Intramuros: The Walled City of Manila

Parian Gate Parian Gate 

Pre-colonial Period

Before 1570: A settlement of Tagalog under Rajah Sulayman occupies a tongue of land at the mouth of the Pasig River. Sulayman was Muslim related to the rajahs of Brunei.


Spanish Colonization: 1565-1898

Establishment of Spanish Rule (1565-1600)

1565: Miguel Lopez de Legazpi establishes a Spanish colony in Cebu. A ship under Martin de Goiti returns to Spain with a cargo of cinnamon; the possibility of opening between the Philippines and Spain is explored.

1569:  In search of better food supply, Legazpi transfers the colonists to Panay.


8 May Spanish soldiers under Martin de Goiti sail from Panay to reconnoiter Manila Bay. The troop assaults Sulayman’s fortification and captures it for Spain.


April The Spaniards under Legazpi leave Panay to take control of Manila.

16 May: The Spanish arrive at Manila Bay.

19 May: Feast of Santa Potenciana (Prudenciana), Legazpi lands in Manila and takes over the fortification and village of Rajah Sulayman. Miguel Lopez de Legazpi transfers the Spanish colony from Panay to Manila. Rajah Sulayman, ruler of Manila, transfers his seat to Tondo. 

24 Jun: Feast of San Juan Bautista, the City of Manila is officially established.


1 Jun: Philip II confers the city with the title “insigne y siempre leal ciudad de Manila.”

First galleon sent to Mexico loaded with Chinese goods and spices.

Manila is attacked by the Chinese Limahong. Gov. Gen. Guido Lavezares, Legazpi’s successor, fortifies the city for the impending attack.

30 Aug: Spaniards successfully repel the Chinese on the feast of San Andres, who is then named patron of the city.

1578: Franciscan friars arrive in Manila.  They reside for the time being with the Augustinians.

1579: Crown orders the construction of a cathedral in Manila, following the Papal approbation establishing the diocese of Manila, suffragan to Mexico.

1581: First bishop of Manila, Domingo de Salazar, OP, arrives in Manila. On board the same ship are three Jesuits assigned to the Philippines. Jesuits reside in Laguio, a site outside the city near present-day Pedro Gil St. and Roxas Blvd.

1583: Bp. Salazar convenes the Synod of Manila to discuss issues and strategies of evangelization and to address complaints about Spanish abuse.

28 Feb: Fire destroys much of the thatched buildings in Manila. The fire begins in San Agustín where the funeral monument to Gov. Gonzalo Ronquillo was set up. First buildings in stone appear after the great fire of 1583. Bp. Salazar and the Jesuit Antonio Sedeño are credited with this initiative.

Jesuits establish a church and house in the city.

Episcopal residence is rebuilt in stone and mortar under the direction of Antonio Sedeño S.J.

The Jesuit Antonio Sedeño builds a stone tower at the southern flank of the city of Manila, facing the hermita of NS de Guia. The tower, later incorporated into the Bastion de San Diego, is named NS de Guia.

1587: Dominicans arrive in Manila.

1591-94: Gov. Gen. Perez de Dasmariñas begins rebuilding Manila’s fortifications in stone.

1593: Dominicans publish catechism in Tagalog, Doctrina Christiana. It is printed by a Chinese in Binondo using woodblocks.

1594: The Hermanidad de la Misericordia establishes the Colegio de Sta. Potenciana for Spanish girls.

1595: Manila is raised to the status of an archdiocese with dependent dioceses Cebu, Naga, Lal-lo under it. Religious orders are assigned specific areas in the Philippines for better management of the evangelization of the native population.

The Jesuits establish the Colegio de San José.

Manila is awarded an official seal consisting of a gold castle and a demilion and dolphin naiant, brandishing a naked sword, against fields of red and blue respectively.


The Dutch Wars (1600-48); Hispanization of lowland communities (1600-50)


30 August: A devastating earthquake damages Manila.

Dec: Antonio de Morga, oidor of the city of Manila, heads an armada against the invading Dutch ships, under Van Noort. Morga’s ship, San Diego, sinks near Isla de Fortun, in Batangas Bay.

1603: Three Chinese mandarins arrive in Manila to dispense justice among the Chinese. This sparks rumors among the Spaniards of an impending Chinese invasion, and a rumor among the Chinese of a Spanish pre-emptive strike to massacre all the Chinese. This leads to an uprising. As a consequence of quelling the uprising, Chinese forced to live outside of the walled city.

