By JAMIE LAYA
Work began with the establishment of long-term goals: Conservation of the fortifications and plazas, the establishment of museums, organization of cultural activities, formulation of architectural guidelines for new construction, and encouragement of business activity.
First on the agenda was completing work on moats, bridges, and structures uncovered by the AFP engineering battalions who, after all, were more used to projects like digging trenches, building barracks, and clearing jungles—not delicate archaeological excavations.
Puerta Isabel II chambers were refurbished and became IA’s (airless) office and exhibition space. The research was undertaken under Esperanza B. Gatbonton and Fr. Luis Merino, OSA. Their findings guided the restoration and led to a series of publications. Initial restoration projects were directed by Esperanza and Felix Imperial, Jr . including:
• Reconstruction of Fort Santiago’s gate. It had been truncated by World War II and the top half is a reproduction, featuring the wood relieve of Santiago Matamoros, sculpted by the young Wilfredo “Willy” Layug, famous Pampango sculptor
•Conservation of baluartillos, one of which (San Miguel) was made into a chapel
•Closure of Baluarte de la Plana that had been cut open to connect Anda Street and Bonifacio Drive
•Rebuilding of Puerta Sta. Lucia using the traditional arch-and-keystone method. The gate survived World War II intact but was blasted wide afterward by the American military
•Consolidation of the stones of Baluarte San Diego and reconstruction of the garita (sentry house) at its tip
•Rehabilitation of Puerta Real to make it suitable for cultural performances
• Restoration of Baluarte de Dilao and the adjoining curtain wall that were largely pulverized in 1945 and cannibalized afterward; and
•Restoration of Puerta del Parian’ s moat, bridge, and revellin. The area was a pos t – war Smokey Mountain and thousands of tons of debris were trucked away.
The revellin (built after the British Occupation) had been heavily damaged in 1945 and remains of its small 17th century W-shaped predecessor were discovered during the restoration.
Among IA’s ideas was to have a group of structures that would be an “old town” with a house museum, cafés, restaurants , and shops selling handicraft items. T h e house museum would exhibit furniture and furnishings like an Intramuros home lived in till the 1920s. The ideal location was by San Agustin Church, which would achieve the look of a plaza lined on three sides with old structures. Across General Luna Street was a vacant lot where churchgoers parked. An investigation identified the owner, a Chinese gentleman named Mr. Soriano. He was reluctant to sell but eventually agreed after knowing what we planned to do with it and realizing the impact on his other properties behind on Cabildo Street.
The Soriano property consisted of seven lots and we decided to build one structure on each, illustrating the panorama of Philippine domestic architecture from the 17th to the 19th century. The objective, translated into architectural plans by Architect Ramon Faustmann, was for a walk around the block to give an impression of how houses of Intramuros and Manila’s arrabales might have looked over those 350 years.
Notes: (a) The IA library has a collection of Intramuros-related material including background and details of restoration work. The library is named after Fr. Luis Merino, OSA in recognition of his important contributions to Intramuros research; and (b) The idea of a house museum was inspired by similar places abroad, in this case the Willet-Holthuysen Museum of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
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