A Walk Back In Time: A Celebration of Life Within the Walls

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The hidden part in us. The seed of our stories. Intramuros. The buried treasure in our hearts.

Deep down we connect with Intramuros amidst the hustle and bustle of urban living, although unknowingly. Often only visited by the apprentices of Philippine history, the Walled City has withstood the bombings of time to continue to fortress more generations of live experiences – including the generation in which we live today. It is not a distant past but a humble source of strength. It constitutes our days, unknowingly; completes our identity, unconsciously. It’s not a mere remnant of history. It is alive and standing tall. The abode of Philippine history, the living culture of the Filipino, the living walls; that is Intramuros.

Intramuros, or within the walls, was the center for trade of Asian goods before the coming of the Spaniards. It was the native settlement of Maynilad. When it was conquered by the Spaniards, high walls, bulwarks, and moats had to be constructed as defenses against foreign intruders. The walls stretched 4.5 kilometers in length, with an area of 64 hectares wherein residences, churches, palaces, schools, and government buildings reside. It became the political, cultural, educational, religious, and commercial center of Spain’s empire in the East. It was a destination of the famed Acapulco galleons.

But as a result of the Treaty of Paris, the Philippines was ceded to the United States, ending the Spanish colonial era. The Japanese occupied the Philippines at the outbreak of the World War II, which proved the end for Intramuros. During the battle in 1945, American forces shelled Intramuros where hundreds of Japanese held out in a last-ditch stand. Thousands died. Practically, the whole of Intramuros was leveled to the ground except San Agustin Church, and most importantly the walls that are Intramuros.

A ruined city lay at the feet of a modernizing metropolis through the years. Efforts to restore Intramuros was sporadic. In 1979, a presidential decree created the Intramuros Administration to restore the walled city as a historic site and major tourism attraction.

Today, its illustrious past and historical values in harmony with the deep, humble touch of culture and arts make the Walled City a heritage site that speak in crisp pictures of the totality of the Filipino character. A walk through the City is enlivened by the nostalgic sites of the Plaza San Ignacio, Dr. Jose Rizal Shrine Fort Santiago, Manila Cathedral, San Agustin Church and Museum (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Colegio de Sta Rosa, Ayuntamiento, Bahay Tsinoy, Plaza de Roma, Hidalgo Monument, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, Aduana, Revellin del Parian, Reducto de San Pedro, Manila Bulletin, and Almacenes Ruins among others.

Artistic activities enrich the Intramuros experience just as well. As a celebration of the grandeur these walls speak, the Department of Tourism, headed by Secretary Ace Durano, will launch A Walk Back In Time: The Intramuros Theater-in-the-Round Experience on November 17 to December 23 at the Plaza San Ignacio. This is a series of multi-performance events highlighting life in the Philippine Colonial Period within the Walled City. Various themed activities revolve around the theater play, presented by Tanghalang Pilipino, which presents aspects of colonial culture – trade, education, belief systems, religion, and courtship rituals among others. The theater-in-the-round concept allows visitors to walk into the play and be part of the play itself. The festivity will showcase a band parade, a lantern festival, and a food festival that highlight cuisine from neighboring trade cultures that mattered during the Spanish colonial period: Chinese, India, Malay, Filipino and Spanish. In and around these rich artistic activities is an uplifting feel of theatrical Intramuros. Theatre will transcend through the Walls.

Secretary Ace Durano mindfully chose personalities whose spirits are moved by the inspiration Intramuros brings forth to spearhead the initiative. Spearheading this endeavor is Jeannie E. Javelosa, the DOT Artistic Consultant, and also a member of the National Commission for Culture and the Art’s Committee on Special Events and Information Dissemination. Rody Vera, the script writer has won Palanca Awards for Kung Paano ko Pinatay si Diana Ross, Balanggiga, and Luna: Isang Romansang Aswang. The theater show will be helmed by esteemed theater director Chris Millado, on one hand, won the 2003 Aliw Best Stage Director and is the CCP Performing Arts Department Head. Tanghalang Pilipino outgoing Artistic Director, Herbie Go and incoming Artistic Director Dennis Marasigan heads a whole group of talented actors. The movers of this project have the spirit to appreciate the depth of history and culture behind the Walled City.

A Walk Back In Time will give the visitors, not only a wealth of knowledge about history, but a fulfillment of having been touched by the living culture of theater, dance, music, entertainment, and cuisine all shared within the heritage of the Walls. Secretary Durano said, “Through the lenses of history, we see that our forefathers and ancestors have fought for, built, taken in from foreign influences, and continued to form a fusion culture that is what Philippine culture is about today.” Seeking to blend history, culture, and tourism, the artful experience will cut through borders, heighten awareness, and widen interest in the bedrock of the Filipino character.

“Intramuros is the primary historical enclave and site that is in Metro Manila. It is the first place we bring our foreign guests when they fly into Manila, to experience a historic place within a cultural heritage site. We have chosen to highlight Intramuros due to its historicity. In a world of globalization, countries are all striving to get to that international level. However, we must remember that what sets us apart is our culture. This culture is what we have to carry with us, present to the world and be proud of. Intramuros is an aspect of our cultural past that can be made relevant through cultural tourism initiatives, such as this A Walk Back In Time, a theater-in-the-round experience. The venue itself is key as it is a heritage site,” said Ms. Javelosa. In an era where individuals across borders find comfort in sameness, the call of culture sketching distinctions resounds. The Filipino culture positions itself as the mark of uniqueness in a blur of similarities.

Apart from a strengthened sense of history and culture, A Walk Back in Time also results in the promotion of the interest in theatre as it stages the vivid talents of Filipino artists. With the massive impact of popular culture, DOT offers a breather through the sensibilities of history, culture, and the arts. Furthermore, so that the effects of the event may not be muted in time, A Walk Back in Time takes a definite stand by broadening its impact through the production of educational DVDs thereby giving justice and gratitude to the Walls that have lived through generations.

For years the walls have stood, to fend off invasion and preserve the life that was Manila. After centuries, the walls now beckon to us, to see the life and culture within, to tell the stories of our fathers and our father’s fathers, the story that is the Filipino. Once held within and kept from the world, the hidden treasure is tapped and freed. Revisit. Reconnect. Take a walk back in time. Celebrate life within the walls.

A Walk Back in Time: The Intramuros Theater-in-the-Round begins on November 17 and will run every Friday and Saturday, 6-11PM at the Plaza San Ignacio in Intramuros, Manila.. The theater show runs twice nightly, at 8 and 9 PM. Band performances begin at 10PM. The event is open to the public. Admission is free. For more details, please contact Media Meter at 9293238 loc 108 or visit our weblog at http://awalkbackintime.multiply.com

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