Why save Intramuros

PERCEPTIONS - Ariel Nepomuceno - The Philippine Star

Monuments, palaces and colossal structures represent not only the level of civilization that has been achieved by a society and race. They also reflect the deeper soul embedded in the heritage of the people.

Built in 1571 by the renowned Spanish conquistador, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, Intramuros is one of our cultural jewels. The “Walled City” within a city was the center of the Spanish colonial empire in the region. This was also the helm of Catholicism for the next hundreds of years of its propagation in the region.

Intramuros was, in reality and by inference, the old Manila, and the Pearl of the Orient. Battleground to many armed skirmishes and conflicts. No less than the “Great Malayan” Dr. Jose Rizal was imprisoned in its more than four-kilometer walls before he was executed in the nearby Bagumbayan.

It symbolizes our collective resilience both as victims and victors. As a conquered nation, the walls chillingly remind us of the fallen heroes that helplessly endured the physical and mental torture of their Spanish, and later Japanese, captors. Most of them died as patriots whose ultimate sacrifice brought forth a nation that is still struggling against abuses and inequities. As victors, this city inspires us to always overcome the challenges that prevent our progress and economic liberty amidst a vibrant democracy.

How do we fare as grateful descendants who benefitted from the toils and hardships of those who came and survived before us? If we use Intramuros as measurement, we failed. We can do much better.

New chance to repay. With the momentum of the new administration of President Bongbong Marcos to deliver the best, I hope that he will include in the list of doable programs the revival of Intramuros as a dignified monument of our struggle and victory as a proud race. To borrow a part of his inaugural message, the improvement of this historic site must be one of his 110 million reasons why he will render his best for the country. By successfully doing so, he will do justice to the memories of our heroes.

Traversing the inner roads and establishments inside this Walled City, I fairly concluded that our government can easily transform this 64-hectare enclave into a real prime tourist destination. If Vigan City can proudly preserve its local heritage in the north, our national government must be able to do the same or more with its vast resources. Only key that needs to be drawn is the proverbial political will to make things happen.

Build from the accomplishments of the past leadership. The previous chief of the tourism department, secretary Bernadette Puyat, should be credited for the initial efforts to significantly improve the area.  Along with the former heads of the Intramuros Administration (AI), Gullermo Asido and Marco Sardillo, Ms. Puyat was able to secure the formal agreement with the Housing and Urban Development Council (HUDCC) and the Socialized Housing Finance Corp. to relocate at least 500 of the 894 families that are considered informal settlers in the premises. Hopefully, this program materializes soon. If the plans really happen, these families will be transferred to Cavite and Morong in Rizal province. This problem is complicated by the fact that some real properties inside the area are privately owned by individuals and institutions. The families are either leasing or simply illegally occupying the properties whose owners have lost confidence in removing them.

Along with this relocation program is the “2019 Conservation Management Plan” which envisions a world-class drainage and cabling systems that will be built underground, plus the renovation of most buildings and establishments inside. Assuming that these twin projects will be successfully implemented, we can expect an increase in the number of local and foreign visitors who will have a unique tour in reliving and enjoying a glimpse of our past.

Magnet of cultural festivities and learning activities. Intramuros must be elevated back to the list of best places to visit in the Philippines. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has included this in its World Cultural Heritage sites that must be protected for future generations.

We aspire to invite millions of foreign tourists to our country. This can be successfully done through a compelling marketing campaign. But what will happen if indeed they arrive? What shall we show them? Intramuros, along with other suggested spots, must be worth the time and resources that will be spent by our guests who expect nothing less than a memorable and learning experience.


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