I have very few stamps from the Philippines in my collection and most are in rather poor condition. Last night, I happened upon an article about Manila’s Fort Santiago and remembered that I owned a stamp portraying this old Spanish citadel. I thought it would be a good topic for a “random stamp day”. My copy of Scott #387, issued under the U.S. administration of the islands in 1935, is quite grubby but I realized I also had a copy of Scott #415, released a year later by the newly-formed Commonwealth of the Philippines which I had yet to profile in a “stamp issuers’ article. Thus, the focus of today’s article has changed and will slot between previous ASAD entries about the Insular Government of the Philippine Islands (1902-1935) and the Republic of the Philippines (1946-present).
The Commonwealth of the Philippines was the administrative body that governed the Philippines from 1935 to 1946, aside from a period of exile in the Second World War from 1942 to 1945 when Japan occupied the country. It replaced the Insular Government, a United States territorial government, and was established by the Tydings–McDuffie Act. The Commonwealth was designed as a transitional administration in preparation for the country’s full achievement of independence.
The Commonwealth of the Philippines was also known as the “Philippine Commonwealth”, or simply as “the Commonwealth”. It had official names in Tagalog — Kómonwélt ng Pilipinas — and Spanish — Commonwealth de Filipinas. The 1935 constitution specifies “the Philippines” as the country’s short form name and uses “the Philippine Islands” only to refer to pre-1935 status and institutions. Under the Insular Government (1901–1935), both terms had official status.
During its more than a decade of existence, the Commonwealth had a strong executive and a Supreme Court. Its legislature, dominated by the Nacionalista Party, was at first unicameral, but later bicameral. In 1937, the government selected Tagalog–the language of Manila and its surrounding provinces–as the basis of the national language, although it would be many years before its usage became general. Women’s suffrage was adopted and the economy recovered to its pre-Depression level before the Japanese occupation in 1942.
The Commonwealth government went into exile from 1942 to 1945, when the Philippines was under Japanese occupation. In 1946, the Commonwealth ended and the Philippines claimed full sovereignty as provided for in Article XVIII of the 1935 Constitution.
The pre-1935 U.S. territorial administration, or Insular Government, was headed by a governor general who was appointed by the president of the United States. The Great Depression in the early thirties hastened the progress of the Philippines towards independence. In the United States it was mainly the sugar industry and labor unions that had a stake in loosening the U.S. ties to the Philippines since they could not compete with the Philippine cheap sugar (and other commodities) which could freely enter the U.S. market. Therefore, they agitated in favor of granting independence to the Philippines so that its cheap products and labor could be shut out of the United States.
In December 1932, the U.S. Congress passed the Hare–Hawes–Cutting Act with the premise of granting Filipinos independence. Provisions of the bill included reserving several military and naval bases for the United States, as well as imposing tariffs and quotas on Philippine exports. When it reached him for possible signature, President Herbert Hoover vetoed the Hare–Hawes–Cutting Act, but the American Congress overrode Hoover’s veto in 1933 and passed the bill over Hoover’s objections. The bill, however, was opposed by the then Philippine Senate President Manuel L. Quezon and was also rejected by the Philippine Senate.
This led to the creation and passing of a new bill known as Tydings–McDuffie Act, or Philippine Independence Act which provided for the establishment of the Commonwealth of the Philippines with transition to full independence after a ten-year period. The commonwealth would have its own constitution and be self-governing, though foreign policy would be the responsibility of the United States, and certain legislation required approval of the United States president. The Act stipulated that the date of independence would be on July 4 following the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Commonwealth.
A Constitutional Convention was convened in Manila on July 30, 1934. On February 8, 1935, the 1935 Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Philippines was approved by the convention by a vote of 177 to 1. The constitution was approved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 23, 1935 and ratified by popular vote on May 14, 1935.
On September 17, 1935, presidential elections were held. Candidates included former president Emilio Aguinaldo, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente leader Gregorio Aglipay, and others. Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña of the Nacionalista Party were proclaimed the winners, winning the seats of president and vice-president, respectively.
The Commonwealth Government was inaugurated on the morning of November 15, 1935, in ceremonies held on the steps of the Legislative Building in Manila. The event was attended by a crowd of around 300,000 people. Under the Tydings–McDuffie Act this meant that the date of full independence for the Philippines was set for July 4, 1946, a timetable which was followed after the passage of almost eleven very eventful years.
