Fort Santiago’s Dungeons Open to the Public

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Locals and tourists alike can discover another historical site in Intramuros, as Fort Santiago’s dungeons are now open to the public.

The Intramuros Administration (IA) recently announced on their Facebook page that the dungeon is now open for viewing from 2PM to 10PM every day. The entrance fee is included already in the Fort Santiago fee, which is P75 for adults and P50 for students, seniors, and PWDs. 

According to the historical site signage, the dungeons used to be Baluarte de Santa Barbara’s storage vaults and powder magazine, a building where weapons and ammunition are kept. In 1715, the Spaniards decided to build a new powder magazine on top of the baluarte, considering the suitable environment and location: damp from the humid weather and near to the Pasig River. When Casa del Castellano (Fort Commander’s residence) was constructed in 1718, the vaults became prison cells and storerooms.

Intensive Renovations

Apart from Fort Santiago’s dungeons, there were other sites in the walled city that opened only in recent years. Under the Intramuros Revival Project, the fortress has gone through numerous renovations, giving rise to the launch of newly refurbished Paseo Soledad and Plaza Moriones in Fort Santiago in 2017, Manila Standard reported. 

Paseo Soledad, a walkway along the banks of Pasig River, was made accessible through the river gate called Postigo Nuestra Señora de Soledad. This small entranceway was where residents passed through to get to the river and ride boats bound for the commercial districts of Binondo and Quiapo, according to Intramuros Administration

Plaza Moriones, on the other hand, the area landing to Fort Santiago, was improved with flowering trees and a water fountain that lights up at night. From here, tourists are also able to enjoy a great view of the famous gate of Fort Santiago from Sta. Clara St. The plaza got its name from Spanish Gov. Gen. Domingo Moriones who ruled the country from 1877 to 1880.

Meanwhile, in Plaza de Roma, underground cabling was implemented, as cited in an ABS-CBN report. This is the site that houses three iconic landmarks, namely Manila Cathedral, Palacio del Gobernador, and Ayuntamiento de Manila. Authorities will implement the same design to other parts of Intramuros. 

The Rajah Sulayman Theater received a new look as well in 2017. Originally the home of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), it became the venue for the play the theater group staged for their anniversary, Spot.ph reported.

A year later, Baluarte de Santa Barbara reopened as iMake History Fortress LEGO Education Design Learning Center, an interactive hub that features LEGO learning materials to showcase the legacy and heritage of Intramuros. 

As mentioned in Business World, the ground floor of the center has a lecture area and an exhibit area, promoting LEGO models. The second floor, meanwhile, features a reception area, a dark room that has glow-in-the-dark figures, an audio-visual room, and another exhibit area for temporary displays. Such exhibits change every six months. The IA held a LEGO competition and awarding-ceremony in the venue.

Meanwhile, one of the most recent developments in the walled city is the Museo de Intramuros, which opened last May 2019. The gallery features artifacts acquired from antique and art dealers, with some dating back to the 17th century, as CNN reported. Tourists can visit the museum in two reconstructed buildings, the San Ignacio Church and the Mission House of the Society of Jesus.

Soon to Open

Tourists can expect more sites emerging in Intramuros in the next few years. In fact, the Maestranza Creative Hub is set to open this 2020, according to ABS-CBN. The Maestranza Complex features chambers that used to be a storehouse and barracks for soldiers, which were destroyed during World War II. The IA and the Creative Economy Council of the Philippines (CECP) are planning to restore the ruins and build a creative hub in the area. 

The refurbished Maestranza Complex will have galleries, film showing areas, performance venues, and showrooms, designed to promote Filipino creativity further. There will also be an education center, serving as an incubation space for ideas and innovation. In a nutshell, the venue would develop local talents, brands, and businesses for global competitiveness.

Meanwhile, the reconstruction of Aduana may also start soon. Also known as the Intendencia, the building is set to house the National Archives of the Philippines (NAP), Rappler reported. The agency protects 60 million historical records, including those from the Spanish, American, and Japanese colonial periods.

The Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar vowed to fund the project in June 2019, targeting allocation in the 2020 national budget.

Sources: Intramuros Administration Facebook page and website, Manila Standard, ABS-CBN, Spot.ph, Business World, Rappler
Main photo via Intramuros Administration

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