One of my plans during my trip to the Philippines was to explore my own city Manila. Though I’ve lived there for 20 years, I have never explored and appreciated its richness in beauty, culture and tradition. That’s why I asked my friend Rain to accompany me in my Intramuros trip. We went from Fort Santiago all the way to Manila Cathedral, the mother of all Philippine Churches and my elementary Alma Mater, Colegio de San Juan de Letran who I haven’t visited for ages.
A walled city within a city, Intramuros is the oldest and the most historical district in Manila where everyone can see traces of Spanish influence. It was the seat of the government in the country during Spain’s occupation in the Philippines and was guarded by Fort Santiago, a fortress made of very thick walls to protect it from foreign invaders (particularly the British and the Dutch) and Chinese pirates. The Fort Santiago was also the witness of the heroism of Filipinos like Jose Rizal, the Philippine national hero, who was imprisoned in the citadel before he was executed in Bagumbayan, now called as Luneta or Rizal Park. Now, it is a place where everyone can have a time lapse and experience the Spanish influence in the Philippines.
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One of the coolest things I’ve discovered recently is that Rizal and I have the same shoe size. When I realized this, I told to myself “I am truly destined to greatness.”
Fort Santiago has 2 museums which were built in honor of Jose Rizal. One is located on top of the walls where the pieces of furniture in his old house in Calamba, Laguna, was donated by his remaining family members. The other one houses Rizal’s works of art and literature. It’s also the exact spot where he was imprisoned before being executed.
Yup! Our beloved Jose Rizal had a Japanese girlfriend when he visited Tokyo. Her name is O-Sei San, a daughter of a wealthy and powerful samurai.
The last girl in his life, Josephine Bracken.
Intramuros was also a house for different Catholic churches like the United Nations Heritage Site, San Agustin Church. As much as I wanted to go there too, I skipped it and instead went to Manila Cathedral, the mother of all Philippine churches, because it was nearer to Colegio de San Juan de Letran, my grade school Alma Mater. I’ve stayed in Intramuros for 6 years during my primary years but I didn’t think of exploring the area and appreciate it. I guess I just wanted to enjoy and play under the sun then.
Intramuros is also a seat of education from the old times until now. During the Spanish colonization, it housed the country’s prime schools like Colegio de San Juan de Letran, the University of Santo Tomas (which was later relocated in Espana, Sampaloc, Manila), and Colegio de Santa Rosa to name a few. In the present times, Letran and Sta. Rosa are now joined by newer education institutions like the Lyceum of the Philippines-Manila, Mapua Institute of Technology, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (University of the City of Manila) and Manila High School.
I spent 6 years of my life in Letran and I am very thankful that my mom put me there because the school has given me a good foundation. Though I had some unpleasant experience like homophobia, bullying and teacher’s favoritism, I cannot deny the fact that my teachers in Letran instilled in me the knowledge and virtues that I need as a citizen of the world. That’s why it was so sad to know that they are demolishing the elementary building to make way for the expansion of the college department. When I heard about it, all the memories just came back to me like a cold splash of water on my face. Good times or bad, those memories are part of my childhood that lead me to where and who I am at present. There was a funny sign inside the campus that encourages everyone to take a last look of the elementary building and take pictures to serve as their memoirs.
It’s such a wonderful experience to walk down the memory lane in Intramuros, both historical and personal. It felt like I’ve known myself better after.