Intramuros of Lost Memory

There are those who say that Intramuros should be preserved because of its sheer historical importance:  for hundreds of years before 1571 it was the site of the flourishing settlement of “Maynilad” ruled by the Tagalog rajahs of ancient Malay history; from 1571 – 1898 it was Manila, the colonial capital of “Las Islas Filipinas” and the seat of the Spanish Empire as well as of the Roman Catholic Church in the Far East; from 1898 – 1941 it was part of the rapidly expanding American colonial city of Manila, which at that time was one of the most progressive and beautiful cities in Asia when Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bangkok were mere towns and backward settlements.  Filipino History happened in Intramuros, as simple as that; one wonders why some intellectually-challenged quarters of Filipino Society have such difficulty understanding that fact.

There are those who say that the dead Walled City of Intramuros is a useless remnant of Spanish colonial oppression, that the resources of the nation can be directed towards more productive economic activities that will benefit a larger percentage of the Filipino people.  Yes of course, productive economic activities that benefit our admirable, truly hardworking, and frugal government officials and politicians. 

Then there are the local politicians who want to conserve and increase the ranks of the “informal settlers” [ one of those odd new “politically-correct” terms; the term is more incorrect than the former “squatters” because it reduces our less fortunate brothers to something akin to supernatural elementals or even extraterrestrials ] in the area because of the sheer number of their votes come election time.

It is during “pointless” cultural debates like these that I frankly miss the Marcos Era.  During that time, what President Ferdinand Marcos and Madame Imelda Romualdez-Marcos wanted just happened.  Period.

If one opposed them, he just “disappeared” from the face of the world.

To quote a disco song from the 1970s:  “That’s the way uhuh uhuh I like it!!!  Uhuh uhuh!!!  That’s the way uhuh uhuh I like it!!!”

One has to take a stand on things.  This is mine.



  1. bererer said,

    September 15, 2009 at 9:55 am

    its amazing thats all what i can say!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. March 1, 2009 at 3:01 am

    Jaime T.:


    I’ve seen that. I guess it is part of the “globalization” of Filipino culture. Truly regrettable.

    Toto Gonzalez

  3. Jaime T. said,

    February 28, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Do you guys realize that Juan de la Cruz no longer exists among the masa? I saw a billboard for a credit card (or something like that) and the name on the card was JOHN de la Cruz. I guess it could have been worse, at least it wasn’t JHON de la Cruz.

    I was but a child during the Marcos era but my vague memories of Manila then were of a city much less vulgar and a little more elegant than what I see around me today.

    I suppose the tackiness was around then but it sure wasn’t as in my face as it is today.

  4. October 8, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    I miss Intramuros. I’m in the baptism records of the Manila Cathedral. My little solemn little place in the world.

    Has anybody been to the upstairs museum of the Augustinians in adjacent San Agustin Church? Somebody needs to temperature-control the place. Most of the books and artificats are obviously rotting in the fierce tropical climate.

    And can anbody provide updates on the San Ignacio? I heard it will be resurrected once more. The Jesuit influence is truly far and wide much like the Opus Dei.

  5. liding said,

    October 5, 2008 at 5:32 am

    the chito madrigal clan is hot news these days in this website. very interesting anecdotes. meldy c. seems to have gone in our radar. how is she nowadays? i haven’t seen her lately.

  6. periphery said,

    October 4, 2008 at 5:43 am

    I’m with GI on this one. The congestion and pollution are bad enough in Makati and San Juan. Last time I was back home, I could barely see Magallanes from Pacific Plaza, and from a condo high above Greenhills, the towers in (what I think is called) Ortigas Center were shrouded in smog. I shudder to think what it would be like in Quiapo.

  7. Garganta Inflamada said,

    October 3, 2008 at 5:28 am


    Yeah, I know Carlos Celdran also conducts his tours there and of course, the likes of Bea Zobel visit as “fashionable” au courante aesthetes.

    But no thanks. Next time I’m in the RP, you’ll have to pay me to go visit Quiapo. Not worth my time nor my lungs. And my interest isn’t that great.

    Just being honest.


  8. ynchaustti said,

    October 1, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Garganta Inflamada,

    “Maybe that Paterno mansion should be transferred to Intramuros where it has a better chance of being restored, treasured, visited and appreciated. Who really goes to Quiapo to view historic things? Nadie.”

