Fort Santiago: Immortal Defense Fortress of Historical Conquests in the Philippines

Fort Santiago, Intramuros (Photo Courtesy: Rodney Ivan Butler @asxtrader on Instagram)

There is so much to see in the Philippines. This is the main reason why it is one of the most sought after places in the whole Asian territory. Aside from having in her possession 7,107 islands, it was showered with abounding historical places,which are not only rich in history and cultural significance; but also of visitors who are constantly bewitched by her charm and timeless beauty. In Manila, the capital of the Philippines, why not try to visit the ancient Fort Santiago? Fort Santiago is a tourist attraction in Intramuros, Manila which happened to be a stronghold built by a famous Spanish conquistador. The said Spanish conqueror goes by the name of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. He  was  powerful political icon from Spain who had established one of the primal European settlements in the Pacific Islands and East Indies in 1565.

 Likewise, he was the first governor-general who had made the Philippines the capital of the Spanish East Indies. Going back to Fort Santiago, Philippine historians had alluded this tourist attraction as  war and hope cradle “within walls”.  Historically, this is one of the most essential historical sites in the face of the Philippines. Along this line, Fort Santiago had sentimentally engraved in its inanimate nature the millions of lives which were lost; due to incarceration when the Spanish colonizers had ruled the country for more than 300 years. Incidentally, Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines was imprisoned in this place; prior to his execution in Bagumbayan in the morning of 1896.

Fort Santiago, Intramuros (Photo Courtesy: Rodney Ivan Butler @asxtrader on Instagram)

Fort Santiago, Intramuros (Photo Courtesy: Rodney Ivan Butler @asxtrader on Instagram)

Brief Profile of Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago got its fascinating nomenclature, after Saint James the Great, the patron saint of Spain. To pay much homage and respect to this miraculous saint, his relics were used to ornament the façade of the front entrance. Moreover, it is located at the mouth of the Pasig River, and had acted as the main defense fortress of the Spanish administration. Economically, Fort Santiago had become the main fort for trading their best-selling spices, to the American and European territories. To briefly explain why this economic trade became feasible, it was because of the fact that the Manila Galleon Trade to Acapulco had began from Furza de Santiago.

Fort Santiago, Intramuros (Photo Courtesy: Wishnu Aji Prabowo @wishnuaji on Instagram)

Fort Santiago, Intramuros (Photo Courtesy: Wishnu Aji Prabowo @wishnuaji on Instagram)

Descriptively, Fort Santiago has a total perimeter of 2,030 feet In addition, it is somewhat triangularly- shaped. The south-front portion of this premier tourist attraction looks at the front city; which is a curtain with terreplain which  is very well complemented with dual demi-bastions. These were the Bastion of San Fernando and the Bastion of San Miguel. Then, tourists can also see a channel which beautifully connects with the river and distinctively separates the fort from the bayside of the city. Meanwhile, there is a portion in Fort Santiago near the northern  side of this tourist destination. There,  you can astonishingly see a cavalier called as “Saint Bsrbara”. To date, these figures were innovatively equipped with three powerful batteries. Speaking of these things, these are not like the ordinary batteries that you use everyday for your gadgets. However, these are artillery batteries which are comprised of   units of guns, mortars, rockets or missiles which are grouped altogether to facilitate effective and efficient communication in the battlefield. Some of these batteries of artillery are looking at the seaward direction over the anchorage place; while the other sets of batteries face the entry point of Fort Santiago. Last but not the least, the other set of batteries look upon the vast river, near the historical fort of war heroes.

The thick and high walls of Fort Santiago, approximately measure 6.7 meters. Conversely these integral parts of the heroic tourist attraction have thickness measurements of 2.4 meters in approximation. Based on historical accounts, the walls of Fort Santiago have unique piercings for easy communication purposes. On the other hand, the communication manners between the river and the sea were made so easily by a concealed gate in the postern. Uniquely, this gate was named as Postigo dela Nuestra Senor Del Soledad. Inside the premises of Fort Samtiago, it has antiquated guard stations, the barracks of the troops, warden quarters, storehouses and a humble chapel.


The location of Fort Santiago was once the place of the palisaded fort. This section of the tourist spot in the Philippines,  was armed with bronze guns that exclusively belonged to Rajah Soliman. He was the 16th century Muslim chieftain of prehistoric Manila. But, it was later destroyed by maestro de campo, Martin de Goiti in 1570 after he had arrived from the majestic province of Cebu. Briefly, the Spaniards had started to build this classical Spanish- inspired refuge after Manila was founded and established, on the 24th day of June 1571. Thus, it has been named as the capital of the Philippine Islands.

Previously, the first fort was composed of palm logs and earth. Unfortunately, it was destructed when the city suddenly got invaded by Chinese pirates during the primitive years of Fort Santiago. This unforgettable invasion of China was headed by Limahong. L:imahong was a dangerous pirate and invader,  who had conquered the northern part of the Philippines in  the 1570’s.  With this description of him, he had molded a reputation of attempting to dethrone the Spanish government; but all of those political efforts and maneuverings were futile till the very end. In summation, Fort Santiago did not fall on the hands of those Chinese conquerors because Juan de Salcedo  successfully  defeated them, and had sent these peace destroyers  to Pangasinan province.

