Life in Intramuros in the 19th Century

One of the controversial points confronting propaganda and facts is the one regarding the living standards of natives during the Spanish colony times. The idea of natives and Spanish living segregated following the Intramuros-Extramuros axis has been commonly spread. According to that theory, Spaniards would have lived in Intramuros, segregating locals to Extramuros.

Reality, however, was different. Nobody less suspicious of connivance with the Spaniards than the Governor General of British Hong Kong, in the 1870s, Sir John Bowring. Well known is the support British historically has given to its own former colony, and how British collaborated with the USA in the Spanish-American war in 1898.

However, Sir John Bowring reported:

“The lines separating entire classes and races, appeared to me less marked than in the Oriental colonies. I have seen on the same table, Spaniards, Metizos (Chinos cristianos) and Indios, priests and military. There is no doubt that having one Religion forms great bonding. And more so to the eyes of one that has been observing the repulsion and differences due to race in many parts of Asia. And from one (like myself) who knows that race is the great divider of society, the admirable contrast and exception to racial discrimination so markedly presented by the people of the Philippines is indeed admirable.”

“Credit is certainly due to Spain for having bettered the condition of a people who, though comparatively highly civilized, yet being continually distracted by petty wars, had sunk into a disordered and uncultivated state. The inhabitants of these beautiful Islands upon the whole, may well be considered to have lived as comfortably during the last hundred years, protected form all external enemies and governed by mild laws vis-a-vis those from any other tropical country under native or European sway, owing in some measure, to the frequently discussed peculiar (Spanish) circumstances which protect the interests of the natives.” (A visit to the Philippine islands, London, 1875).

This piece of his book shows that not only was not true that Filipinos were segregated to live outside Intramuros, but also that the coexistence of these two groups was further betther than told by the typical propaganda. It seems also that this coexistence had amazed Sir Bowring, probably used to witness worse living conditions for the locals in other European countries’ colonies like the British ones.

Sources:

This information was kindly shared by the Círculo Hispanofilipino.

 The book by Sir John Bowring can be downloaded here:

“A visit to the Philippine islands” (option 1)

“A visit to the Philippine islands” (option 2)

“A visit to the Philippine islands” (option 3)

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