Thursday, October 06, 2011


Panama City's Casco Viejo are in many ways similar to Manila's Intramuros.

Both were founded by the Spanish: Intramuros in 1571 and Casco Viejo 100 years later later in 1671.

Both are walled cities.

Both have lots of churches.

Casco Viejo's centerpiece is the Catedral Metropolitan which is as San Agustin Church is to Intramuros. It was built from 1688 until 1796 from the stones taken in the pirate-ravaged old city of Panama Viejo.

A walk away is the Iglesia de San Jose which dates back to 1673 and repository of the Altar de Oro --- painted black and smuggled out of the city as the pirate Henry Morgan pillaged Panama Viejo.

Then there is the Iglesia San Francisco de Asis (top photo below), said to be the smallest but the most ornate and striking of all the churches in Casco Viejo. It was razed by fire in 1737 and 1756, and fully restored to its former glory in 1998. Just across is the Iglesia San Felipe Neri (bottom photo below), inaugurated in 1688 and considered to be the oldest in Casco Viejo. It also underwent restoration work in 1995.

There are a couple of ruins too: the Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus (top photo below) that was built between 1677 and 1741 and once housed the Royal Pontifical University of San Javier until it was razed by a fire in 1781 and and then by an earthquake in 1882; and the Iglesia Sto. Domingo (bottom photo below) that was built in the 17th century and also destroyed by fire in 1756, and features the Arco Chato or flat arch --- a 50 feet unsupported brick arch that is considered as an engineering marvel --- which served as proof of the absence of earthquakes in the area and hence the building of the canal across the Isthmus of Panama.

What separates Casco Viejo from Intramuros is it has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage. Only the San Agustin Church has that distinction within Intramuros.

And it is being properly restored to its former glory. I think Intramuros is not...  

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