‘Shabby, dark’ Intramuros needs rescuing
An international conservation group has included Intramuros and Fort Santiago in Manila in its list of Asia’s “10 most significant archaeological and heritage sites facing irreparable loss and destruction.”
The Global Heritage Fund, based in Palo Alto, California, said modernization, development pressures and insufficient management threaten Intramuros and Fort Santiago, which the group described as “historic fortresses.”
“If nothing is done to assert Intramuros’ right to preserve its rich heritage, there is a strong likelihood that it will be soon overrun by rampant commercialism. If indeed this happens, all the efforts to rebuild this jewel of Manila after its destruction in World War II will have been in vain,” GHF said in a report titled “Asia’s Heritage in Peril.”
Others on the list were Ayutthaya, Thailand; Kashgar, China; Mahasthangarh, Bangladesh; Mes Aynak, Afghanistan; Myauk-U, Burma (Myanmar); Plain of Jars, Laos; Preah Vihear, Cambodia; Rakhigari, India and Taxila, Pakistan.
Intramuros, also called the Walled City, is the original site of the Spanish city of Manila, with Fort Santiago serving as its citadel. Intramuros is considered the oldest district of modern Manila and the only place in the capital where Spanish-era influences have remained.
Fort Santiago serves as a museum of the Spanish colonial legacy and a shrine to the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, who was imprisoned in the garrison prior to his execution.
The GHF criticized the opening of modern fastfood and coffee shops inside the walls. It voiced concern that the interior “has often looked shabby or in poor condition, with poor lighting in many dark areas,” which could prompt tourists to steer clear of the heritage site due to safety concerns.
Last week, the Department of Tourism’s Intramuros Administration unveiled a plan to make Intramuros and Fort Santiago into nighttime destinations by putting up more cultural shows and hosting a village of cafés, restaurants and shops.
The plan includes installing lights on the centuries-old buildings and churches of Intramuros.
The GHF also expressed concerned concern that the Manila city government which has a seat in the Intramuros Authority’s had been “positioning itself to regain control of Intramuros without providing a specific statement as to why they want to become its caretakers again.”
The city government has a seat in the Intramuros Authority’s board of administrators, which govern the heritage site as a special economic zone.
“There is rampant speculation that the city wishes to capitalize on Intramuros’ real estate potential, replacing the heritage and history with high rises and malls,” GHF said.
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