Fire hits the city.

1604: San Agustin church is completed. (Note: Other sources give the date as 1607.)

1605: Government sets control on the galleon trade. Henceforth, all trade would pass through the government, which was in charge of building and outfitting the ship. Private enterprise with Mexico is forbidden.

1606: The Recollects, a reformed branch of the Augustinian order, arrive.

Fire hits Manila again.

1618-29: Under Gov. Gen Alfonso Fajardo de Tenza a moat is built surrounding the city.

1618: The Recollects build a church in Intramuros, after more than a decade where they had a church and residence outside the walls.

1621: The Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje is brought by Gov. Niño de Tabora from Mexico and given to the care of the Jesuits, the image becomes the patroness of the galleons.

Second printing of the Doctrina Christiana in Iloko published in San Agustin

1624: Construction of second monastery of San Agustin.

Jesuits establish the Imprenta de la Compañia, in the College of San Ignacio.

1632: The Jesuit church of San Ignacio designed by the Italian Jesuit Gianantonio Campioni is inaugurated.

1635-49: Under Gov. Gen. Hurtado de Corcuera, the moat surrounding Intramuros is improved, deepened and widened.

1639-40: Chinese uprising. Rumors that the Chinese would be summarily executed or deported spreads in the district of Santa Cruz and Mayhaligue. This sparks are revolt which spreads through the rest of southern Luzon.


30 Nov: Earthquake devastates Manila, many residence and buildings collapse, the walla are damaged, San Agustin loses one bell tower. The beginning of arquitectura mestiza.

1656: The Brothers of St. John of God take charge of a hospital under the patronage of the Misericordia. This hospital traces to the efforts of the Franciscans who had opened in the 16th century a small hospital facing their convent.

1663: Three Dominican tertiaries, led by Mother Francisca del Espiritu Santo established the Beaterio de Sta. Catalina (later becomes the Congregation of St. Catherine of Siena).

1668: The Colegio de San Juan de Letran is transferred to the site it presently occupies.

1671: Map of Intramuros by Ignacio Ortiz, O.P. published.


Dynastic change (18th century)

1703: Gaspar Aquino de Belen writes and prints Mahal na Passion ni Jesuchristo na Tola at the Jesuit press in Intramuros.

1711: The Visayan vocabulario by Matheo Sanchez SJ is published.

1727: Mapa topographica of Intramuros and surrounding districts by Antonio Fernández de Roxas published

1734: Map of the Philippines designed by Pedro Murillo Velarde, S.J., and engraved by Nicolas de la Cruz Bagay and Francisco Suarez, published by the Imprenta de la Compañia. Flanking engravings show maps of Intramuros and Cavite.

Death of Mother Ignacia de Santo Espiritu, foundress of the Beaterio de la Companía

1738-39: Gov. Gen. Fernando Valdez Tamon prepares a thorough report on the fortifications of the Philippines. Fortification of Manila improved during his administration; especially Fort Santiago where work was done ca. 1732.

1742: Further additions and revisions on the Tamon report is prepared and sent to Spain.

1744: A second edition of Murillo Velarde’s map is published.

1745: Gaspar de San Agustin publishes his monumental history, Chronicas.

1745-50. Abp. Juan de Arechederra improves the fortification of Manila.

1750: Mother Paula de Santissima Trinidad establishes Colegio de Sta. Rosa.

mid-1700: Ascendancy of the Sulu Sultanate; slave raids intensify. Conflict between the Spaniards and the Muslim communities of Mindanao intensify. Many coastal towns are under threat and are forced to fortify.

1754: Massive eruption of Taal volcano; ash fall darkens the skies over Manila. Numerous aftershocks rock southern Luzon, including Manila.

1762-64: British Occupation.

1762, 6 Oct: Abp Rojo del Río, intermin governor, surrenders Manila to the British under Admiral Samuel Cornish of the Royal Navy and Gen William Draper of the East India Company. The city is sacked by British troops, and a ransom is demaded of Abp. Rojo.

Simon de Anda escapes before the fall of Manila and rallies the populace outside of Manila to resists the British. He establishes headquarters in Bulacan.

1764: Return to Spanish Rule; British return the Philippines to Spanish jurisdiction is a ceremony held outside Sta. Cruz

1768: Jesuit expelled from the Philippines. Their properties and assets put on public auction.

1771: Strong earthquake hits Manila.

