History of Fort Santiago
The historical FORT SANTIAGO was built by the Spaniards in 1571 on the site of the settlement of Filipino Tribe Ruler Raja Soliman. It was one the oldest fort in the Philippines situated in the present Maynilad or Manila City. It was named after Saint James (Santiago in Spanish).
The original Fort was fenced with a structure of logs and earth during it’s early construction but Chinese pirate Limahong attacked and destroyed the Fort sometime in 1574. Between 1589 and 1592 the Fort was re-constructed and reinforced with the use of carved stones and mud cement. In 1645 a great earthquake destroyed most of the edifice but the Spaniards again repaired and restored the Fort in 1658 to 1663. During the British occupation of the country in 1762 to 1764, FORT SANTIAGO was used as their Headquarters. When the Americans conquered the City in 1778 they renovated Fort Santiago where it was converted as the U.S. Army Philippine Division COMMAND CENTER.
World War 2 occupation
When Japan occupied the Philippines in 1942 during World War 2, the Japanese Military used the Fort as their base where they imprisoned, tortured and executed hundreds of Filipino civilians and guerillas. The U.S. Liberation Forces came to Manila in 1945 and battled the Japanese, damaging the Fort severely. Later, it was used as a depot of the U.S. Transportation Corps. In 1946 the U.S. Military turned over Fort Santiago to the Philippine Government. Then the Philippine government formally declared the entire structure as a Shrine of Freedom in 1950. The commissioned National Park Development Committee restored the Fort in 1951. Finally, in 1992 the National Park Development Committee effected turn over of the Fort to the newly established Intramuros Administration.
Presently, local and foreign tourists tour around the historic walled City of Intramuros which include Fort Santiago. Educational field trips by the various primary schools around Metro Manila and the other provinces are being conducted regularly on the Fort as well the other sites of Intramuros and Luneta (Rizal) Park. The Santiago Fort was also the place where the Philippine National Hero, Jose Rizal, was imprisoned prior to his execution at Bagumbayan. His bone, with a bullet wound, was enshrined in a glass urn and placed in Fort Santiago as a secular relic sometime through the years. This has become one of the many historical items now displayed at the Fort’s museum.
Many other items during the Spanish Times are for viewing at the improved Fort, which included paintings done on Jose Rizal and the persons with him during his time as well as samples of the clothes and utensils used in those eras. The place has become a rich heritage of past for the Filipinos and a showcase of the country’s historical struggles before its real independence granted by the United States on July 4, 1946.
/// Written by Terry M. Puayap, The Philippines
Updated June 19th 2019