Thursday, April 21, 2016

Rediscovering Manila: Baluarte de San Diego

       One of the must-see attraction in Intramuros is the Baluarte de San Diego. In this baluarte is the oldest stone fort in Manila. Built in 1586, it was called the Nuestra Señora de Guia. Designed by Jesuit priest Antonio Sedeño. Fell into disrepair and renovated in 1593. Incorporated as part of the walls but later abandoned due to its unstable foundations.

      When Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi occupied Rajah Soliman's settlement in 1571, a wooden fortress evolved from that tounge of land bounded by the Pasig River and the Manila Bay. The need for defense from the bayside became urgent after the attack of Chinese pirates led by Limahong in 1574. The first stone fort in Manila was planed by Gov. Gen. Santiago de Vera, who thought that a tower would best serve the purpose. Jesuit friar Antonio Sedeno, who had some knowledge of military architecture, was assigned to oversee the project. Fort Nuestra Senora de Guia was to be three tiers of circular walls, with the outer tier 28 feet high, 12 feet thick at the bottom, and 4 feet thick at the top. Built from 1586 to 1587, the tower threatened to collapsed as it got higher.

       With the appointment of Gov. Gen. Gomez Perez Dasmarinas in 1590, the wooden fortress of Manila was reconstructed in stone. In 1593, the upper portion of the tower was demolished, and the rest was integrated into the new stone bulwark-the Baluarte de San Diego. Completed sometime between 1653 to 1663, the new baluarte was shaped like an ace of spades.

Main Entrance
       Here is main entrance before the actual Baluarte. Entrance fee for adults is PHP75 while for students and senior citizens its PHP50.

       The garden is filled with greens, pergolas and fountain.There are open-air houses where you can sit, relax, and enjoy the serenity of the place.

A wheeled equipment
       Before I actually entered the main Baluarte, this wheeled equipment caught my eye. It is so vintage! I wonder what was its use long time ago.

Actual entrance to the Baluarte
       Baluarte de San Diego was breached by British forces in 1762. It was restored and strengthened when the Spaniards returned, but was damaged and abandoned after the 1863 earthquake. The Battle of Manila in 1945 destroyed whatever remained of the structure. The circular fort was forgotten until excavation was done in 1979 by the Intramuros Administration and the National Museum. The first stone fort in Manila was unearthed and the baluarte was restored by 1992.

          So here it is, the Baluarte de San Diego! Bastion de San Diego is composed of three concentric structures; the first, second, and third circle. The first circle has an inner diameter of 8 metres (26 ft) and a wall thickness of 1.41 metres (4.6 ft). It lies 3.65 metres (12.0 ft) below the present street level of Muralla Street on the southern section. It has a total height of 5.75 metres (18.9 ft). Also, its inner and outer sides were plastered in pink terra cotta. The second circle has a diameter of 21 metres (69 ft) with a wall thickness of 0.90 metres (3.0 ft). Its total height is 6.15 metres (20.2 ft). The interior surface of the second circle was in terra-cotta finish. The flooring of both circles were made of brick tiles. The third circle has a height of 8.55 metres (28.1 ft) with a diameter of 32 metres (105 ft) and a wall thickness of 3 metres (9.8 ft). It is composed of 11 chambers. Although it is constructed with adobe walls, it has no direct relation to the first 2 circles. It was constructed earlier than the remaining circles. 

       The place is so quaint. It will take you back to the bygone Spanish era. The circular shape resembles the Colosseum in Rome. This is a concrete reminder of the past, a reminder how powerful Spanish colonizers are. 

        Then I took this one last photo before I left. Fort Nuestra Senora de Guia is currently maintained as an archaeological site. The gardens and gazebo were added to make Baluarte de San Diego more appealing to visitors and more suitable for special events. It is open to the public, but may be rented for private functions. The area is managed by the Intramuros Administration, an attached agency of the Department of Tourism.

       Wedding receptions can be held here. So if you want something vintage as your motif, you might consider Baluarte de San Diego Gardens. For inquiries you can call their Business Management Division at (632) 527-3096/527-9012.

How to get there?
       This is inside the Intramuros. For directions, see my Intramuros blog. This is at the back of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. 

      My Baluarte de San Diego experience is so surreal. It made me want to go back to Spanish era and see how our ancestors live their lives before. -Jon-

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