Saturday, September 16, 2006


What will be Intramuros was built over Rajah Soliman’s fort at the tip of an island called Maynila along the Pasig River delta. Don Miguel Lopez de Legazpi formally founded the City of Manila on that place as the capital of the New Kingdom of Castile in the name of his Spanish king on 19 May 1571 on the feast day of Sta. Potenciana. The first Spanish structure to be built is what is now Fort Santiago. Outside the fort is around 150 bahay kubos comprising the new city’s roughly 250 residents.

The transformation of Manila as a Walled City or Intramuros was started in 1584 by Santiago de Vera, the New Kingdom of Castile’s first governor and military commander, who replaced the wooden palisades of Fort Santiago with stones. Governor Gomez Perez Dasmarinas started building the city walls through Chinese labor in 1590 that was completed in record time in 1594 during the incumbency of his son --- Governor Luis Perez Dasmarinas. The walled city has seven gates: Santa Lucia, Postigo and Banderas that opened to Manila Bay; Almacenes and Santiago that opened to the Pasig River; and Real and Parian that opened to the Extramuros (i.e. settlements outside the walls).

Seven magnificent churches were built by Spanish missionaries in Intramuros. But during the battle for the liberation of Manila, American forces laid siege to the Walled City for two weeks, bombarding it continuously from the other side of Pasig River. Inside the walls, the Japanese planted incendiary bombs that ignited fires. Intramuros shuddered and in the war’s aftermath, only the San Agustin Church was left standing.

After the war, most of Intramuros’ residents abandoned the Walled City’s charred shell. It became a teeming squatter’s colony that included the family of Mama Ched who migrated from Burauen, Leyte. They eventually resettled in nearby Santa Ana after Manila Mayor Antonio “Yeba” Villegas evicted the squatters in 1963. There, Mama Ched met and married her neighbor Lilop. They have 2 children: Kuya Jojo and Kuya Jerry.
I must admit that I was able to finally see Intramuros only last year, 09 March 2005 to be exact. And it took the churchopile itch to finally take me there. My first place to visit was of course San Agustin Church (discussed in a previous posting) --- arguably the oldest extant stone church in the Philippines and one of its four colonial baroque churches inscribed in the World Heritage List. I never have enough of the church’s rich collection of church and Augustinian antiques, its huge religious paintings, the haunting air of Fr. Manuel Blanco’s garden, and its well-preserved interior that seem to tease me by unfolding its secrets one at a time in every visit, as if ensuring my return. And I did come back many times.

The best way to enjoy Intramuros is through a walking tour. I did mine from the Bayview Hotel along Roxas Boulevard where I was attending a conference, going around the Luneta where I accidentally “discovered” Dr. Jose Rizal’s actual execution site (I thought it was where his monument now stands) and that of the GomBurZa martyrs. That day, I walked around Intramuros twice. The first one was on the walls starting at the Baluerte de San Diego until the Baluerte de San Gabriel where the walls end (or disappeared) along the Puerta de Isabel II, then continuing again at Fort Santiago’s Baluerte de Sta. Barbara before finally ending at the point of origin in Baluerte de San Diego. After the walls, I went for my second walk as a personal tribute to the lost churches of Intramuros that culminated in the San Agustin Church.

THE JESUITS’ SAN IGNACIO CHURCH: First built as the Sta. Ana Church in 1587, destroyed by earthquake and rebuilt as the San Ignacio Church in 1632, again destroyed by earthquake in 1852 and rebuilt in 1888 before finally being burned down by the Japanese in 1945. What was the Jesuit compound is now the site of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila after the congregation moved to Loyola Heights, Quezon City.

THE CAPUCHIN’S LOURDES CHURCH: The latest church to be built in Intramuros that was inaugurated in 1898 and destroyed during Word War II. The new church was moved and built along Kanlaon Street in Quezon City and the El Amanecer Building now stands on the Intramuros site.

THE RECOLLECT’S SAN NICOLAS TOLENTINO CHURCH: First built in 1608 and demolished in 1642 by order of the Spanish Governor-General; rebuilt and damaged in the 1645 earthquake, the British occupation, and finally destroyed in the 1863 earthquake; rebuilt in 1881 and again destroyed by artillery fire during World War II. The Bulletin Publication Corp. building now occupies the site.

THE FRANCISCAN’S SAN FRANCISCO CHURCH: First built in 1602 and damaged in the 1645 earthquake; rebuilt from 1739 until 1750 and destroyed during World War II. Right next to the church and also destroyed in the war is the Chapel of the Venerable Orden Tercera that was first built in 1618. The site is now occupied by the Mapua Institute of Technology.

THE DOMINICANS’ STO. DOMINGO CHURCH: First built in 1588 and rebuilt 4 times until 1868 before being destroyed by Japanese bombs in 1941. The church was relocated and rebuilt in 1954 along Quezon Avenue in Quezon City. A branch of the Bank of the Philippine Islands now stands in its old site.

