Intramuros, located along the southern bank of the Pasig River, was built by the Spaniards in the 16th century and is the oldest district of the city of Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Its name, in Spanish, intramuros, literally "within the walls", meaning within the wall enclosure of the city/fortress, also describes its structure as it is surrounded by thick, high walls and moats. During the Spanish colonial period, Intramuros was considered Manila itself.
The site of Intramuros was originally a large Indianized-Malayan-Islamic settlement named "Maynila", ruled by Datus, Rajahs and a Sultan. The name came from "may nila", "nila" being a water plant (Scyphiphora hydrophyllacea) whose star-shaped flowers clustered in abundance along the riverbanks. "May-nila," transliterates as "There is nila (here)". Maynila is also sometimes called Maynilad because nila is popularly referred to as nilad by people unfamiliar with the plant, a correction asserted by historians Ambeth Ocampo and Carmen Guerrero Nakpil. The strategic location of Maynila, being on the Pasig River and the Manila Bay, made it an ideal location for indigenous Tagalog and kapampangan tribes to trade with other Asian civilizations, including Chinese, Indian and Islamic merchants who had come from China, India, Borneo and Indonesia. Maynila was also the seat of power for native chiefs who ruled the area before Europeans first arrived in Luzon.
At the end of World War II, much of Intramuros was damaged by both the Japanese Imperial Forces and U.S. Air Force. In 1942, when the Japanese forces invaded the Philippines; U.S. forces led by General Douglas McArthur realized that Manila was indefensible so he declared it an Open City. He regrouped the USAFFE forces in the Bataan peninsula, only to be trapped there by the advancing Japanese army. American troops reentered Manila in January 1945, and intense close combat occurred between the American GIs, local Filipino troops of the Philippine Commonwealth Army units, recognized guerrillas and the 30.000 Japanese defenders. As the battle dragged on, the Japanese destroyed the city, razing buildings and slaughtering Filipino civilians (see Manila Massacre). The IJA was slowly pushed back, eventually retreating into the Intramuros district. General MacArthur, though opposed to the bombing of the walled city, approved heavy shelling which resulted the death of 100,000 Filipinos civilians, and by the time it was taken the only structure that survived was the San Agustin Church.
In the 1980s, under the direction of former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos, the Intramuros Administration restored the city and at present the walled city is the only district of Manila where old Spanish-era influences were retained. Much of the development of present-day Manila occurred outside the gates of Intramuros, leaving the surviving walls, streets and churches of Intramuros minimally touched by modernization, although outlets of Jollibee, McDonald's and Starbucks now sit alongside distinguished educational institutions within its walls. The old moats that surrounded Intramuros have been filled up and transformed into a golf course where locals and foreign nationals play the sport. The garrison that was Fort Santiago is now a tourist spot where visitors can enjoy the nostalgic romance of a bygone Spanish legacy within its gardens. In 2003, during Visit Philippines Year, Tourism Secretary Richard J. Gordon cleaned up Intramuros with the help of student and civilian volunteers as well as raised funds to light up the place and build a lights and sound museum. Intramuros now houses some of the higher education institutions in the Philippines. These are the city-owned Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, the technical school Mapúa Institute of Technology, Lyceum of the Philippines University, Colegio de San Juan de Letran and high schools such as the Manila High School,and Colegio de Santa Rosa. Following the design of medieval fortifications, along the massive walls of Intramuros are strategically located bulwarks: baluarte, ravelins: ravellin, redoubts: reducto. Entrance to the city are through gates: puerta, most of which have been restored or rebuilt. Most of these features have names such as Baluarte de San Diego, Baluarte de San Francisco de Dilao, Baluarte de San Gabriel, Baluarte de Sta. Barbara, Baluarte de San Andres; Puerta Real, Puerta Isabel II, Puerta del Parian, Puerta Almacenes, Postigo del Palacio, Puerta Sta. Lucia. In an October 2010 report titled Saving Our Vanishing Heritage, Global Heritage Fund identified Intramuros (along with Fort Santiago) as one of 12 worldwide sites most "On the Verge" of irreparable loss and destruction, citing insufficient management and development pressures.