10 Things You Should Know About Fort Santiago

Last Updated: October 3rd, 2017

 

The facade of Fort Santiago

The facade of Fort Santiago

 

The coat of arms of Spain blazoned above the main entrance of Fort Santiago

The coat of arms of Spain blazoned above the main entrance of Fort Santiago

 

When it comes to historical landmarks in Manila, there’s nothing that comes close to Intramuros. During the Spanish era, Intramuros was the seat of government and center of religion, education, and economy. Today, it’s mostly a tourist attraction that is directly supervised by the Intramuros Administration– not the city government of Manila. For all intents and purposes, it is still considered a city within a city.

Situated within its walls is Fort Santiago, a citadel that was built by Miguel López de Legazpi upon his arrival in Manila. A close “cousin” of this defense fortress is Fort San Pedro in Cebu, which was also used by Legazpi as a military defense structure. Today, Fort Santiago is teeming with tourists trying to squeeze in a one-day itinerary to get a glimpse of the old structures that were once prominent during the Spanish era. Here are some of the most important details about Fort Santiago that should give you that “aha” moment once you visit:

 

Fort Santiago before the Battle of Manila in 1945 (image credit: John Tewell on Flickr)

Fort Santiago before the Battle of Manila in 1945 (image credit: John Tewell on Flickr)

 

1. It was named after the Saint James, the patron saint of Spain, who is also known as Saint James the Muslim-slayer because of the legend that he miraculously appeared hundreds of years after his death to fight in the mythical battle of Clavijo. The facade of Fort Santiago showcases the image of Saint James right above the Coat of Arms of Spain.

 

The image of Saint James the Muslim-slayer right above the Spanish Coat of Arms

The image of Saint James the Muslim-slayer right above the Spanish Coat of Arms

 

A close look at the coat of arms of Spain

A close look at the coat of arms of Spain

 

2. It was built by Miguel López de Legazpi, Governor-General of the Spanish East Indies which included the Philippines and other Pacific islands, namely Guam and the Marianas Islands.

Born into a noble family in 1502, Legazpi was a Spanish explorer and conquistador who led the Spanish expedition in search for the Spice Islands (now known as the Maluku Islands in present day Indonesia). His 1565 expedition visited Guam on its westward voyage from New Spain (Mexico) to Cebu in Central Philippines.

He eventually became the first Governor-General of the Spanish East Indies which included the Philippines and other Pacific archipelagos– Guam and the Marianas Islands.

Aside from Fort Santiago, he is also behind the construction of Fort San Pedro, the military defense fortress in Cebu City. His remains is currently housed at the San Agustin Church inside Intramuros, Manila.

 

Miguel López de Legazpi (image credit: La Hormiga de Oro (16): 252. ISSN 2171-7591)

Miguel López de Legazpi (image credit: La Hormiga de Oro (16): 252. ISSN 2171-7591)

 

3. Approximately 600 American prisoners of war died of suffocation and hunger in its dungeons after being caged in extremely tight quarters. The filthy water of the nearby Pasig River also seeps in during high tide leaving its ground damp most of the time.

 

The marker installed by the Intramuros Administration in the entrance of the dungeons

The marker installed by the Intramuros Administration in the entrance of the dungeons

 

The dungeons

 

4. Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, spent his last days holed up in Fort Santiago before being marched off to Bagumbayan (now Rizal Park) where he was executed by firing squad.

 

5. The fort is shaped in a near triangular form and has a perimeter of 620 meters (2,030 feet).

 

6. Its location was once the site of a palisaded (wooden) fort of Rajah Matanda, a Muslim Rajah of pre-Hispanic Manila. The old fort was eventually destroyed by Martin de Goiti, the leader of the Spanish expedition in Manila as ordered by Legazpi in 1569.

 

7. The first fort that the Spaniards built was made of palm logs and earth. Most of the structure was destroyed when Chinese pirates led by Limahong invaded Manila. After a fierce battle to control the city, the Spaniards eventually drove the pirates out north in the province of Pangasinan, and out of the country.

 

Fort Santiago in 1880 (unnamed source)

Fort Santiago in 1880 (unnamed source)

 

8. The hard stone used for the construction of Fort Santiago was quarried from Guadalupe (now Guadalupe Viejo in Makati City).

 

9. The front gate of Fort Santiago was built in 1714 along with its military barracks. However, the Luzon earthquakes of 1880, which destroyed scores of buildings and churches, also destroyed the front edifice of the fort.

 

10. On August 13, 1898, the American flag was raised in Fort Santiago symbolizing the start of the American rule in the Philippines. The Fort served as the headquarters of the US Army, and among the changes they made included the draining of the moats and the transformations of the grounds into a golf course.

 

Fort Santiago after the Battle of Manila in 1945 (unnamed source)

Fort Santiago after the Battle of Manila in 1945 (unnamed source)

 

Contractors working to restore parts of Fort Santiago

Contractors working to restore parts of Fort Santiago

 

From inside the fort, you can see the Manila Cathedral, the main entrance, and the Palacio del Gobernador

From inside the fort, you can see the Manila Cathedral, the main entrance, and the Palacio del Gobernador

 

What's left of the Rajah Sulayman Theater

What’s left of the Rajah Sulayman Theater

 

Another entrance that leads to the fort

Another entrance that leads to the fort

 

The Rajah Sulayman Theater (right) and the gardens that now surround Fort Santiago

The Rajah Sulayman Theater (right) and the gardens that now surround Fort Santiago

 

Inside Baluarte de Santa Barbara

Inside Baluarte de Santa Barbara

 

One of the many deep sections of Baluarte de Santa Barbara

One of the many deep sections of Baluarte de Santa Barbara

 

The sections as seen from above

The sections as seen from above

 

Part of the ruins of Fort Santiago

Part of the ruins of Fort Santiago

 

The statue of Jose Rizal in the middle of Fort Santiago

The statue of Jose Rizal in the middle of Fort Santiago

 

The walkway that surrounds Fort Santiago

The walkway that surrounds Fort Santiago

 

Baluarte de Santa Barbara

Baluarte de Santa Barbara

 

The filthy Pasig River as seen from the Fort

The filthy Pasig River as seen from the Fort

 

 

– The Manila Project

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Sources:

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Guampedia

 

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