Walking in the footsteps of Dr Jose Rizal
Travel back in time and trace Philippine history at Fort Santiago in Intramuros where the historic fortress at the mouth of the Pasig River served as the Spanish military headquarters during the country’s turbulent colonial era.
Fort Santiago was built by the Spaniards in 1571 on the site of the settlement of Filipino Tribe Ruler Raja Soliman. It is one of the oldest forts in the Philippines. It is within Intramuros, also known as the “Walled City of Manila”. The original name of Fort Santiago is Fuerza Santiago. It is also the place where our National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, was imprisoned prior to his execution at Bagumbayan. His bone, with a bullet wound, is enshrined in a glass urn and placed in Fort Santiago.
Luneta Park, where the statue of Dr. Jose Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonso stands, is formerly known as Bagumbayan where executions took place. On the pathways of the park also stand Filipino heroes. Their names and contributions to the country are written at the foot of the statues.
Visitors can also view the restored Baluartillo de San Francisco Javier where military supplies were stored after the fort was built in 1663. There are a lot of souvenir stores selling Filipino-made products. There are various food for pasalubong, bags, fans, wallets made out of abaca, coconut leaves, native trees, paintings, keychains, and hats. Just name it, they have it. Beside Plaza de Armas stands the so-called landrilyong guho, where Rizal was imprisoned before his execution on Dec. 30, 1896. You could capture Instagrammable photos there.
There is also a wide, two-story building with a Spanish design like the houses in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. You can also view the life-size timeline of Rizal’s life, a wax figure of him, his paintings, and people who played an important role in his life like Josephine Bracken. In the stairway to the second floor lies some of Rizal’s personal belongings like his clothes, the tools he used as a doctor, his certificates that prove his credibility, and the pieces he composed.
Also stored are the shells he collected, the animals he studied, and money during his time. All these are displayed and protected by a glass. A small chapel is also found at the back of the museum.
Fort Santiago is the best place for those who want to learn more about Philippine history and its rich culture. It is a haven for those who love to be at ease and encounter the events that helped made us who we are today. Visiting Fort Santiago is worth the while. Include it in your bucket list to experience its wholesome scenery and beauty. (IRA KAYE N. VILLAFUERTE)