Manila Maps of Spanish Early Settlement: Intramuros – A Gridded Fortified Town

Manila Maps of Spanish Early Settlement: Intramuros – A Gridded Fortified Town
Early Development of Intramuros © 1978 in Colonial Manila : the context of Hispanic urbanism and process of morphogenesis by Robert R. Reed

 

Early Development of Intramuros © 1978 in Colonial Manila : the context of Hispanic urbanism and process of morphogenesis by Robert R. Reed
Early Development of Intramuros © 1978 in Colonial Manila : the context of Hispanic urbanism and process of morphogenesis by Robert R. Reed
Historic Map of Manila©1650, as reprinted in Maps and Views of Old Manila by Carlos Quirino
Historic Map of Manila©1650, as reprinted in Maps and Views of Old Manila by Carlos Quirino

The Americans started ruling Manila from 1898. And before then it was the Spanish who had governed the place from 1571 to 1898. It is important to understand the pre-American colonial period city planning in Manila as a background of Daniel Burnham’s scheme since the latter made many decisions based on the original conditions. Here the series of maps show the Spanish early settlement. The incremental changes reveal the strategy of a fortified town that physically provides protection from outside interference and symbolically signifies the seemingly enduring colonial power.

First what appeared on the map was the imposed grid featuring a cathedral with a plaza, which immediately created a sense of control and divinity that the Spanish intended to build up. From 1576 to 1650, it can be seen that a complete system of fortification which frames the intramuros – the inner city had been gradually established. There is the continuous wall system that surrounds the intramuros, the moat system that further defends the protective walls and finally the forts which was initially made of wood and later changed to stone due to its fire-resistance. Only Spaniards were allowed to live in the intramuros and all the civic services including government buildings, hospitals, schools and churches were all built within the wall.  There was a strong segregation of ethnic groups within the colonial society.

It is interesting to see that in the detailed map of 1650, all these institutional and religious buildings were built near the periphery instead of a centralized position. One clue may be drawn from is the Colonial Town Planning Ordinance by Philip II in 1573, in which it required that the main church be situated in a way that is “visible from the landing place so that its structure may serve as means of defense”, and that the purpose of settlement is to “teach them to live in a civilized way” and “to know God and His Law”(PhilipII, 1573).  Therefore the peripheral locational meanings could be twofold. It served firstly as a physical defense and secondly a propaganda device to impress and “civilize” the natives, both of which reflects the identity of the colonial capital as an exclusive and highly enclosed fortified town radiating out power and control in the Spanish period.

 

PhilipII (1573) ‘Prescriptions for the Foundation of Hispanic Colonial Towns’, in Reed, R.R. (ed.) Colonial Manila: The context of Hispanic urbanism and process of morphogenesis: University of California Press.

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