The Commonwealth had two official languages; Spanish, and English. Due to the diverse number of Philippine languages, a program for the “development and adoption of a common national language based on the existing native dialects” was drafted in the 1935 Constitution. The Commonwealth created the Surián ng Wikang Pambansà (National Language Institute), which was initially composed of President Quezon and six other members from various ethnic groups.
A deliberation was held and Tagalog, due to its extensive literary tradition, was selected as the basis for the “national language” to be called “Pilipino”. In 1940, the Commonwealth authorized the creation of a dictionary and grammar book for the language. In that same year, Commonwealth Act 570 was passed, allowing Filipino to become an official language upon independence.
With Manila’s Filipino Hispanic roots, Daniel Burnham developed the urban planning of the capital city through the City Beautiful Movement: the Neo-Classical architecture of Paris through Manila’s government buildings, the Canals of Venice through the Esteros of Manila, Sunset View of Naples through Manila Bay and Winding River of Paris through Pasig River.
The cash economy of the Commonwealth was mostly agriculture-based. Products included abaca, coconuts and coconut oil, sugar, and timber. Numerous other crops and livestock were grown for local consumption by the Filipino people. Other sources for foreign income included the spin-off from money spent at American military bases on the Philippines such as the naval base at Subic Bay and Clark Air Base (with U.S. Army airplanes there as early as 1919), both on the island of Luzon.
The performance of the economy was initially good despite challenges from various agrarian uprisings. Taxes collected from a robust coconut industry helped boost the economy by funding infrastructure and other development projects.
The new government embarked on ambitious nation-building policies in preparation for economic and political independence. These included national defense (such as the National Defense Act of 1935, which organized a conscription for service in the country), greater control over the economy, the perfection of democratic institutions, reforms in education, improvement of transport, the promotion of local capital, industrialization, and the colonization of Mindanao.
However, uncertainties, especially in the diplomatic and military situation in Southeast Asia, in the level of U.S. commitment to the future Republic of the Philippines, and in the economy due to the Great Depression, proved to be major problems. The situation was further complicated by the presence of agrarian unrest, and of power struggles between Osmeña and Quezon, especially after Quezon was permitted to be re-elected after one six-year term.
A proper evaluation of the policies’ effectiveness or failure is difficult due to Japanese invasion and occupation during World War II.
Japan launched a surprise attack on the Clark Air Base in Pampanga on the morning of December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Aerial bombardment was followed by landings of ground troops on Luzon. The defending Philippine and United States troops were under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. Under the pressure of superior numbers, the defending forces withdrew to the Bataan Peninsula and to the island of Corregidor at the entrance to Manila Bay.
On January 2, 1942, General MacArthur declared the capital city, Manila, an open city to prevent its destruction. The Philippine defense continued until the final surrender of United States-Philippine forces on the Bataan Peninsula in April 1942 and on Corregidor in May of the same year. Most of the 80,000 prisoners of war captured by the Japanese at Bataan were forced to undertake the infamous Bataan Death March to a prison camp 105 kilometers to the north. About 10,000 Filipinos and 1,200 Americans died before reaching their destination. MacArthur was ordered to Australia, where he started to plan for a return to the Philippines.
Quezon and Osmeña were escorted by troops from Manila to Corregidor, and later left for Australia prior to going to the U.S., where they set up a government in exile, based at the Shoreham Hotel, in Washington, D.C. This government participated in the Pacific War Council as well as the Declaration by United Nations. Quezon became ill with tuberculosis and died from it, with Osmeña succeeding him as president.
The Japanese military authorities immediately began organizing a new government structure in the Philippines and established the Philippine Executive Commission. They initially organized a Council of State, through which they directed civil affairs until October 1943, when they declared the Philippines an independent republic. The Japanese-sponsored Second Philippine Republic headed by President José P. Laurel proved to be unpopular to the pro-colonial Filipinos, but very popular to the pro-Asiatic independence Filipinos.
Japanese occupation of the Philippines was opposed by large-scale underground guerrilla activity. This included the Hukbalahap (“People’s Army Against the Japanese”), which consisted of 30,000 armed men and controlled much of Central Luzon. The American-aligned Philippine Army, as well as remnants of the U.S. Army Forces Far East, continued to fight the Japanese and pro-Japanese paramilitary forces in a guerrilla war and was considered an auxiliary unit of the United States Army. Their effectiveness was such that by the end of the war, Japan controlled only twelve of the forty-eight provinces.