After San Agustin Church, I walked my way along the cobbled General Luna Street towards the Cathedral Basilica of La Imaculada Concepcion, more popularly known as the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral. The grand structure started as a church of light materials built by Fr. Juan de Vivero (OP) in 1571. This was replaced by another structure that Fr. Domingo de Salazar probably built in 1581 that was afterwards declared as a cathedral. This was damaged by a typhoon in 1582, was repaired, only to be razed by a fire in 1583. A stone structure was started to be built in 1592 but was destroyed during the earthquake of 1600 before it was finished. Over this, another cathedral was built in 1614 that was again destroyed during an earthquake in 1645. This was again replaced by a magnificent cathedral that Archbishop Miguel Poblete had built from 1653 until 1671. Again, this was destroyed in the earthquake of 1863 and another cathedral was built over its ruins under the supervisions of Architects Luciano Oliver and Vicente Serrano Salaverria, and Engineers Eduardo Lopez Navarro and Manuel Ramirez Bazan from 1871 until 1878. This was again damaged during the 1880 earthquake then finally destroyed during the Battle of Manila in 1945. It was rebuilt under the supervision of Archbishop Rufino Santos and Architect Fernando Ocampo from 1954 until 1958.

Almaguer's War

Amang Lakay was the teniente del barrio of Almaguer when the Japanese came and established their garrison at the school grounds. He sold them vegetables from his bangcag like pechay, radish and eggplant that the Japanese would slice, dip in soy sauce, and eat raw. He was paid with bundles of worthless yapyap or Japanese-printed “Mickey Mouse” money. At nights however, Amang Lakay feed Filipino guerillas with Inang Baket’s delicious inalseman dishes of freshwater fish caught by Amang Lakay’s tabucol in the dacquel nga carayan. He also collected donations of rice and would occasionally slaughter a cow for the guerillas that will be transported through patukis, covered with banana stalks then piled with rice seedlings for disguise, and delivered to the guerillas across the dacquel nga carayan by Uncles Roque and Itong, the sons of Jacinto and Jose.

My mother and Auntie Ibang are constant companions during the war. As a child, mother is dark skinned and will only wear clothes if scared by neighbors with Apo Pugot. One day, she slipped from Auntie Ibang’s hold and fell into a makeshift stove that was dug out of the soil. The hot coals burned a scar on her arm that will be with her for the rest of her life. She and Auntie Ibang tended Amany Lakay’s carabaos and will frequently meet patrolling Japanese soldiers. In moments like this, mother would always snap to attention and sing the Japanese national anthem to the amusement of the soldiers.

In the last days of the war however, the Japanese soldiers became beastly. They beheaded Amang Lakay’s neighbor when he refused to send his daughters to the Japanese garrison. To avoid being noticed by the Japanese, the young women of Almaguer applied squash sap on their faces to make them look old. The Japanese were said to also toss babies in the air then spear them with bayonets when they fall down. The American bombardment intensified so Amang Lakay led the residents of Almaguer in building paksuls (i.e. foxholes) in the daya part --- underground trenches shaped like two connected “Ls” --- where they will evacuate and seek shelter during the bombing raids.

Liberation found Amang Lakay homeless because the retreating Japanese who converted his house into a hospital burned it down before escaping to Ifugao. He was eventually paid P300.00 in war damages. To support his family, Amang Lakay would walk to the American garrison to trade some rice and vegetables for soap and salt. On one of his bartering trips, bamboo thorns that were sprayed with kating scratched his shin. The scratches turned into gaddil that he will have to endure for the rest of his life.

After the war, Japanese corpses are strewn everywhere, fouling the air with the smell of rotting flesh before Almaguer’s citizens finally burned them. But it seemed that the ashes of the burning corpses mixed with the wind to become vengeful spirits of a plague that consumed those who survived the war. Someone is buried everyday and usually, those who attended the burial will die in the evening and be buried the next day. Its time for the Nuestra de Senora de Lourdes to be brought out of the church and bless the cursed air of Almaguer. In 1947, a great flood came sweeping away animals and houses. To the people of Almaguer, this is the Babaylan’s act of cleansing them of the war’s horrible stench.

CREDITS: Illustrations and historical materials were sourced from Nick Joaquin’s “Manila, My Manila”, pre-World War II church photos and historical materials from Jose Victor Torres’ “Ciudad Murada: A Walk Through Historic Intramuros”, World War II illustrations from Mariel Francisco and Fe Maria Arriola’s “The History of the Burgis”, and World War II Intramuros photo from Phillip Katz’s World War II on the Philippines: A Pictorial Review”.


len said...

Hi!I'm quite interested about the pics you have in here. just wondering where you got all of them. Thanks! (by the way, your post is really interesting.)

big_berto said...

thank you len. if you can only give me your email so i can tell where i got those photos.

shubert :-D

Anonymous said...

Great post, thank you.