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History of the Walled City of Intramuros

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    INTRAMUROS For almost four centuries, the Walled City of Intramuros was the seat of Spanish colonial rule in the East and was the center of commerce, education, government and religion. With World War II, however, Intramuros lost its old grandeur and glory. The post-war years were witness to the gradual neglect of Intramuros. It became a den of squatters and warehouses. Cargo trucks passed through the old streets, parking their container vans at vacant lots. Weeds and other growth filled the cracks in the walls, leading to further deterioration.

    In 1951, Republic Act 597, declared Fort Santiago a national shrine and Intramuros as a historical monument. The law required the use of Spanish architectural designs for constructions in the city. Since there was neither criteria nor definition of what constitutes Spanish architecture, many of the structures built passed themselves off as “Spanish-style. ” Republic Act 1607 declared the Walled City a “commercial, residential and educational district”. This law opened Intramuros to all kinds of structures in complete disregard to historicity. It also ordered the widening of the streets for vehicles.

    Other laws saved Intramuros. PD 1277 and 1537 preserved the streets and the walls of Intramuros from destruction and instituted penalties for violations. In 1966, the Intramuros Restoration Committee (IRC) with Education Secretary Alejandro Roces as Chairman, was created under the aegis of the National Historical Commission. This group — initially tasked to restore the city — was composed of national and local officials with members from the private sector. With limited government funds and donations, the IRC managed to restore portions of the walls and fortifications, including six of the gates.

    The Armed Forces Ladies Committee donated funds for the restoration of sections of Fort Santiago. The government, however, was not satisfied with its restoration policies. In 1972, following a reorganization with the imposition of martial law, Marcos abolished the IRC and handed over the responsibility of restoring Intramuros Soon the need to have an agency to oversee the preservation, restoration and development of Intramuros, as well as to undertake zoning and urban planning to keep up with the ever-growing modernization of Manila became imperative.

    The Intramuros Administration was created by virtue of a Presidential Decree 1616 signed by President Marcos on 10 April 1979, amended by PD 1748 on 10 December 1980. The implementing rules and regulations governing the development of Intramuros were adopted and promulgated on 27 April 1981. The office on the 5th floor, Palacio del Gobernador near the majestic Manila Cathedral, was a brainchild of then Budget Minister Jaime C. Laya and NHI consultant Arch.

    Felix Emperial, Jr. It was initially placed under the Ministry of Human Settlements (MHS) supervised by then First Lady Imelda Marcos. Laya became IA’s first administrator. With him came the first policies of restoration, reconstruction, and urban planning of Intramuros. After Laya’s term followed that of businessmen Eustacio Orobia, Jr. and Jose Capistrano, Jr. , tourism expert Edda V. Henson, former Manila Councilor Atty. Karlo Butiong, and currently, Dominador Ferrer, Jr. once the IA business division chief. IA underwent a dramatic change after the People Power Revolution in 1986. Instead of abolishing IA, President Corazon Aquino retained the agency. With the change of government came a change of thrust. The control of IA was transferred from the defunct MHS to the Office of the President and, eventually, to the Department of Tourism. The Board of Administrators was recognized with the Secretary of Tourism as chairman.

    The members now included top officials from several government offices that address the environmental, political, infrastructure, and tourism concerns of Intramuros like the Department of Justice, Department of Public Works and Highways, the National Historical Institute and the Philippine Convention and Visitors Corporation. Recent years showed that IA has a major dual role to perform; restore Intramuros and promote it as a tourist destination. In so short a time Intramuros grew as a prime urban tour destination in the country. IA was attached to the Ministry of Human Settlements from 1979 to 1986.

    In 1987, it became an attached agency of the Department of Tourism as per Executive Order No. 120-A. The Administration has the following functions and powers: •Formulate, coordinate and/or execute policies on the implementation of all the programs, projects and activities of the Government affecting or relating to Intramuros; •Initiate, plan, undertake and supervise the restoration, upkeep and maintenance of the Intramuros Walls, including ravelins, moat, Sunken Garden and public places or areas, plazas, streets and other Government-owned or managed properties situated within Intramuros; Prepare, adopt, revise and enforce such rules and regulations, implementing guidelines and standards as are necessary for the effective regulation of the land use and development activities in Intramuros of both the Government and private entities and for the implementation of the Intramuros Plan, including but not limited to development rules and regulations pertaining to the following: •Land-use allocation, use of buildings, their right height, dimensions, architectural style and designs and other specifications of the building construction to be undertaken therein; •Traffic management, street usage and other related matters. Size and character of display signs, advertising billboards, and other external signs and advertisements in buildings, in open spaces, lots or roads; •Supervision and control of all activities involving archaeological diggings, excavations and exploration within Intramuros, including the use, disposition, registration and maintenance of archaeological findings and discoveries; •Expropriate properties within Intramuros; •Sponsor, conduct or otherwise assist and support festivals and cultural activities in Intramuros, and charge and collect admission fees to the restored Gates and other attractions operated by the Administration; Exercise all powers necessary or incidental to the attainment of the objectives of this Decree. On a whole, Intramurous is a pleasant historical place, it has its few disparities, like the outdated Kalesa’s that should be kept out of the main roads and used as a tourist attraction inside Fort Santiago away from cars, and the incongruity of the old and modern buildings. Probably, the IA should really stop to think whether or not they want to keep it as a historical site or turn it into a commercial, residential or governmental area. It destroys the beautiful old feel of the place, and its history may cease to exist.

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