When someone hears, reads, and visits Fort Santiago in Manila, the first things that comes to mind are Jose Rizal, Intramuros, old penitentiary, Philippine history. But for Helen ‘Jhoey’ Naddeo, a self-confessed ‘history girl’ who’s also a certified Jose Rizal fangirl, Fort Santiago will always reminds her of Henry Naddeo, her father and the man who loved telling her a story of every place they have been to.
Fort Santiago will always be my favorite place aside from the its relevance to Jose Rizal and Philippine history (in general). It was the place where I started to fall in love with history and that’s all because of Henry.
Every time he would come to the Philippines and visit me back then, Fort Santiago would always be a part of his itinerary and our hang-out places. My young self back then finds it unusual and tiresome; but because he loves it there, I cannot complain.
My father, an American citizen with an Italian lineage, would always tell me why Fort Santiago is important in Philippine history. Because of him I learned that it was an important defense fortress during the Spanish, American and Japanese colonizations.
Since the place has been part of our father-daughter bonding, my teenager self have started to see Jose Rizal as an awesome and cool hero. We would walk hand in hand around Fort Santiago and he would point out where Rizal was imprisoned before his execution and acted as my personal tour guide. He would also say good things about Jose Rizal as if he’s a Filipino.
Back then, I am not yet obsessed and fascinated with Philippine history (as compared to now), but I loved Sibika at Kultura and HEKASI subjects already and surprisingly excelled on those classes. Yes, you read it right. I can still remember how my classmates hated those subjects because we had to keep in mind the names, places and dates about Philippine history just to pass the subject. I didn’t enjoy memorizing those things but reading and learning about it was fun for me.
Looking back, perhaps my father told me those stories (bits and pieces of Philippine history) for me to have a deeper appreciation of my identity and the relevance of my existence. Perhaps, he was the reason why I have a crush on Jose Rizal. Perhaps, when I learned that he was already in heaven I resorted to reading, exploring and loving history more because it reminds me of him. And it is too coincidental because my father died on December 30, the exact date of Jose Rizal’s execution.
Yesterday was his birthday (November 12). I had to report to work for an ‘over time work’, but on my way to the office, I decided not to go to work because I wanted to have a peaceful and fun Saturday remembering him. Yesterday, I had the chance to share a piece of my story – about my father to good friends (office mates) for them to know me better (because they always see my crazy, stressed and weird self).
Yes, I miss him every single day. The last time I went to Fort Santiago was on March 28, 2010, my 23rd birthday with my three – month old partner Dwight Enriquez. Looking back, Fort Santiago was our first heritage date/adventure. Back then when we were young, fit, relatively poor and struggling individuals. From Fort Santiago, Manila, we’ve traveled to many places already to fulfill my wanderlust for traveling and history.
I have been regularly visiting Intramuros for the past years and have planned to go back to Fort Santiago but never pushed through. This year, some of my office mates and I wandered around Intramuros. When we were near Fort Santiago, we realized that we were dead tired, decided to go home and just come back again soon.
Fort Santiago, it has been six (6) years already since I’ve visited you and it still feels like yesterday with Henry walking hand in hand. I have to see you again soon before I turn #flirty30 and relive the best memories of my life.
This is my story of Fort Santiago, Manila. The place where I found myself obsessed with Philippine history and overly emotional about recent events that concerns my country, its history, heritage and identity. The place that paved way to Helen ‘Jhoey’ Naddeo, a proud Filipino and history girl at heart.