As in most occupied countries, crime, looting, corruption, and black markets were endemic. Japan in 1943 proposed independence on new terms, and some collaborators went along with the plan, but Japan was clearly losing the war and nothing became of it.
With a view of building up the economic base of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, the Japanese Army envisioned using the islands as a source of agricultural products needed by its industry. For example, Japan had a surplus of sugar from Taiwan but, a severe shortage of cotton, so they tried to grow cotton on sugar lands with disastrous results. They lacked the seeds, pesticides, and technical skills to grow cotton. Jobless farm workers flocked to the cities, where there was minimal relief and few jobs. The Japanese Army also tried using cane sugar for fuel, castor beans and copra for oil, derris for quinine, cotton for uniforms, and abaca (hemp) for rope. The plans were very difficult to implement in the face of limited skills, collapsed international markets, bad weather, and transportation shortages. The program was a failure that gave very little help to Japanese industry, and diverted resources needed for food production.
Living conditions were bad throughout the Philippines during the war. Transportation between the islands was difficult because of lack of fuel. Food was in very short supply, due to inflation.
The occupation of the Philippines by Japan ended at the war’s conclusion. At the eve of the liberation of the Philippines, the Allied forces and the Japanese Empire waged the largest naval battle in history, by gross tonnage in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. General Douglas MacArthur’s army landed on Leyte on October 20, 1944, and were welcomed as liberators, as were the Philippine Commonwealth troops who arrived in other amphibious landings. The Philippine Constabulary was placed on active service with the Philippine Commonwealth Army and re-established on October 28, 1944 to June 30, 1946 during the Allied liberation to Post-World War II era.
Fighting continued in remote corners of the Philippines until Japan’s surrender in August 1945, which was formally signed on September 2 in Tokyo Bay. Approximately 10,000 U.S. soldiers were missing in action in the Philippines when the war ended, more than in any other country in the Pacific or European Theaters. The Philippines suffered great loss of life and tremendous physical destruction, especially during the Battle of Manila. An estimated 1 million Filipinos had been killed, a large portion during the final months of the war. Manila was extensively damaged when Japanese marines refused to vacate the city when ordered to do so by the Japanese High Command and was excessively shelled by U.S. artillery.
After the War in the Philippines, the Commonwealth was restored and a one-year transitional period in preparation for independence began. Elections followed in April 1946 with Manuel Roxas winning as the first president of the independent Republic of the Philippines and Elpidio Quirino winning as vice-president. The Commonwealth ended when the U.S. recognized Philippine independence on July 4, 1946, exactly as scheduled a decade before in spite of the years of Japanese occupation.
However, the economy remained dependent on the U.S. due to the Bell Trade Act, otherwise known as the Philippine Trade Act, which was a precondition for receiving war rehabilitation grants from the United States.
Although postage stamps had been used in the Philippines since 1854, it was only on February 15, 1935, that stamps depicting historical events were issued. On that date, a set of pictorial stamps consisting of fourteen different values were released (Scott #383-396). Five of them — the 10-cent Fort Santiago, the 16-cent Magellan, the 30-cent Blood Compact, 1-peso Barasoain Church and the 2-peso Battle of Manila Bay — commemorated unforgettable chapters in the hectic history of the Philippines. They were perforated 11. Inscribed UNITED STATES OF AMERICA / PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, this set was the last issued by the Insular Government.
Upon the inauguration of the Commonwealth Government on November 15, 1935, a set of a set of five stamps was issued to commemorate new government (Scott #397-401). These bore the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA / COMMONWEALTH OF THE PHILIPPINES. There were two commemorative releases in 1936 — a three-stamp set on June 19 marking the 75th birth anniversary of national hero José Rizal (Scott #402-404) and three stamps marking the first anniversary of the Commonwealth on November 15 picturing President Quezon (Scott #405-407).
Also in 1936 ant into 1937, the February 1935 pictorial stamps were overprinted with the word COMMONWEALTH in black ink (Scott #411-424). This occurred again from 1938 until 1940 with smaller overprint handstamps (Scott #434-446). These sturdy stamps were to see the fall of the Commonwealth, the coming of the Japanese invaders, the return of the American liberation forces, and the birth of the Third Philippine Republic. Apart from overprinting for various service uses (such as O.B. for Official Business), some of the stamps also received VICTORY overprints in 1944 and 1945.