Construction of Fort Santiago

As far as the overall construction of Fort Santiago was concerned, the materials  used were made of  hard stone, in combination with the fortified and all-original walls of the “Walled City” or Intramuros. Finally, it was fruitfully finished in 1593 during the political supremacy of Gomez Perez Dasmarinas.  Upon the departure of the latter, the magnanimously victorious historical structure was in prolific castellation, without traces of towers. Of course, the beauty and wonder of any architectural creation varyingly depend on the shape of the project. In the case of Fort Santiago, it had a trapezoidal trace, with fort fronts which were straight; thereby, cresting an awesome projection into the overflowing mouth of the river.

Historical Wars Reinvented Fort Santiago’s Character

In the long run, tragic incidents can test the durability of any given structure which must be sustained year after year. Well, Fort Santiago was not an exception. During the 1880 Luzon earthquake, the front part of this  culturally blessed  geographical entity was heavily damaged . Consequently, the  devastating effect of the 1880 earthquake had served as a metamorphosis for Fort Santiago.  Therefore, this unfortunate situation had given  a new sense of character to the immortal “Fuerza de Santiago”.




The Japanese and American  Occupations of Fort Santiago

After the Spaniards’ bitter defeat in the hands of the Americans, Fort Santiago had undergone a major modification by transforming it into a fully- equipped headquarters of their courageous army.  Similarly, the  onset of the Second World War in the Philippines gave Japanese forces the opportunity to illegally conquer  the lowly and the helpless war refuge. Having done so, they were able to use the fort’s storage cells, prisons, dungeons and its reserved gunpowder magazines for the hundreds of captives who were killed near the end of the senseless territorial war. Hence, the post- war years of the Battle of Manila had brought forth severe damages to Fort Santiago because of mortar shells.

What is Fort Santiago Today?

Today, Fort Santiago mightily and proudly stands as a silent witness to the heroism and insurmountable gallantry of the Filipinos; though a thousand centuries had come to pass. Currently, those dark dungeons and prison cells alongside with the bastions for hardened criminals in those years;  are now part of Fort Santiago’s tourist attractions. This includes the former Plaza Moriones and all other ruins of  historical conflicts which had taken place in the Philippines. Now, in order to preserve its incomparable value and milestone in the colorful history of the Filipinos,  it was declared as the “Shrine of Freedom”.  Meanwhile, the restoration  of the glorious Fort Santiago  had begun in 1953. To make this agenda a successful one, the government during that time had designated the National Parks Committee to do this quite challenging and tedious task. Presently, Fort Santiago is under the management of the Intramuros Administration.

Well-Known Tourist Attractions in Fort Santiago

In these modern times, Fort Santiago has several tourist attractions which can bring back numerous  historical events in the Philippines;  for the sake of the young and present generations and tourist alike;  who have never gotten the chance to know more about what this place is all about. To start with, Fort Santiago still houses the M-4 Sherman tank, the Second World  War artillery and the underground tunnels which were made and employed by Japanese forces to safeguard themselves, against their enemies. Next, it has the Plaza de Armas. Plaza de Armas is literally a small bridge, which is over the moats. As such, it leads foreign visitors to the main entrance of Fort Santiago. Hence, it has original structures which can be immediately seen at its entrance. These are two sentinels, which are located on the side of this tourist spot. .

The Plaza Moriones was an ex-public promenade, removed by  the Spanish authorities in 1864.  From Plaza Moriones’  park, its  left side  makes it easy for everyone  to find  the Baluartillo de San Francisco Javier. Construction wise, it was built by Governor Sabiniano de Lara with the honest intention to protect the ancient postern gate of this endearing  war fortress in the Philippines. Thus,  if any traveler wants to indulge himself in a pleasurable travel experience, he can proceed to its chambers’ stored military supplies. Due to its remarkable renovation, it is currently the home of the Intramuros Visitor’s Center. Lastly, there is  popularly known tourist in the Philippines through Fort Santiago  known as the Reducto de San Francisco ,  which lovingly takes care of an image of the Nuestro Senora de Guadalupe.




The events that took place during the darkest years of Fort Santiago,  had been so unjust and cruel for both conflicting parties. In this kind of scenario, a captive or enemy has to escape from the pangs of casualty. This was the main reason why the Postigo dela Nuestra Senora de Soledad was made. At the helm of the war, Governor Simon de Anda had escaped from British invaders. Above anyone else,  Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines has his own special place in Fort Santiago. This tourist  spot comes in the form an art exhibit, which features the fixtures and effects of the Rizal clan. “Do you want to know what this is?”  It is named by its frontrunners as the “Rizaliana Exhibit”.

To sum up, Fort Santiago is indeed a priceless and timeless piece of Philippine history which reminds every Filipino that the sovereignty and freedom of their country was not won without sacrificing the lives of its unsung heroes. More so, this tourist destination has a prolific past which inspires the present and future destinies of this freedom- loving creation by God. Truthfully, there is nothing more to say, than this. Fort Santiago deserves the entire honor and the glory that the Philippines must forever bestow upon it, which indelibly signifies the fact that the Philippine Islands is worth dying for.

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