José Rizal, considered a national hero in the Philippines, was imprisoned at Fort Santiago before his execution in 1896, as were countless others. It played a role in the city’s penal and defense system all the way up to World War II, and has been occupied by: the Spanish, free Filipinos, the US (the Stars and Stripes were raised there in 1898), and the Japanese Imperial Army.
Today, this beautiful, 16th century structure is home to a shrine dedicated to Rizal, which includes an eerie set of footprints painted onto the street outlining the great man’s final steps as he was led to his death. That said, it’s not a particularly macabre destination, despite its long and sordid history. It is frequented by both foreign visitors and locals seeking a pleasant afternoon of leisure with family and friends. While there, be sure to check out the Intramuros Visitors Center, which gives an overview of the various other attractions in the district.
Fort Santiago is ideal for picnics and scenic walks, and there are even open-air theater performances (some of the best that the city has to offer, in fact). The extensive military history and impressive architecture make it an absolute must for visitors to the city, so be sure to include it on your agenda. Plan at least a few hours to explore the grounds and soak up the long history of the place. It is located on Santa Clara Street along the Pasig River. Admission is 65 PHP for adults, and 50 PHP for children. The hours of operation are 8am to 6pm daily.
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