Deconstructing Intramuros | A New Look At An Old Place




Intramuros is one of the historical sites in Metro Manila that continue to attract tourists. It’s most notorious claim to fame is that it was the last hang out of Dr. Jose Rizal, Philippine’s National Hero, before he was fed hot lead by the Spanish conquistadores just outside of Intramuros’ walls. Unbeknownst to most non-history buffs, Intramuros was also one of the old world’s poster cities for discrimination. Only a selected few were allowed to work much less live there. Check out this entry from wikipedia.

Only persons who were legally classified as ‘blanco’ (white) were allowed to live in Intramuros. These persons were the filipinos (Spaniards born in the Philippines), peninsulares (Spaniards born in Spain), the tornatrás (persons of Spanish, Malay, and Chinese descent), and mestizos of Spanish-Malay descent.

Only white men were legally allowed to marry non-white women. White women were prohibited from marrying non-white men as it was against the social mores of the time. If a mestiza de sangley (Malay-Chinese) or india (Malay) married a Spaniard (filipino or peninsular), she was legally classified as ‘white’ and was allowed to live in Intramuros with her husband and children.

Illegitimate mestizo children of Spanish men were legally prohibited from living in Intramuros unless they were adopted by the men themselves.

Only mestizos de sangley (persons of Malay-Chinese descent) were allowed to enter strictly for employment purposes, but were required to leave and return to their section of racially segregated Binondo at the end of the day. Whites were legally exempted from paying taxes. Indios (Malays) paid the base tax, mestizos de sangley (Malay-Chinese) paid twice the base tax, and sangleys (Chinese) paid four times the base tax.

Despite the steady destruction of the old that progress is taking on Metro Manila, Intramuros continues to struggle to preserve its historical structures or whatever’s left of it. I went around yesterday and all I can see was a lot of wires and a lot of people. Some of the structures were still standing, some with a few renovations on them, while some have been completely overhauled and looked like wounds in an otherwise flawless skin.


There was still the moss covered walls, a few cobbled stone streets, the impressive churches, but sadly modernization is not something that went well with this once snobbish little city. Where one would hope to find harmony between the new and the old I only find dissonance and garishness. But that’s progress for you, it may not be always pretty but we all hope and pray that it’s a step in the right direction.

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