    You’ll be surprised who goes to Quiapo to view what was once an elegant district. Some groups conduct tours of the area. Even Europeans find the surviving colonial architecture beautiful and unique. Prof. Fernando “Butch” Nakpil Zialcita has one of the most well-preserved ancestral houses in Manila and it is located in Quiapo. He also conducts a tour of the place and campaigns for its rehabilitation. Ms. Harper and group including a Paterno descendant also went on a tour of the Quiapo district. So did Ms. Bea Zobel.

    So there you have it as to a “who’s who,” making your statement inaccurate. Maybe you should join a group tour or see the place for yourself. There are several persons who give tours of the various places in Manila like Carlos Celdran, Prof. Fernando Zialcita, and Ivan Man Dy.

  9. ojhofer said,

    October 1, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    i remember you toto, my sweet tooth does not easily forget 🙂 i love your blog, its elegance, its tone, its comments. i hope you don’t mind that in my blog ( I placed you in my favorite blogs list. hope to see you next time i’m in manila.

    abc, i understand, i shouldn’t even be complaining because “the moment we are enlightened within, we go beyond the voidness of a world confronting us.”

  10. abc said,

    October 1, 2008 at 6:06 am


    It’s a matter of standard. For foreigners, Shangrila is nothing to Ritz Carlton. And don’t ever forget — “money talks”.

  11. October 1, 2008 at 2:00 am


    Hi there!!! Glad to see you here!!!

    We met at Toti Villalon’s birthday party at Albert Avellana’s Gallery last year.

    Toto Gonzalez

  12. IslaSanLuisParis said,

    September 30, 2008 at 8:49 pm


    I’m a conservative investor so I’ve stayed clear of the stock market for a few years, but you’ve put an idea in my mind. Gracias. I would have thought that any stocks connected to oil are a good investment, especially now when there are a lot of bargains around, so Schlumberger sounds good but I’d also look very closely at PPR, LVMH and Richemont.

    Zippo, you’re absolutely right about dressing according to the occasion. I don’t know how old your daughter is but fortunately my young nephew knows that when we go to Mass, even in the summer, he has to wear long trousers.

    My dear Isis, I wish I’d be at liberty to tell you who impressed me that much in Pi.

  13. zippo said,

    September 30, 2008 at 4:00 pm


    I had a really heated argument with my daughter 2 years ago. I noticed that she was about to wear Havaianas to go to mass. I insisted that she change into shoes. I told her I couldn’t care less if her flip flops cost more than her shoes. I told her that as long as she was a minor under my control, she simply cannot wear chinelas except inside the house or when she’s in the beach.

  14. ojhofer said,

    September 30, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    “If there was anything that surprised me unfavourably the last time I was in Manila, it’s the disrespectful attitude of many tourists in your grandest hotels wearing shorts and ‘T’ shirts in the public areas while Manileños and their guests, properly and elegantly dressed, would be having tea or cocktails.”

    i will be asking my friend dorla to bring me to intramuros the next time i’m in manila; sadly, i’ve never been there. much more sad is the fact that even at makati shang where they are trying to introduce high tea to the fashionable crowd, hotel guests line the elevated part of the lobby lounge in shorts and flip flops. indeed, the elegant filipinos would be properly dressed while the foreign hotel guests would be in rudely attired.

  15. Isis said,

    September 30, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Dearest IslaSLP,
    “…I noticed that there is still a very genteel way of life down to the little details of how a bell is properly rung at table…” What? Where? Who? I haven’t seen this since my grandparents passed away! Point me the way as I am hungry for the grace of ‘yesterday’!

  16. Garganta Inflamada said,

    September 30, 2008 at 6:15 am


    Merci beaucoup for the update, even the slightest, on Sao — but I do know she kicked the bucket last year. I do love her name and that tres, tres chic pied-a-terre of hers in Paris.

    The Schlumberger stocks — as are hundreds of others — are down. I was thinking of buying a few. Whaddya think?


  17. IslaSanLuisParis said,

    September 29, 2008 at 11:24 pm


    I’m sorry to report that, alas, last year Sao Schlumberger popped her Christian Lacroix socks and is no longer with us. Even though I didn’t know her, we did have a friend in common with whom I hope to have lunch soon, if she’s still alive by that time, and if I have any tidbits I’ll let you know.

