Fort Santiago

Fort Santiago, a 16th century military defense structure, stands witness to the valor and heroism of the Filipino through the centuries.Adaptive use of this famous historical landmark makes certain areas ideal for open air theater, picnics, and promenades. The Intramuros Visitors center gives an overview of the various attractions in the walled city.


The location of Fort Santiago was once the site of a wooden fort of Rajah Sulaiman, a Muslim chieftain of pre-Hispanic Manila. It was destroyed by the conquistadors (Martin de Goiti) when, upon arriving in 1570, they fought several battles with the Islamic natives. The Spaniards built the Fuerza de Santiago and the fortified city of Intramuros in 1571, and made Manila the capital of the Philippines.


fort santiago

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The first fort was a structure of logs and earth. Most of it was destroyed in the Spanish-Chinese War of (1574-1575), by invading Chinese pirates led by Limahong. Martin de Goiti died during the siege. After a fierce conflict, the Spaniards eventually drove the pirates out to Pangasinan, where the last conquistador (Juan de Salcedo) avenged the death of Goiti by capturing Limahong and burning him to death with his subordinates. Reconstruction of the fort with hard stone commenced in 1589 and finished in 1592. It became a main fort for the spice tradeto the Americas and Europe for 333 years. The famous Manila Galleon trade to Acapulco, Mexico began from the Fuerza de Santiago.


The fort is shielded by 22 feet (6.7 m)-high walls, with a thickness of 8 feet (2.4 m) and an entrance measuring 40 feet (12 m) high. It is located at the mouth of the Pasig River and it once served as the premier defense fortress of the Spanish Government in the Philippines. During World War II it was captured by the Japanese, and sustained heavy damage from American and Filipino mortar shells during the Battle of Manila in February 1945. It was later restored by the Intramuros Administration during the 1980s. Today the fort serves as a museum which houses well-preserved legacies of the Spanish government, José Rizal (which is called the Plaza de Armas), Rizal Shrine, and the prison dungeons for criminals used by the Spanish officials.


In an October 2010 report titled Saving Our Vanishing Heritage, Global Heritage Fund identified Fort Santiago as one of 12 worldwide sites most "On the Verge" of irreparable loss and destruction, citing insufficient management and development pressures.



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