1772: Dominicans acquire buildings of Jesuits and establish a college of pharmacy and medicine. Archdiocese acquires the Colegio de San Ignacio building for the diocesan seminary.

1795: The Malaspina Expedition arrives in the Philippines to gather scientific data on the islands.

1811: Map of Manila published.

1815: End of the Galleon trade.

1845: Earthquake damages the city


Establishment of World Trade (1848-96)

1848: Opening of Manila to world trade.  No longer dependent on the Manila galleon, the government opens Manila to direct trade with foreign countries. This spurs the development of Binondo and neighboring districts as the new commercial center of the Philippines.

1851: Map of Manila in Buzeta y Bravo

1859: Jesuit return to the Philippines, given charge of the Ateneo Municipal de Manila.

1861: Jesuits are sent from Manila to open mission in Mindanao and take over parishes vacated by the Recollects.

1863: Earthquake damages San Agustin, the cathedral, the Palacio and the Ayuntamiento.

1872: Earthquake damages the cathedral further.

The Filipino priests, José Burgos, Mariano Gomez, and Jacinto Zamora are executed at Bagumbayan. They are implicated in the aborted revolt at the Cavite shipyard.

1877: First volume of the grand edition of Flora de Filipinas appear. Subsequent volumes appear in 1878 and 1879. This work of Manuel Blanco, O.S.A. who set up a garden of tropical and medicinal plants in the second cloister of San Agustin was illustrated by noted artists of the era, Spanish and Filipino.


27-31 July: Jesuit inaugurate San Ignacio church, designed by Felix Roxas. Construction began in 1878.

1894: Augustinians acquire properties near the second cloister on 40 Calle Real and 7 Santa Lucia for a proposed Procuración General-Hospedaría-Enfermaría. Building was completed in 1898.

1895: Benedictines arrive in the Philippines.

1897: Capuchino church completed.


Philippine Revolution and Independence: 1896-98


17 – 30 August: The revolutionary Katipunan is discovered. Revolution against Spain breaks out, led by Andres Bonifacio.

30 December: Execution of José Rizal, after being detained in Fort Santiago from 26 December


12 June: Gen. and Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo declares Philippine independence in Kawit, Cavite.


American Occupation: 1898-1946


10 December: By virtue of the Treaty of Paris forged by Spain and the United States, the Philippines, which included Guam and the Marianas, was ceded to the United States.

1905: Convening of the first National Assembly in the Marble Hall of the Ayuntamiento.

December: Noted city planner, Daniel Burnham visits the Philippines to draw up master plan for the cities of Manila, Baguio and Cebu.

1906: Burham plan is put into action. Intramuros’ moat is drained and filled with sand and soil. Low forward structures are buried in the sand, for instance, the bridge that connected the Ravelin de la Puerta Real with the street outside the city walls. The backfilled moat is developed as a nine-hole golf course. Originally known as Muni(cipal) it is now called Intramuros Golf Course.

1932: Fire ravages the southwestern quadrant of the walled city. The Ateneo de Manila building is burnt, forcing the transfer of the school to Ermita at the site of the Colegio Normal de San Francisco Xavier.


Second World War: 1941-1945

1941: Second World War reaches the Philippines when Japanese planes bomb Manila in the morning of 8 December, after a successful attack at Pearl Harbor.

December: Manila declared an Open City.


February: Massive destruction of Intramuros during the mortar and artillery bombardment by American troops in February. Massacre of Filipino civilians in Intrarmuros, especially in Fort Santiago where civilians and POWs were detained by the Japanese.


Peace and Restoration: 1946 to present


4 July: America recognizes Philippine Independence.

Intramuros lapses to oblivion, the damaged buildings and walls become havens for the homeless and dispossessed.

1966: Restoration of Intramuros begins with the help of the Armed Forces Ladies’ Committee.

1979: Creation of the Intramurros Administration under the Ministry of Human Settlements.  IA created by PD 1616. Declaration of Barrio San Luis as a special historical zone; it center was the house museum, Casa Manila.


2002: Administration of Intramuros as a special historic zone is transferred to the Department of Tourism. DOT launches WOW Philippines program and includes the transformation of Intramuros as a popular tourist destination. DOT refurbishes the walls and streets; builds a replica of the Beaterio de la Virgen (forerunner of the RVM sisters, founded by Mother Ignacia del Santo Espirtu). The new structure houses a museum of Philippine history, extolling the ethos of volunteerism.



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