What do you do on National Heroes Day? Did you know, today is National Heroes Day here in the Philippines? Like in any country, it is a day wherein we commemorate the many heroes who shed their lives, worked their deeds to uphold the Freedom of every citizen and/or the Independence of one’s country.
Some Philippine trivia: the date, last Monday of the month of August, has been chosen to memorialize Araw ng Kagitingan, or National Heroes Day. The date coincides at the time when the Filipinos revolted on our Spanish colonizers in 1896. It is known as the Cry of Pugad Lawin in our history books. Jose Rizal is one of our National Heroes. As such today, I’ll bring you to our gala turista at Fort Santiago, the walled city of Intramuros Manila. Why Fort Santiago? Fort Santiago is known as the citadel and garrison by the Spanish during our 400 years of colonization. It is where our famous hero, Jose Rizal, was incarcerated because of his books, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, before his execution. Anyways, we have decided to take a peek on what it has instore, for I haven’t been here since my high school years.
The day was just starting, the weather was just right when my friends and I left Las Pinas. We were afraid that there would be a huge traffic in the Metro. We were fortunate that there was none. Whew! The parking was also a blessing, thank God, since it was just a couple of steps to Fort Santiago. As always, our first order of the day was food. If you haven’t noticed it yet from my previous stories. Food is life for us. Getting hungry is a no-no. So here we were lugging our bags full of food while we registered and paid our entrance tickets. We looked for a spot under the trees for a good picnic spot. When our bellies were full and quite satisfied with our many food fares, we dropped our things back in the car; and made the rounds of the place equipped with our cellphones and umbrellas on each hand ready to explore and do our DIY walking tour.
Our first stop was the algae covered bridge and the historic Fort Santiago Gate, which carried the Spanish crest and the carved relief of the patron-saint, Santiago Matamoros, or Saint James The Moor-Slayer. Anyway, do read about Santiago Matamoros, it may be interesting.
Past the gate, we were greeted by a huge lawn, the Plaza Armas, and the statue of Jose Rizal. According to the map, this lawn was where drills were performed by the Spanish soldiers. I thought the area a bit small though. Shrug.
Our next stop was the old Spanish barracks, known as the Balluarte de Santa Barbara. However, before we reached this place, I saw on the floor footsteps made of metal on the walkway. The footsteps of Jose Rizal? Anyhow, we took a breather inside this AC room and just wandered, taking our time to look and pose at the many miniature Lego replicas of historic Philippine buildings. There was also a screen presentation about the place.
While the gang were resting inside, I went out and surveyed behind the barracks. The view of the brown running waters of Ilog Pasig, or Pasig River, preceded me. The City Skyline across the river and the barges that pass through the river was interesting.
There was also a dungeon that I did not notice before, which was right in front of Baluarte de Santa Barbara. It was not open to the public. According to my map, it was a gunpowder room until it was converted into a dungeon. It could house 100 people, but around 600 bodies were found cramped there during World War II.
Our last stop was the Rizal Shrine. The building was a barracks that was converted to hold Jose Rizal’s artifacts and showed how he lived during his detention. It was an interesting place, and we got to learn a little bit more of our national hero.
While heading back, I noticed the beautiful sight of Manila Cathedral. It was like I had stepped into and had a glimpsed of a European city image. It was just lovely.
There were still more nooks and crannies to Fort Santiago that we did not have the time to see. For another time, I promised myself. Walking through Fort Santiago was like walking in the past. It was a surprisingly amazing place that we should visit at least once. I do love doing a gala turista in our own cities, I find it enjoyable; you might like it too.
Note: Gala turista is a term I have used because we were acting like tourists when we actually are living in the city itself. In short, we were in tourist mode.