The Japanese entered Manila on January 2, 1942. On March 4, the Japanese resumed mail service in the city. At first they released so-called “provisional” or “emergency” stamp issues. There were seven of the pre-war Commonwealth stamps approved by their censors with the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and COMMONWEALTH obscured by black bars. One of the 1935 pictorials was reissued on May 18, 1942, with the English-language overprint CONGRATULATIONS / FALL OF / BATAAN AND / CORREGIDOR / 1942 (Scott #N8).
Recognizing the propaganda value of stamps and psychological value of their designs, the Japanese authorities carefully chose the motif of the stamps issued by them during the occupation of the Philippines. In their new postage series released on April 1, 1943, the Japanese portrayed typical Philippines scenes on them. These issues had four basic designs. The first one showed a typical bahay kubo with palm trees behind it. The second one pictured a Filipino woman planting rice. The third one depicted a Moro vinta sailing in the open sea. The last stamp showed Mt. Mayon and Mt. Fuji Yama together. Between them was a rising sun and at their base were some palm trees. These are listed in the Scott catalogue as #N12-N25.
On the inauguration of the puppet Second Philippine Republic, the Japanese issued a set of commemorative stamps showing a Filipina woman in native dress (Scott #N29-N31). On her left side was a hoisted the Philippine flag and on her right side the Rizal monument at the Luneta. A string of pearls served as its border and beneath it is a broken chain. In their further bid for the cooperation and friendship of the Filipinos, the Japanese tried to arouse their patriotic fervor. So on the 72nd anniversary of the martyrdom of Fathers Burgos, Zamora, and Gomez, the national heroes’ series was issued by the Japanese (Scott #N32-N34). These portrayed Rizal, Burgos and Mabini. This trio of Filipino heroes on postage stamps was the first of its kind in the history of Philippine philately. The last stamps issued by the Japanese were the Laurel issued which showed President Laurel in this inaugural attire (Scott #N37-N39). Above him was the seal of the Republic and below was a farmer plowing a field with a carabao.
The Japanese Occupation also marked the issuance of the first Philippine semi-postal stamps (Scott #NB1-NB3). Semi-postal stamps are those issued for the dual purpose of paying postage and raising some revenue for other activities of the government, mostly charitable ones. Ironically enough these stamps were prepared by the Commonwealth Government, but due to the sudden outbreak of the war were not released as planned. The original object of these stamps was to raise revenues for National Defense, but when the Japanese released them on November 12, 1942, their theme was changed to Food Production to suit the needs of the invaders.
In spite of the strong pro-Filipino flavor of these stamps issued by the Japanese, the people did not seem impressed. In fact, in many places especially in the Visayas and Mindanao, the people not only disdained to use these stamps but actually used another kind, the mere possession of which would have forfeited their lives, a guerrilla stamp (not listed in the Scott catalogue). Some of these stamps were printed in Australia and brought to the Philippines by submarines. They were used in guerrilla correspondence and in postal communication to the United States. These stamps consisted only of one denomination the 2 centavo variety. They bore the inscription FREE PHILIPPINES / GUERILLA POSTAL SERVICE / TWO CENTAVOS SERIES 1943.
On October 20, 1944, the American liberation forces finally landed on the shores of Leyte. Nineteen days later, with the characteristics dispatch of the Americans, the Post Office of Tacloban was reopened for postal services amidst the still smoking ruins. The stamps available were the pre-war Commonwealth stamps overprinted with the word VICTORY in rubber stamp.
Scott #415 is the 1936 COMMONWEALTH-overprinted version of Scott #387 originally released on February 15, 1935. The 10-centavo rose carmine stamp features Fort Santiago (Fuerte de Santiago in Spanish or Moóg ng Santiago in Filipino) — a citadel first built by Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi for the new established city of Manila in the Philippines. The defense fortress is part of the structures of the walled city of Manila referred to as Intramuros.
The fort was named after Saint James (Santiago in Spanish), the patron saint of Spain, who is also known as Saint James the Muslim-slayer because of the legend that he miraculously appeared hundreds of years after his death to fight in the battle of Clavijo, whose relief adorns the façade of the front gate. It is located at the mouth of the Pasig River and served as the premier defense fortress of the Spanish Government during their rule of the country. It became a main fort for the spice trade to the Americas and Europe for 333 years. The Manila Galleon trade to Acapulco, Mexico began from the Fuerte de Santiago.
The fort is one of the most important historical sites in Manila. José Rizal, one of the Philippine national heroes, was imprisoned here before his execution in 1896. The Rizal Shrine museum displays memorabilia of the hero in their collection and the fort features, embedded onto the ground in bronze, his footsteps representing his final walk from his cell to the location of the actual execution.
