Be The Good: Love letters to Intramuros

Pia Ranada

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Be The Good: Love letters to Intramuros


'Photographers, when visiting a tourist and heritage landmark like Intramuros, tend to walk around and immerse themselves more than other kinds of visitors.... This makes them great sources of feedback.'

A whooshing sound made me look up in time to see a flock of pigeons curving towards the pointed adobe arch of Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila.

Here I was in the ancient citadel of the Pearl of the Orient with Rappler civic engagement head Sam Bagayas, Rappler Plus coordinator Jerick Baluyot, and two interns to represent Rappler at the 2024 World Photowalk Philippines organized by photography club Born In Film.

Born In Film was founded by Rappler production specialist Franz Lopez. Franz had first partnered with the Intramuros Administration in 2019 to bring their World Photowalk event to the Walled City for the first time.

With Franz’s help, we were able to collaborate with Intramuros Administration to try out something new: Use the Rappler Communities app as a crowdsourcing platform for ordinary citizens’ feedback about a government service to reach the relevant government agency.

PHOTOWALK. Participants of the 2024 World Photowalk Philippines, organized by photography club Born in Film, answer questions in the liveable cities chat room of the Rappler Communities app, in Intramuros, Manila, on April 20, 2024. Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler

In this case, we asked participants of the photowalk to answer two questions: What do you love about how Intramuros is managed? What is your suggestion to the Intramuros Administration to make the Intramuros experience even better?

Answering these two questions in the liveable cities chat room was one of the five challenges that photowalk participants had to complete in order to win prizes. We called it the “Love Letters to Intramuros” challenge. You can still check out all their answers in the liveable cities chat room by backreading until the April 20 messages.

“Photographers see details many people don’t,” I said to participants during the part of the opening ceremonies where I got a chance to speak.

Photographers, when visiting a tourist and heritage landmark like Intramuros, tend to walk around and immerse themselves more than other kinds of visitors. They stay longer, waiting for the perfect scene to capture. They use their feet to explore hidden nooks and crannies of the place. They are observant and attuned to the aesthetics of a location and notice how structures are maintained. 

This makes them great sources of feedback for an agency like the Intramuros Administration, whose mandate is “to protect and conserve the historical and cultural value and significance of Intramuros while advancing and guiding urban development within,” according to the 1979 presidential decree that created it.

The Intramuros Administration turned 45 years old this month. We are happy that there are government officials like Administrator Joan Padilla who see the value in working with journalists to get information about public sentiment towards their work.

We learned some useful things from the “love letters” photographers sent.

We learned that some of them have been visiting Intramuros since they were kids. Yet, for others, the photowalk was their first time in Intramuros.

“Every time I visit Intramuros, it reminds me of my college years. I used to go here to unwind, take photos, and try street food. I enjoy exploring the area behind the historic walls, which instantly transport me back in time,” wrote iamhabby.

Several people praised the Intramuros Administration for maintaining the facilities and opening up parts of Fort Santiago that had been closed off from the public, like the dungeons.

Points for improvement mentioned by participants were as follows:

  • Make Intramuros more accessible for all: make it more pedestrian-friendly and provide more parking for bikes
  • Improve security at night by installing more lights or deploying more guards
  • Make exhibits or signages more informative and interactive (Gabby suggested a treasure hunt app)
  • Plant more trees and do a clean-up drive in Pasig River, which flows beside Intramuros
  • More benches and sheds so people can have more places to rest
  • For Intramuros guards to be briefed better on rules allowing photographers to take photos without a permit

“Love Letters to Intramuros” is our first partnership this year with a government agency to gather public feedback and crowdsource ways to improve government service. We’re excited for future projects and collaborations.

Journalists have always served the role of bridge between citizens and government leaders. You see this in man-on-the-street interviews where reporters ask citizens their take on pressing issues. You see this whenever journalists write about a new law or government program that greatly affects the public.

But technology, like the Rappler Communities app, can help widen its scale and make providing feedback easy for citizens. Being able to ask a lot more people what they think, and in a convenient, quick manner, will always be valuable to good policy-making and a vibrant, healthy democracy. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.