Friday, December 16, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to Visit (and Revisit) Fort Santiago

The imposing gate of Fort Santiago.
1. The Gate. The imposing gate of Fort Santiago was decorated with the image of St. James, Slayer of Moors. St. James is the patron saint of Spain. According to the legend, he appeared as a warrior on his white horse with white banner to help the armies of King Ramiro I in his battle against the moors. St. James was known in Spain as Santiago Matamoros. The name of the fortress came from him.

The Martyrdom of Rizal by Carlos "Botong" Francisco.
2. The Painting on the Wall. The Martyrdom of Rizal was created by Botong Francisco, a National Artist of the Philippines for Visual Arts. Personally, I believe that Botong Francisco is one of the best Filipino painters who ever lived- alongside Fernando Amorsolo and Paeng Pacheco. Among his unforgettable works are The Blood Compact, First Mass at Limasawa, Bayanihan, Magpupukot, Fiesta, Bayanihan sa Bukid, Sandugo, Portrait of Purita, The Invasion of Limahong, Serenade and Muslim Betrothal.

Jose Rizal's prison cell. 
3. The Cell. From November 3 to December 29, 1896, Jose Rizal was detained as a prisoner in this very cell. He was falsely charged with rebellion, sedition and formation of illegal societies. His death was announced at 6:00am of December 29 and then was kept in an improvised chapel until his execution at 7:03am of December 30 at Bagumbayan, outside Intramuros. In the walls outside his actual prison cell, his words were carved in metal plates and were lit from the inside. One if it says, "To foretell the destiny of a nation, it is necessary to open the book that tells of her past."

The original copies of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo are exhibited in the Chamber of Text in Fort Santiago.
4. The Chamber of Text. The Rizal Shrine in Fort Santiago was divided into different parts with different interesting names such as Silid ng Pagninilay or Contemplation Room, Ang Piitan or The Cell, Silid ng Nalalabi or The Reliquary Room, Ang Tulaang Walang-Hanggan or The Valedictory Poem and Bulwagan ng Panulat or Chamber of Text. Among the divisions, the one that stood out the most for me is the Chamber of Text. In this chamber lie the various objects I only have read about from my books on Philippine history and Jose Rizal during high school and college! Among the objects that I saw were Jose Rizal's pictures, sculptured works, medical tools, the animal species he discovered and named after him, calling cards and most importantly, the original copies of his novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.

Jose Rizal's bone in an urn.
5. The Urn. Felice P. Sta. Maria's words were etched on the glass case protecting the glass urn located at the heart of the Reliquary Room. It says:

"After the execution, the name Rizal was not to be spoken. He was referred to safely as El Difunto (The Dead One). He has been abandoned directly in the soil. After the Philippines declared itself independent on June 12, 1898, it honored Rizal officially. Narcisa retrieved her brother’s remains and placed them in an ivory urn. A bone with a bullet wound was enshrined separately in a glass urn and is now a secular relic at Fort Santiago."

Jose Rizal's clothes.

6. The Last Vest. Some of Jose Rizal's clothes can be found in Reliquary Room in Fort Santiago. Looking at the size of the clothes, it can be said that he wasn't a tall man. He may have died 4'11" but many people from around the world, not only Filipinos, look up to him.

The actual written piece of untitled poem hidden inside the alcohol stove, not an alcohol lamp.

7. The Untitled Poem. Did you know that Mi Ultimo Adios is not the actual title of the poem of Jose Rizal hid inside an alcohol stove (not alcohol lamp)? In fact the poem was untitled, unsigned and undated. A copy of the news story taken from The Inquirer dated December 30, 2002 says:

"On the afternoon of Dec. 29, 1896, a day before his execution, Dr. Jose Rizal was visited by his mother, Teodora Alonzo, sisters Lucia, Josefa, Trinidad, Maria and Narcisa, and two nephews. When they took their leave, Rizal told Trinidad in English that there was something in the small alcohol stove (cocinilla), not alcohol lamp (lamparilla). The stove was given to Narcisa by the guard when the party was about to board their carriage in the courtyard. At home, the Rizal ladies recovered from the stove a folded paper. On it was written an unsigned, untitled and undated poem of 14 five-line stanzas. The Rizals reproduced copies of the poem and sent them to Rizal's friends in the country and abroad. In 1897, Mariano Ponce in Hong Kong had the poem printed with the title "Mi Ultimo Pensamiento." Fr. Mariano Dacanay, who received a copy of the poem while a prisoner in Bilibid(jail), published it in the first issue of La Independencia on Sept. 25, 1898 with the title "Ultimo Adios."

The final resting place of approximately 600 Filipinos and Americans who were victims of atrocities during the last days of February 1945.

8. The Cross of Memories. Approximately 600 Filipinos and Americans were brutally killed inside Fort Santiago during World War II. Their bodies were found inside a nearby dungeon which had inner doors of massive iron bars and outer doors of iron plate on wood. It is said that the appearances of their bodies suggested starvation and possible suffocation.

The dungeons of the Baluarte de Santa Barbara used to give an eerie feeling to every visitor who passes by it.
9. The Dungeons.This can be the dungeon that the inscription below the cross was referring to. These dungeons used to be storage vaults of the Baluarte de Santa Barbara. Because of the dampness caused by the humid weather and its nearness to the Pasig River, the Spaniards built a new powder magazine on top of the baluarte in 1715. From then on, the dungeons were turned into prison cells.

Jose Rizal's last footsteps.
10. The Trail. These were Rizal's last trail of foot steps leading to Bagumbayan, his place of execution.


  1. wow! nice post there buddy... one of the places i would want to visit if i get the chance...

  2. Salamat, Nice! This is just 10 of the many reasons to visit Intramuros. Hope you enjoy your next visit. :)

  3. Very nice blog, indeed. I had the chance to go to Lights and Sounds, and Fort Santiago for the first time last year(2012). It was an eye-opener, although I have read history books, it's still a different experience when you're there. We will be visiting Fort Santiago again tomorrow, August 1, 2013 - I can't wait.