Intramuros, the historical and cultural center of Metro Manila is touted as the Philippines’ walled city. It may be difficult to fathom but the entire Megapolis of Manila once began within the walls of Intramuros established during the spanish colonial period.However, unknown to many, another Spanish walled city is found halfway across the world — in the Caribbean Coastal Town of Cartagena, Colombia.
The Old Cartagena is a Spanish fortification that was once the largest port in the Americas during the Spanish colonial period.A recent visit to this beautiful town has proven the stark similarities between the Philippines’ Intramuros and Colombia’s Cartagena.
The walled city of Cartagena was built in 1614, following several pirate attacks in the city. The wall varies in height and thickness. Walls facing the Caribbean sea were made lower in height and were lined up with cannons aimed towards any potential pirate ships that threaten to invade the city.
Today, the wall is the silent witness to the blossoming romance among locals and travellers who spend quiet moments on the wall while watching sunset or talking a leisurely stroll on it.
Walking along the streets of Cartagena is like walk back in time. Similar to Intramuros, streets are narrow and are lined up with antique houses and Spanish colonial structures. In Cartagena though, houses are bursting with colors and are home to various specialty shops catering to tourist and locals alike.
For Instagram savy travellers, the Iglesias or churches inside the wall provide a beautiful backdrop to any “selfie” or “follow me” shots. Iglesia de San Pedro Claver welcomes any tourist on foot that enters the city via clock tower entrance.
Then there is the Catedral de Santa Catalina de Alejandria de Cartagena de las Indias. The length of the name alone signifies grandeaur of this church, in fact this is the focal point of the romanticism of the walled city as it bears witness to hundreds of weddings that take place in Cartagena. Its beautiful bell tower can practically be seen from any vantage point within the walls.
Cartagenans also add flare to the overall charm of the city. Aside from the city dwellers, residents of the nearby village frequent the walled city to earn for a living. Women from the said village walk around the city in their colorful Afro- Colombian Costumes, selling candies and fruits that are usually placed on top of their head. This next-door town’s name San Basilio de Palenque has earned them the title “Palenqueras”, something that sounds very familiar to us Filipinos.
Overall, the beauty of this walled is beyond words that one may not be able to comprehend easily. No wonder it has earned the title as “Latin America’s Most Romantic City.” Its status as a well-preserved colonial city was further fortified after it has earned the nod of UNESCO and has been declared as a World Heritage Site in 1984.
Intramuros can definitely learn a lot from Cartagena when it comes to preservation, while Filipino travellers will definitely be enthused to visit it since there is no visa requirement to enter Colombia for Philippine passport holders.