The good old ghost hunting is one of the most prevalent Filipino practices during October. It has undeniably become a part of the so-called Halloween season, a social construct built to provide the people with thrill. A guided tour group, WanderManila crafted One Night in Intramuros, a Halloween experience that aims to revisit the ghosts of the past by revealing secrets and retelling stories of the Walled City’s dark history. The Halloween tour was launched in October 2019 and will be continued virtually this year.
Head tour guide Benjamin Canapi shared that WanderManila will be virtually visiting five iconic Intramuros landmarks this year. Two of which are Intramuros’ churches, Manila Cathedral and the UNESCO heritage Baroque church San Agustin. Famous tourist attractions within the city such as Fort Santiago and Plaza San Luis also made it to the list, along with the neoclassical and then government building Aduana/Intendencia. “It is one thing to know these buildings and structures exist,” says Canapi, but “learning about their history and getting to know the stories attached to them gives them more depth and renews the interest of the public in them.” The five structures all have historical significance coupled with them, some of which are already written in historical accounts.
Probably the most prominent attraction in Intramuros, Fort Santiago was built in 1593 by Spanish governor Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and designed by Gomez Perez Dasmarinas. It is a symbolic site for the establishment of Manila City and is recognized as Intramuros’ citadel. This place holds many historical memories, including the loss of many lives during the Spanish Empire. The fort was also used to house hallowed prison dungeons and once heard and witnessed the loud and silent cries of tortured and executed prisoners during World War II, one thing that will most likely be tackled during the virtual Halloween tour.
Fort Santiago is designated as a National Historical Landmark, a structural memorabilia that recalls the final walk of National Hero Jose Rizal before his execution. His footsteps are marked with brass cutting up to this day. There are several stories that say that Rizal’s soul still lingers within his former prison cell and in many areas around it, while others claim to have heard footsteps following his track. While the hearsays are centered around Rizal’s apparitions, many stories consist of noises in the torture dungeon and the many souls that may still be trapped within the area.
Just a few meters away from Fort Santiago, the Manila Cathedral is one of the renowned churches in the Philippines. Also known as the Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, it serves as the episcopal seat of the Archbishop of Manila. The cathedral’s neo-romanesque structure is seen from Plaza de Roma, reminiscent of the columns designed by architect Fernando H. Ocampo, Sr. It was retrofitted in 2012 and was reopened to the general public in 2014.
The Manila Cathedral is considered both sacred and historical, with many eucharistic events celebrated within its vicinity. It is the resting place of former archbishops and cardinals of Manila such as Gabriel M. Reyes and Rufino J. Cardinal Santos. There is, however, a popular urban legend about the cathedral, which says that couples who wed here usually end up in a failed marriage.
San Agustin Church
Another church within the walls, the UNESCO heritage Baroque San Agustin Church is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. It is recognized as the oldest stone church in the country and was designed by Juan Macias. Completed in 1607, the structure is patterned after Mexican temples built by the Augustinians. It is highlighted by striking chandeliers, the grand pipe organ, and its symmetrical interiors. Witness to the tortures and murders during the Battle of Manila, this church will probably be one of the most thrilling destinations during the Halloween tour.
Still standing strong after all these years, the San Agustin Church has had its fair share of haunted stories. The site has a crypt within its premises, with Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Juan Luna laid to rest there. A famous story centers on the anteroom of the church’s choir loft, which is said to have served as a mortuary for Vicente Sepulveda, a fray murdered in the 1600s. It is said that the murderers were hanged to death within the walls of the monastery.
Plaza San Luis
The Plaza San Luis Complex is one of the most picturesque attractions inside Intramuros. It is a remembrance of Filipino-Spanish architecture, with five different replicas of Old Manila houses.These different casas hold various spaces including restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, a museum, and a hotel. Situated next to San Agustin Church, the plaza reminisces to the time when Ilustrados were free to roam around Manila.
It is interesting how Plaza San Luis made it to WanderManila’s list of “haunted” spaces in Intramuros, as no other stories about this circulate except that the Casa Manila museum somewhat sends shivers during the night. Canapi then revealed that before the construction of the plaza, a boarded up well was found. What was inside it is only one of the many dark secrets that will be revealed during the virtual Halloween tour.
Aduana Building or La Intendencia
Made of adobe stones, the Aduana Building at Soriano Avenue is a noticeable structure at the corner of Muralla street. The site used to exist side by side with Santo Domingo Church, and is known to have housed several government offices through the years. It was originally completed in 1829 to attract merchants within the walls. Designed by Spanish engineer Tomas Cortes, the two-story structure follows the neoclassical tradition and is elaborated with geometrical and ornate grillework.
The Intendencia suffered damages during the second World War, with the Japanese bombings in 1941 and the American and Filipino artillery during the Battle of Manila in 1945. It was completely abandoned in 1979 after a ravaging fire. Restoration efforts have already commenced as of writing. Locals claim that this is the most haunted building inside the Walled City, with hearsays about entities and shadows lurking inside.
Would you know of other urban legends and dark stories about Intramuros? Let us know in the comments!