Time and trace Philippine history: Fort Santiago

Travel back in time and trace Philippine history at Fort Santiago in Intramuros, the famed “Walled City,” where the historic fortress at the mouth of the Pasig River served as the Spanish military headquarters during the country’s turbulent Colonial Era.

Today it stands as a Shrine of Freedom, a memorial to the National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, who was imprisoned and spent his final days there before his execution for inciting revolution against the Spanish authorities.

The fort is also a memorial for those who lost their lives during the Japanese Occupation of World War II.

Visiting this historical landmark takes little effort: just take the train (LRT Line 1) and get off at the United Nations Station. From there you will take a 20 to 25 minute walk.

By jeepney, take one headed for the Pier and get off at the Bonifacio Drive Intersection where the fort is a mere five minute walk to Aduana Street. Walking through the gates you’ll be welcomed by staff garbed in Guardia Civil uniforms.

The entrance fee is Php75 for adults and Php50 for students and senior citizens (bring a valid ID). Entering the fort, visitors will pass the restored Baluartillo de San Francisco Javier, where military supplies were stored after the fort was built in 1663. Now its a scenic avenue leading to the fort’s main gate.

After passing the bridge over the moat leading to an imposing archway, proceed to Plaza de Armas, where the main highlight of the fort, the Rizal Shrine, affirmer military barracks housing samples of Rizal’s works which include the first draft of his novel Noli me Tangere (Touch Me Not) and the original copy of Rizal’s final poem, Mi Ultimo Adios (My Last Farewell) that was smuggled inside an oil lamp. Also preserved are the clothes that he wore. There is also a wax replica of Rizal and audiovisual displays.

At one end of the fort there are also dungeon-like prison cells where unfortunate prisoners were said to have drowned by the rising tide of the Pasig River. The guides say otherwise, but who knows right?

Outside the cellblock where Rizal spent his last night there is an open-air theater but interesting to note are brass footprints embedded into the pavement marking his final steps to the exact location where he was executed in Rizal Park. Care to follow in his footsteps (albeit literally)?

If your feet start to hurt worry not, as you can experience a carriage ride (Php250/ 30 minutes). There is also no shortage of souvenir shops showcasing local products. Considered as one of the “must-see” places in Manila, Fort Santiago is frequently chosen by schools as part of their itinerary during field trips to broaden the minds of schoolchildren about history and heroes. Perhaps it’s time for you to take a field trip of your own?

Fort Santiago is open daily from 8 am to 6 pm, for touring trips just call the administration office 5273155/FAX 5273084 or visit them at the 5th Floor of the Palacio del Gobernador, at the corner of General Luna and General Aduana Streets in Intramuros, Manila.

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