Where Can You See Spanish Colonial Architecture in the Philippines?

For at least 333 years, Spaniards had complete control over the Philippines. Spaniards always saw the Philippines as a milestone for the Spice Islands. It was then when Ferdinand Magellan spearheaded the first Spanish exploration of the Philippines. He steps foot on Cebu in March 1521, where at a later time caused his life on a nearby island of Mactan. The city of Manila was then founded in 1571, and after that, they gained control of Luzon and the Mindanao areas. Soldiers and Friars then marched the roads to spread Catholicism to the locals. 

Spaniards made sure that they have total control of the locals – they governed everyone through tax farming. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that the locals started to do some propaganda against the Spaniards. This is where the National Hero, Jose Rizal, came into play. He wrote two political novels, El Filibusterismo and Noli me Tangere. The novels primarily targeted the Spaniards; that’s why he gained support from the locals. But with the overwhelming support he was getting, this resulted in Rizal’s execution, thus being the spark of the revolution against the Spaniards. Not until June 12, 1898, that the Philippines got Independence from the Spaniards. 

Spanish Colonial Architecture

With the Philippines being colonized for at least 300 years, it’s no wonder Spanish architecture can be seen all over the country. These key features showcase the unique style of the Spaniards – from its thick walls, colonial window treatments, and sturdy indigenous components. But where can we see these Spanish historical structures? If you’re planning to visit the ever-beautiful country of the Philippines, here are the places you can visit.

1. Intramuros, Manila: Right in the heart of the Philippines, Manila contains some of the oldest Spanish architectures you’ll ever see.

  • Manila Cathedral: Though the latest version was finished in 1958, the parish was originally built in 1571 and was named the “church of Manila.” Series of earthquakes toppled the church every time it was reconstructed. But was able to remain standing after 1958. The Neo-Romanesque lines will surely have you blown away.
  • Intramuros Walls: Did you know the word “Intramuros” is a Spanish word meaning within the walls? This fortress was able to remain intact even after the war took place. Kudos to the local government for preserving the architectural structure for the longest time. It’s a must-see, especially at night since the lights within the walls light up and gives additional vibes to the tourist.
  • San Agustin Church: Another old standing church that was originally built in 1607. This is considered to be the oldest stone church in the country. If you are visiting this amazing structure, you’ll stand in awe just by seeing the façade. You can definitely see the history written all over the walls and the stone surrounding the church. With the history it contains, in 1993, UNESCO even had it designated as a World Heritage Site.
  • Fort Santiago: This famous prison served as a prison and torture chamber for imprisoned Filipinos. It also protects Spanish settlers from any incoming invaders; the strategic positioning in Manila bay allows them to do so.
  • Paco Park: Built in 1807, Paco Park was designed to be the final resting place of Spanish elites. Still, up to this date, the walls of this park were well preserved. The same goes with the iconic markings left here.

2. Vigan City, Ilocos Sur: From the old cobblestone walkway to the old trading ancestral houses. Vigan, just like Intramuros, contains some of the pieces that connect the modern-day back to the Spanish era.

  • Syquia Mansion: 250 miles north of Manila is where this ancestral mansion sits. Originally built in 1830, this house served as a major hub of trades between the Philippines, Mexico, and Spain. Today, you’ll see the artifacts that were preserved since the Spanish era. Just like San Agustin Church, this is also considered a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
  • Calle Crisologo: This street would literally take you back to the old days. It wouldn’t take a minute before you appreciate the preservation of this place, from the cobblestone walkway to the Spanish houses that were built here. It would feel like you’re in an entirely different place.

3. Palace of Malacañan: Mostly known to be the house of the current President of the Philippines. This spectacular palace was originally built in 1750 by a Spanish nobleman; it was later then purchased by the Spanish government in 1825. It was known as “La Casita de Malacañan,” and it served as the summer leisure house of the Spanish-Governor of the Philippines. Today, this mainly serves as the residence of the Philippine President.

4. Fuerza de Capul, Northern Samar: This is served as a Spanish fortress church; built with strong stone walls similar to Intramuros. The people of Capul used to hide within the church walls from Moro attacks. That’s why they decided to use the church as a defensive structure as well. They built a small defensive wall and a watchtower. National Museum of the Philippines declared this as a National Cultural Treasure and is being preserved to maintain its historical value.

5. Punta Cruz Watchtower, Maribojoc Bohol: Built in 1796, this watchtower helped to see invaders from afar. This iconic isosceles triangle structure was the only one built like this. It was part of the defensive outposts to protect settlers from the ever invading Moro pirates. The National Museum of the Philippines added this watchtower as a National Cultural Treasure. It’s still being preserved up to this day.

Spanish Influence

As a country that had been colonized for the longest time, people learned to adapt to the culture and standards that are being set for them. But with the architectural influence that remained standing on the ground – history would always be forever engraved in the Filipino people. These heritage sites would always remind us where and what our ancestors endured for the past 330+ years of the Spanish ruling. But this will also serve as a reminder that Filipino people are always enduring and hopeful for a greater tomorrow; thus, they still do to this day.