Of conquistadores and libertadores: the case of Intramuros monuments

City of Manila

The southwestern portion of the area outside the walls of Intramuros is a curious sight to say the least, for the presence of a hodge-podge of monuments which have little to do with each other nor do have any commonalities with a single aspect of Philippine history…if any.

I have blogged about some of these monuments before: the Ninoy-Cory monuments and the Cardinal Sin one located near the corner of Padre Burgos and Bonifacio Drive, which are part of that particular monument complex. A bit farther is the most imposing of all the monuments in the area, and also the oldest in existence. This is the Legazpi-Urdaneta monument erected in memory of the conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and the Augustinian priest Fray Andres de Urdaneta who were instrumental in bringing the Philippines under Spanish rule in 1565.

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The monument was originally built in Spain in 1891, but as it was making its way to the country for its unveiling, the Philippine Revolution broke out. So it had to be kept for the meantime in storage until it was erected in its present site at the turn of the century by the Americans.

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a detail of the Legazpi-Urdaneta monument. note the figure’s fingers have now been cut off, a victim of recent vandalism

The monument has figured itself in the news recently because of the spate of vandalism it has experienced, a sad note as to how heritage and art is not as much appreciated as it should be.

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A few steps onward, one comes to see two monument busts placed across each other. Interestingly, these figures have no actual connection to Philippine history whatsoever, save perhaps that their countries were once Spanish colonies like the Philippines. One of the busts is that of Jose Marti, Cuba’s national hero, who led the struggle of his country against Spanish rule in 1895. In turn, Cuba’s revolution was an inspiration for the revolution to break out in the Philippines one year later.

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On the opposite end is the bust of General Jose de San Martin, the hero of Argentina, Chile, and Peru who led the liberation of these countries from Spanish rule during the early 19th century.

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As interesting as some of these monuments are, one cannot help but think that there seems to be a lacking in some semblance of order or conformity to the character of a district as unique and historic as Intramuros. Then again, maybe it’s just yet another visual representation of the fondness in this country for “halo-halo,” as Filipinos mix and blend different aspects of culture with one another to become something different, out of this world perhaps, but undeniably Filipino.

© The Urban Roamer

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