Republic Act No. 597 was enacted to declare Fort Santiago as a national shrine to be known as “Shrine of Freedom” in memory of Rizal and a Legion of National Heroes and Martyrs who had been confined and lost their lives within the premises. I’m a sucker for historical sites like this so on April 9, 2015, when the country celebrated Araw ng Kagitingan, I brought my son to Fort Santiago, not because I wanted to teach him about the country’s history – he’ll have more time for those in school – but because I wanted to see my country’s history.
While the fort is part of Intramuros, I concentrated on the defense fortress because: (1) it was hot; and (2) it was very hot. Besides, I wanted to leave Intramuros for another day, a day when it isn’t too hot to be walking its roads and appreciating its structures. Fort Santiago was ideal for a half-day tour under the scorching heat of the sun. Adults pay Php75.00; children pay Php50.00; my son, being a mere two-year-old tike, went in for free. Pleasant greens in the middle of the premises greeted me, and the benches along the path would have been a welcome sight were it not for the heat. Statues of important historical figures, like GomBurZa, are erected in the garden, adding to the fort’s charm.
The arch entrance is probably the most photographed structure in the fort. The facade of the arch is adorned by the relief of Saint James the Great, the patron saint of Spain, hence, the name Fort Santiago. The intricate designs of the arch and the sheer oldness of it make this structure mesmerizing. The country’s national hero was imprisoned at the fort, and his footprints from where he was confined towards where he would be eventually executed were immortalized by metal plates. Inside the arch is a shrine dedicated to Rizal, a cross dedicated to all other martyrs, an amphitheater, and Pasig River.
I was transported back in time at least for a day. Which is why I so look forward to the day when I will tour Intramuros.