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Fort Santiago is an Italian-Spanish school og fortification designed by Gomez Perez Dasmarinas. It was inaugurated in 1593. The fort stands in what used to be a palisaded fort of Rajah Matanda. It was then destroyed by the maestre de campo (master of camp) Martin de Goiti upon his arrival from Cebu in 1570.  

Built in the late 1500s, Fort Santiago served as a forward base for Spanish ambitions in the Far East. The actual Fort Santiago doesn’t begin until you cross the bridge across the moat from Plaza Moriones onto Fort Santiago’s doorstep. The gate of Fort Bonifacio bears the royal seal of Spain and a wooden relief sculpture of St. James, the patron saint of Spain.

The first fort was made of plam logs and earth. Most of it was destroyed during the invasion by Chinese pirates led by Limahong. Martin de Goiti was killed during the seige. Eventually, the Spaniards led by Juan de Salcedo drove the pirates out to Pangasinan and later on out of the country. 

The fort’s military barracks are mostly in ruins except for the section that has been transformed into the Rizal Shrine, a museum that chronicles Rizal’s life, his untimely death, and the ripple effects of his martyrdom on the Philippine struggle for independence.