Fort Santiago history
Located in Manila and with a reasonable historical value lies Fort Santiago. This bastion with a perimeter of 620 meters is located along the Pasig river. The construction completed in 1593, although it got a renovation during 1733. Fort Santiago was built under the Spanish colonization who made Manila the capital of their captured islands. This was followed by a period of British ruling between 1762-1764. Then came the Americans in 1898 whom made Fort Santiago the U.S. army headquarters.
During World War II it were the Japanese who captured the fort and made it infamous with its dungeons and prison cells where they kept prisoners who later got killed near the end of the war during the Manila Massacre.
The fort sustained heavy damage from mortar shells during the battle of Manila in ’45. Approx 600 U.S. soldiers died in the fort of suffocation or hunger. The fort has too much history to write it all here.
Fort Santiago more
Baluartillo de Sanfransisco Javier was built for the extra defenses of Fort Santiago for attacks from the Manila Bay side. Constructed as a solid curtain wall of which the original was destroyed by an earthquake in 1645. Known as the Manila arsenal during the U.S. occupation and used as military barracks by the Japanese during World War II. Restored in 1950 & 1983. In 1993 it was given the purpose of Intramuros visitors center. Forming part of the fortification of Intramuros which was declared a National Historical Monument in 1951 and a National Cultural Treasure in 2014.
More to see are ruins of the American barracks. A building where senator Elpidio Quirino was imprisoned in 1843. Honor panels with names of people who died. Baluarte de San Miguel which is another part of extra fortification.
The main fortress of Intramuros which is Fort Santiago. Established on the site of the former wooden fort which was burned during a Chinese pirate siege. Reconstructed with local volcanic lava. Citadel of four foreign armies. A white cross as the place where the bodies of 600 decomposing corpses were found by the liberation of the fort.
Baluarte de Santa Barbara that is at the side of the Pasig river and replaced the former wooden platform with volcanic lava in 1593. It had storage vaults and powder magazines that turned into dungeons. Constructed on higher grounds in 1715. A board where the palace of the Spanish governor used to be that was destroyed by an earthquake.
From entrance to exit
A lot of formal information that doesn’t say much to you reading this. To simplify it all, here is a more understandable description of Fort Santiago. When you reach the entrance gate you pay the 75 peso ($1.50) entrance fee for adults. In front are horses with carts waiting for customers to take you on a historical tour throughout the complete neighborhood that also houses the Cathedral and other historical buildings and places. Immediately at your left hand side are coffee and souvenir shops. Straight ahead is the big field. You walk clockwise and after the shops you’ll find old canons the damaged building with bullet holes of where a mentioned senator was imprisoned and the ruins of American barracks plus the panel with names of casualties.
Then you reach the end of the field and pass the waterway to go through the old gate to the back side of the compound. This gate is actually the most impressive as of now. You’ll see the statue of Rizal and the white cross which is the place where the decomposed bodies were found. There you have an entrance into a building. Just before it are the dungeons where the bodies were found at the side of the Pasig river.
In case you are a fan of Lego constructions then you have something to see here. There is a complete floor which display duplicates of memorable buildings like Iglesia de Nicholas, Iglesia de Santo Domingo, the Eight Cathedral of Manila among many other historical buildings and even of the Manila hotel. An interesting display.
Now that you come out of the building at the end, you can first take a view over the river with ships and its surroundings and then take a left that goes partly over the top of the walls. It is a dead end, so you can’t go all the way, but still worth to walk that piece. Once you’re off the top of the walls, you follow the way back to the gate and waterway of the old part called Fort Santiago. Keep left of the fields to see more ruins or former places of historical value like the ruins of the Royal Warehouses, trees and wooden creatures like horses.
Overall you can describe the fort as a not to miss place when you visit Manila. The ticket fee can be called cheap. There are places to rest and drink coffee or even a beer. The total time that you can spend at the fort depends on your own pace but you can easily count on two hours minimum. The price to get there by Grab car from Pasig City is around 300 peso ($6). A recommendable historical place.