The fort has a perimeter of 2,030 feet (620 m), and it is of a nearly triangular form. The south front, which looks toward the city, is a curtain with a terreplein, flanked by two demi-bastions – the Bastion of San Fernando, on the riverside, and the Bastion of San Miguel, by the bayside. A moat connected with the river separates the fort from the city. Near the beginning of the north face, instead of a bastion, a cavalier called Santa Barbara was built with three faces of batteries, one looking seaward over the anchorage place, one facing the entrance, and the third looking upon the river. The latter is united with a tower of the same height as the walls, through which there is a descent to the water battery placed upon a semicircular platform, thus completing the triangular form of the fort.
The 22-foot (6.7 m) high walls, with a thickness of 8 feet (2.4 m) are pierced for the necessary communications. The front gateway façade measures 40 feet (12 m) high being in the south wall and facing the city. The communication with the river and the sea was by an obscure postern gate — the Postigo de la Nuestra Señora del Soledad (Postern of Our Lady of Solitude). Inside the fort were guard stations, together with the barracks of the troops of the garrison and quarters of the warden and his subalterns. Also inside the fort were various storehouses, a chapel, the powder magazine, the sentry towers, the cisterns, etc.
The location of Fort Santiago was once the site of a palisaded fort, armed with bronze guns, of Rajah Matanda, a Muslim rajah of pre-Hispanic Manila who himself was a vassal to the Sultan of Brunei. The fort was destroyed by maestre de campo (master-of-camp) Martin de Goiti who, upon arriving in 1570 from Cebu, fought several battles with the Muslim natives. The Spaniards started building Fort Santiago after the establishment of the city of Manila under Spanish rule on June 24, 1571, and made Manila the capital of the newly colonized islands.
The first fort was a structure of palm logs and earth. Most of it was destroyed when the city was invaded by Chinese pirates led by Limahong. Martin de Goiti was killed during the siege. After a fierce conflict, the Spaniards under the leadership of Juan de Salcedo, eventually drove the pirates out to Pangasinan province to the north, and eventually out of the country.
The construction of Fort Santiago with hard stone, together with the original fortified walls of Intramuros, commenced in 1590 and finished in 1593 during the reign of Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas. The stones used were volcanic tuff quarried from Guadalupe (now Guadalupe Viejo in Makati).The fort as Dasmariñas left it consisted of a castellated structure without towers, trapezoidal in trace, its straight gray front projecting into the river mouth. Arches supported an open gun platform above, named the battery of Santa Barbara, the patron saint of all good artillerymen. These arches formed casemates which afforded a lower tier of fire through embrasures. Curtain walls of simplest character, without counter forts or interior buttresses, extended the flanks to a fourth front facing the city.
In 1714, the ornate gate of Fort Santiago was erected together with some military barracks. During the leadership of Fernándo Valdés y Tamon in the 1730s, a large semicircular gun platform to the front called media naranja (half orange) and another of lesser dimensions to the river flank were added to the Bastion of Santa Barbara. The casemates were then filled in and embrasures closed. He also changed the curtain wall facing cityward to a bastioned front. A lower parapet, bordering the interior moat, connects the two bastions.
During the Seven Years’ War, the British Ministry approved plans for invading the Philippine Isles and the HMS Seahorse, under Captain Cathcart Grant, was sent to intercept Manila-bound vessels. The first portion of the invasion fleet sailed from India on July 21, 1762, under Commodore Teddinson, followed by the remainder under Admiral Sir Samuel Cornish, 1st Baronet, and Colonel Draper on August 1. The HMS Norfolk served as the admiral’s flagship. The British fleet of eight ships of the line, three frigates, and four store ships sailed away from Madras with a force of 6,839 regulars, sailors and marines.
Manila was garrisoned by the Life Guard of the Governor-General of the Philippines, the 2nd Battalion of the King’s regiment under Don Miguel de Valdez, Spanish marines, a corps of artillery under Lieutenant General Don Felix de Eguilux, seconded by Brig. the Marquis de Villa Medina, a company of Pampangos, and a company of cadets.
