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The Far East is rapidly coming to the center of the world's attention, and it looks as if the greatest dramas of the twentieth century may be played on the oriental stage. The Philippines will continue to be the basis of American influence in this great reconstruction, and the capital of the Philippines will always be Manila.
The present city limits of Manila include over a dozen square miles; but historic, esthetic, artistic, agricultural, and ecclesiastical Manila, is the Walled City, or Intramuros.
Barring the longer life of the great wall of China, the walls of Manila are as full of interest as any piece of masonry in the Orient. The oldest piece of construction under the American flag is Fort Santiago, The oldest books, churches, organs, convents, city, gates, bells relics, and institutional life to be proud within that part of the American people, are all in Intramuros.
Every stone in the old walls, every foot of soil in the old town, every street and old building, is rich with historical association that will reward the earnest explorer for every day spent in cultivating a speaking acquaintance with the old city and its guardian.
The Pacific Coast has some interesting old missions built by the Franciscan fathers a century or more ago, and Southern California has been made famous by such relics as she happens to possess. Intramuros has more places and shrines of historical value than all Southern California put together By all the things that make a place to throb with that great heart-cry of the ages from silent towers and broken arches of the past, Intramuros is supreme.
The charm of the tropics is a factor, the commercial value of which has never been fully realized. Only the return pilgrims who "hears the East a--calling" can know the care-free life of comfort and luxury. Some time this value will take more tangible form, and then Intramuros will come into its own.
If there is any worth in broad bays and graceful palms and gorgeous sunsets and fair vistas of silhouetted harbor masts against the sky; if any interest in walls and temples and broken ruins and dungeon vaults and faded relics and pages printed in 1545; if these and a hundred others are worth anything as voices that speak out from the dead past, then Intramuros is rich, and every life that learns to know her will have received an added value in that inner treasure-house where thieves cannot break through and steal.
The old walls of Manila are associated with the whole history of the Philippines, and legend and story are wrought in their very stones. Shot and Shell have shrieked over those bastions, and deeds of lust and blood have been enacted behind those gateways.
It was the old walled city that bore the brunt of the attack in every conquest of the Philippines. This little piece of land, less than a square mile in extent, has been the site of more fighting, more political plotting, more ecclesiastical intrigue and official pomp and ceremony--in short the focus of more historical life-- than all of the rest of the Philippines taken collectively. Its streets are quiet enough now, but once they rang with shouts and shots that stirred the blood and quelled the hearts of the bravest. The old convents look as if nothing ever happened there, but many weird and strange things have happened, and possibly the list is yet complete. The old friars look as if they never had a thought aside from the prayer book and the dinner table, but from somewhere within those old monasteries have come forth strange deeds, Mysteries as dark as the black robes. might well call forth ghosts as grey as the white robes that still are seen daily on the streets. the whole atmosphere of the place takes the visitor back to the musty air of many years gone by.
The treasures of Manila are close together. and easily found. No mode of travel other than one's own feet is needed and no passport other than an honest face is asked. A week spent in this urban museum will write a chapter in the book of one's life memory that will lend a fragrance to all the years to come, and if some of our globe-trotting friends will pause a little, they may find here things that can never be seen elsewhere than in this walled-in capital of the Philippines.
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