest district in the capital of the Philippines. During the time of the Spanish Colonial period, Intramuros was considered as Manila itself.
A Blast from the Past
During the Pre-Hispanic period, the site of Intramuros was originally a Malayan-Islamic settlement called Maynilad and was ruled by 3 chieftains, Rajah Sulayman, Lakan Dula and Rajah Matanda. Maynilad’s name came from may nilad, nilad is a water plant with star-shaped flowers which was abundant along the low-lying riverbanks. Due to its strategic location, it became the center for indigenous Tagalog tribes to trade with other neighbouring civilizations such as merchants coming from China, Borneo and Indonesia.
Moving onto the Spanish Colonial period, conquistadors whom were led by Miguel López de Legazpi sailed all the way from New Spain (Mexico) and arrived in Cebu in 1565. They first established the Spanish colony there but when they heard that Manila is abundant in resources, Miguel dispatched 2 of his Lietuenant-commanders to explore the northern regions of Visayas. In 1570, the Spaniards arrived in Luzon. Quarrels emerged between the Islamic Natives and the Spaniards hence war erupted between the 2 parties. In 1571, after the Spaniards defeated the natives, Miguel López de Legazpi made a peace pact with the 3 chieftains who in return, handed over Manila. By June 24, 1571, Miguel declared the area as the new capital of the Spanish colony in the Philippines.
In 1606, Intramuros was completed and served as the center of political, military and religious power of the Spaniards during the Spanish Colonial period. Since they are heavily influenced with Catholic religion, inside the walled city you can find several Roman Catholic churches, convents and schools that are manned by the churches. Originally, the Governor’s Palace, the official residence of the Spanish Viceroyalties in the Philippines, was inside Intramuros but was later on moved to the Malacañang Palace and Fort Santiago. During that time, only Spaniards and Mestizos were allowed to join in on the political issues and live inside Intramuros.