This ancient fort has survived natural and man-made adversity to become one of Manila’s best-loved beauty spots.
Baluarte de San Diego dates from the end of the 16th century, when it was constructed as part of the fortifications of the walled city of Intramuros by a Jesuit priest, Antonio Sedeno. Originally named Nuestra Senora de Guia (Our Lady of Guidance), the bastion was primarily designed to repel invasion. Its sturdy structure is testament to its purpose and has helped it to survive wars, earthquakes and the ravages of time. During the 1980s it was substantially restored and today is a popular tourist attraction.
Before you begin your exploration, stop to read the information panel at the bottom of the stone staircase leading up to the fort. This brief introduction to the history of the site will greatly enhance your visit. Walkways lead you around the bastion itself, offering close-up views of the ancient moss-covered stone structure. Although it is not possible to walk among the ruins, you can get a good impression of its size and strategic importance.
Look out for the three large rings of stone connected by crossways, which are thought to have been the base of a tower, now destroyed. There are also several original cannons bearing fascinating inscriptions with details of when and where they were made. The lookout post is a reminder of the vital part the fort played in warning the city of approaching enemies in the past. Nowadays it provides a peaceful photo-opportunity, with impressive views across the Manila skyline.
The bastion is surrounded by beautiful gardens, criss-crossed with pathways and adorned with lush plants, fountains and an attractive pergola. Not surprisingly, this is a popular place for weddings, family parties and other special occasions, so it’s worth checking before you visit to make sure the gardens are not closed for a private function. As you stroll around, pay heed to the notice warning of flying golf balls, as stray balls from the nearby golf course have been known to catch people unawares!
Baluarte de San Diego is south of Intramuros, opposite Rizal Park. Take the light rail to Central station, from where it is only a short walk. The fort and gardens are open daily for a modest admission charge.