    On another note, Ramón, perhaps you’re being too critical of the Philippines as far as tourism is concerned. I sincerely don’t see the difference between other countries with a very rich heritage, in this case Spanish, I’ve visited. For better or for worse the malls and KFC’s are all over the place but you also have gems like San Agustín’s Church and perhaps the finest beaches in the world, not to mention the kindest people in Southeast Asia. Furthermore, when visiting some Filipino homes, being a natural observer, I noticed that there is still a very genteel way of life down to the little details of how a bell is properly rung at table, something rarely seen outside the homes of the grandest families in Spain and Latin America.

    If there was anything that surprised me unfavourably the last time I was in Manila, it’s the disrespectful attitude of many tourists in your grandest hotels wearing shorts and ‘T’ shirts in the public areas while Manileños and their guests, properly and elegantly dressed, would be having tea or cocktails.

  18. Garganta Inflamada said,

    September 29, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Maybe that Paterno mansion should be transferred to Intramuros where it has a better chance of being restored, treasured, visited and appreciated. Who really goes to Quiapo to view historic things? Nadie.

  19. September 29, 2008 at 4:56 pm


    Thank you for the kind words of appreciation about this blog.

    As they say in Latin: “Sic transit gloria mundi.”

    Sad. The Paterno mansion along R. Hidalgo Street in Quiapo is high on my list as one of the most beautiful classical Filipino houses ever.

    Toto Gonzalez

  20. ynchaustti said,

    September 29, 2008 at 7:29 am


    I heard from the grapevine, that there’s a family dispute on the old Paterno mansion in Quiapo. Must be on inheritance. I got to talk too to a daughter of T*ng P*terno who happens to be, ironically a conservator (more on structure conservation i.e. stones etc.) but she practices in the US. But she doesn’t seem to know about her ancestor’s mansion or if even if she’s related to them. She told me she has to ask her father about it.

    The Paterno mansion is in a sad state. The piedra china that paved the courtyard are all gone (it was still there a few years ago). One of the huge doors is unhinged, adobe at the back of the house is crumbling and some of the black and white tiled floor are cracked (probably made of marble). This is, as far as I know, one of the few houses from the Spanish colonial period to survive, that has a courtyard.

    Thanks for the info Toto and I really, really like you blog. Great blog.


  21. +YouthLeader said,

    September 29, 2008 at 6:48 am

    i wish that all the informal settlers be settled somewhere else and all streets be will lit….imagine the ugliness infront of NCCA…..

  22. Garganta Inflamada said,

    September 28, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Anything on Sao Schlumberger? We haven’t discussed anything on my friend Sao. I know we’ve discussed Lily (Safra) but not Sao…

    Sao, anyone?

  23. September 28, 2008 at 4:00 am


    It’s all proudly termed as “Globalization” here in the Philippines!!!


    Toto Gonzalez

  24. Ramon Lagtapon said,

    September 27, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    “For some reason, a majority of Filipinos have very little interest in our heritage whether it is built / man-made or natural. This goes with our history and culture. Add to that, a poor taste in aesthetics.”

    I agree, and I wonder why it has turned out that way? Growing up in the Philippines till I was 13, I didn’t notice it that much. But when I moved to the U.S. and started traveling and living for a time in Europe, I started to notice how most modern-day Filipinos have lost their elegant ways and neglected our rich cultural heritage. It’s as if people back home have become…shallow.

    Everyone, it seems, is into shopping malls, R&B and rap music, casual clothes, Hollywood, and variety shows on TV. And if you show a preference for High Culture, you’re suddenly an “elitist”? How silly! Even in Church, what’s with the drab vestments, ugly and modernized altars, and guitar music? Where’s the pipe organ and choral hymns in Latin?

    No wonder the Philippines doesn’t get as much foreign tourists as its Southeast Asian neighbors. Who would want to spend $$$ on airfare just to see concrete urban strip-malls and McDonalds? Is there any way to stop this trend?

  25. September 27, 2008 at 3:49 pm


    According to a Madrigal-Paterno granddaughter, the Paterno mansion in Quiapo “is owned by a very rich aunt, Tita ****** ******. She is really loaded!!! The house is just not a priority for her, that’s all.” That, coming from someone who is very rich herself. It turns out then that the Paterno mansion in Quiapo is a very rare exception to the usual impoverished situation of the owners of ancestral houses: The Owner has the financial resources, She’s just not interested in restoring / conserving the beautiful Neoclassical house.