Admiral Cornish’s fleet, fourteen vessels, of which ten carried more than fifty guns, anchored in Manila Bay on September 23. A landing was planned two miles south of the city, covered by HMS Argo, under Captain King, HMS Seahorse, under Captain Grant, and HMS Seaford under Captain Pelghin. The three-pronged landing force of 274 marines was led by Colonel Draper, center, Major More, right, and Cololnel Monson, left. The next day, they were joined by 632 seamen under Captains Collins, Pitchford and Ouvry.
Fort Polverina was captured on September 25. Further reconnaissance revealed that the fortifications of Manila were not formidable, in fact they were incomplete. “In many places the ditch had never been finished, the covered way was out of repair, the glacis was too low, some of the outworks were without cannon…”
On September 30, a British storeship arrived with entrenching tools, but was driven ashore by a gale. Fortunately, she had run aground so that she screened the rear of Draper’s camp from a large force of Filipinos. Her stores were landed with greater speed and safety than would have been possible had she remained afloat for the gale continued for several days and forbade the passage of boats through the surf.
A strong gale started on October 1, cutting off communication with the British fleet. On the morning of October 4, a force of 1000 local Pampangos attacked a cantonment built by the British overnight but was beaten back with 300 Filipinos killed. After this failure, all except 1,800 of the Pamgangos abandoned the city. “The fire from the garrison now became faint, while that of the besiegers was stronger than ever, and ere long a breach became practicable.” On October 6, 60 volunteers under Lieutenant Russell advanced through the breach in the Bastion of St. Andrew. Engineers and pioneers followed, then came Colonel Monson and Major More with two divisions of the 79th, the seamen and then another division of the 79th.
Preventing further slaughter, acting Governor-General Archbishop Manuel Rojo del Rio y Vieyra surrendered both Manila and Cavite to Draper and Cornish. Manila was placed under the authority of civilian Deputy Governor Dawsonne Drake, appointed by the East India Company as the leader of the Manila Council. Major Fell commanded the garrison as another member of the council. Fort Santiago served as a base of operations for the Royal Navy until April 1764 when they agreed to a ceasefire with the Spanish.
During their time in the Philippines, the British found themselves confined to Manila and Cavite in a deteriorating situation, unable to extend British control over the islands and unable to make good their promised support for an uprising led first by Diego Silang and later by his wife Gabriela, which was crushed by Spanish forces.
The British expedition was rewarded after the capture of the treasure ship Filipina, carrying American silver from Acapulco, and in a battle off Cavite the Santísima Trinidad which carried China goods. However, when Cornish sailed for Madras with the East Indies Squadron in early 1763, he had only collected $516,260 of the $2 million ransom. The balance consisted of bills of exchange, though Spain never did pay the Manila ransom.
The British held Manila for 18 months until it was returned to Spain according to the Treaty of Paris peace settlement. News that it had been lost did not reach Spain until after the cessation of hostilities between the two powers. Oidor Don Simon Anda y Salazar had been dispatched to Bulacan in order to organize resistance. There he organized an army of 10,000 Filipinos under the command of Jose Busto.
The Luzon earthquakes of 1880, which destroyed much of the city of Manila, destroyed the front edifice of the fort changing its character.
On August 13, 1898, the American flag was raised in Fort Santiago signifying the start of the American rule in the Philippines. The fort served as the headquarters for the U.S. Army and several changes were made to the fort by the Americans. One of these changes included the draining of the moats surrounding the fort. The grounds were then transformed into a golf course.
During World War II, Fort Santiago was captured by the Japanese Imperial Army which used its prisons and dungeons including the storage cells and gunpowder magazines for hundreds of prisoners who were killed near the end of the war. The fort sustained heavy damage from American and Filipino military mortar shells during the Battle of Manila in February 1945. Also, approximately 600 American prisoners of war died of suffocation or hunger after being held in extremely tight quarters in the dungeons at Fort Santiago.
After its destruction during World War II, Fort Santiago was declared as a Shrine of Freedom in 1950. Its restoration by the Philippine government did not begin till 1953 under the hands of the National Parks Development Committee. The Intramuros Administration has managed the reconstruction, maintenance, and management of the fort since 1992.
Today, the fort, its bastions, and the prison dungeons for criminals used by the Spanish officials, is now part of a historical park which also includes the Plaza Moriones and several ruins. The park houses well-preserved legacies from the Spanish Colonial Period including memorabilia of José Rizal at the Rizal Shrine, a replica of his ancestral house in Laguna province.
Adaptive use of this famous historical landmark makes certain areas ideal for open air theater, picnics, and as a promenade. The Intramuros Visitors center gives an overview of the various attractions in the walled city.