    I just liked the dispatch with which things were accomplished during the Marcos Era. They actually happened, which was very important. I haven’t seen anything culturally significant happen since those times. Just some ugly new “monuments” which don’t make the mark…

    I cannot say that I admire Everything about the Marcos Era. As with so many Filipinos, those were also difficult years for my family. If at all, my family lost a considerable amount of money — just one among several instances during those difficult times — because of the “Panic Sale” of the then newly-built “Palacio del Gobernador” to a Chinese developer with close connections to The Palace; my family and the other shareholders of “Lumang Bayan Realty” were advised by their lawyers to divest themselves of the building ASAP as The First Lady Madame Imelda Romualdez-Marcos “had her eye on it,” or her cohorts had their eyes on it, whatever. The Intramuros Administration was being established and it was considered an eyesore [ well, it really was, and still is; but what was the definition of an “architectural eyesore” in Intramuros before the IA came along??? 😛 ]. In concrete terms, we owned several floors of that building, representing a considerable amount in “Land Bonds” “paid” to us for the rice “haciendas” in Nueva Ecija during the 1972 Agrarian Reform. But I do agree, the new building should have been modeled after the original pre-1863 “Palacio del Gobernador” and they should not have built that humongous 1970s Spanish colonial pastiche standing there now. Really somewhat hideous. Well, my antecedents really didn’t have much taste, just the pockets. 😛

    Yes, Mrs. Ana Maria “Bambi” Lammoglia-Harper is a most competent Head of the Intramuros Administration. Aside from her own cultural credentials, she has the support of the Powers that Be and also that of the influential Manila culturati. She is the most qualified person to have been appointed to the position since Mr. Jaime C. Laya; the IA may just experience a renaissance under her leadership. She is a pragmatic lady, after all, She is the younger sister of the formidable Marie Theresa “Bebe” Lammoglia-Virata, one of my all-time favorite ladies.

    About “poor taste in aesthetics”: In general, We Filipinos like to replace beautiful old things with ugly new things. It is advantageous for antique dealers and collectors on one hand and for Chinese retailers and Juan de la Cruz on the other. Everybody is happy!!! 😛

    Toto Gonzalez

  26. ynchaustti said,

    September 26, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Good point! For some reason, old families ( rich and formerly rich ) have abandoned their ancestral houses. A good example is the Paterno mansion in Quiapo. Intramuros after the war, still had some structures worth preserving but those which could have served as a memorial or peace monument were demolished. No president ( Postwar ) has done as much conservation work on Intramuros except former President Marcos ( although I’m not a fan ). It is to his credit that Intramuros was revived and even partially rebuilt. Both he and the former First Lady Imelda Marcos knew the importance of history and culture. In addition, Mr. Jaime Laya was probably the best head / administrator ( and was the most enlightened ) of the Intramuros Administration which was created during the Marcos administration. Fortunately, today we have Ms. Bambi Harper, a passionate heritage advocate ( and very knowledgeable too ), to head this office.

    For some reason, a majority of Filipinos have very little interest in our heritage whether it is built / man-made or natural. This goes with our history and culture. Add to that, a poor taste in aesthetics.

  27. Garganta Inflamada said,

    September 26, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    I think they should just Intramuros into another Disneyland-Manila.

    May walls na; tapos!!

  28. Leo said,

    September 25, 2008 at 5:19 am

    Your site is consistently interesting, rich with heritage and cultural discussion.
    While I’m an active proponent of proactive change, I stick firmly that we need to learn from the lessons of the past – what works and is worth preserving and celebrating.
    I appreciate especially your family histories – these things are important and need to be documented. And you do it with nuanced wit!
    Thank you for all your diligent work and your unique voice.

  29. September 24, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    My favorite memory of Intramuros was when I was STYLE DIRECTOR of Metro Magazine under THELMA SAN JUAN. We were shooting bridal gowns by INNO, AUGGIE and JOE Salazar. I had poor Apples Aberin and Joyce Orena do fantastic dramatic DOVIMA poses in those glorious ruins. The gowns’ designs were Proustian and romantic turn-of-the-last century. Lots of guipure lace and Duchesse satin.

    It was shot by Raymond Isaac in the pink and golden light of a fading summer. It was windy and the shoot took the whole day. But the memory of the grand if ruined architecture was rather LOVELY. Sad the keepers of that WALLED CITY aren’t up to snuff.

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