11/14/17

ASEAN and the Parian

This year, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Coinciding with this momentous occasion, the 31st ASEAN Summit is being held here in Manila this week until November 15, prompting protests, heavy traffic, and a former beauty queen committing serious traffic violation. But in the spirit of this historic occasion, let’s focus instead to what this site does best: urban roaming of course.

In relation to the ASEAN theme going on in the metropolis, today the Urban Roamer takes you right between the walls of Intramuros where one of the Walled City’s defenses once stood. Where now stands an open park that, among others, is dedicated to the regional organization.

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10/26/17

Revival Pains: The Case of the Paco Market and Estero de Paco Rehabilitation

In 2010, the government and partner agencies and organizations launched a massive drive to rehabilitate Estero de Paco as part of the greater and still-continuing campaign to rehabilitate Pasig River and its tributaries. As part of this drive, Paco Market, one of Paco’s iconic structures which is located alongside the Estero de Paco, was “redeveloped” as well as a showcase of the new Estero de Paco and, in a way, a new Paco as well.

More or less a decade has passed since the Estero de Paco project was initiated and by and large, it seems most of the major rehabilitation work has been completed. It’s an opportunity to look back at the past and see as well how much progress (or otherwise) this part of the city has experienced as the result of the rehabilitation. Continue reading

10/4/17

Santo Domingo Church in Intramuros

October every year is a special occasion for one of the metropolis’ most prominent Catholic churches. In particular, this church celebrates two important occasions: the feast day of its Marian patron and the anniversary of its establishment in its current location. And what is this church is the Urban Roamer referring to? Why, it is none other than the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City, considered to be the one of the largest Catholic churches in Metro Manila.

For us to better appreciate the significance of this landmark, it is important for us to learn its history. For that, we have to first visit the Walled City that is Intramuros in Manila, right where Santo Domingo began. Continue reading

09/8/17

From Coca-Cola to Landers

Years ago, the Urban Roamer has talked about the neighborhood along Paz M. Guanzon Street, the former Otis Street in Manila’s Pandacan/Paco area, and the sights that can be seen there: the auto dealers, the Robinsons mall, the Mapua Malayan High School, and Malacañang South. However, embarrassing as it may be, it seems the Urban Roamer forgot to write what is perhaps the most well-known landmark in this part of the city, the old Coca-Cola bottling plant.

But it may have a stroke of luck as well as the old plant went through some significant developments and was transformed into a retail site of a membership superstore chain called Landers. With that said, it is time to revisit this part of the city as we look at how a softdrink plant transformed into a superstore site. Continue reading

07/30/17

The Gem Of Pedro Gil: St. Paul University Manila

As far as women’s education is concerned, St. Paul University Manila is considered one of the pioneers. Despite the many changes over the years, including it being converted into a co-ed school in 2005, it is still known as a respected institution for young Catholic women.

The History of St. Paul Manila

First established in 1911 as a novitiate where women would be trained to become nuns under the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres, what would become St. Paul University Manila officially was born in 1912 as the St. Paul Institution, when a kindergarten department was opened. The following year, the school opened an elementary department and in 1924, the school offered secondary education as well. Eventually the novitiate moved out to its new home in Quezon City, where another St. Paul school would rise shortly, but that’s another story. Meanwhile, St. Paul Institution opened its college department in 1936; 4 years later the school would be renamed as St. Paul College Manila.

The period of St. Paul Manila’s formative years coincided with the growth of what was the old educational hub in prewar south Manila. Along what was once Herran Street, St. Paul counted as its neighbors the University of the Philippines (which still has its Manila campus to this day), Ateneo de Manila, and Assumption College.

However, World War II happened. The St. Paul Manila campus was occupied by Japanese troops in 1942 during the Japanese occupation. Three years later, the Battle of Manila happened, and the school would bear witness to one of the most horrifying atrocities committed during the Battle of Manila.

History and Tragedy in the Chapel

The story goes that the Japanese soldiers rounded up more than 120 prisoners and imprisoned them inside the school chapel, the Chapel of the Crucified Christ originally built in 1927 and designed by Juan Luna’s architect son, Andres Luna de San Pedro. Once the prisoners were locked inside, the Japanese proceeded to bomb and burn the chapel. The chapel was burned down and none of the chapel prisoners managed to survive. The only one that survived by the end of the war was the chapel facade, one of the few structures that were left standing in Herran.

The Sisters of St. Paul proceeded to rebuild St. Paul Manila after the war and quickly resumed operations. The chapel was eventually rebuilt in 1948 and, owing to its history and architectural significance, has become the school’s most cherished and most significant landmark.

The “Broadway of Herran”

As was mentioned earlier, St. Paul Manila decided to continue its operations in its original location, defying a postwar trend among former Manila-based institutions that decided to relocate outside the city proper. In fact, it managed to thrive on after the war, retaining its spot as a premier academic institution for women.

Nothing symbolized this optimism and vigor felt in the campus better than its other beloved landmark that was built in 1957, the Fleur de Lis Theater. Behind this contemporary architectural structure are 2 men from Angono, Rizal: Jose Reynoso who was the architect of the building and future National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco, who made a painting found in the theater’s lobby titled “The Evolution of Philippine Culture.”

Botong Francisco’s “Evolution of Philippine Culture” (image courtesy of Mary Ann Venturina-Bulanadi via Facebook)

The Fleur de Lis Theater would become known to be the place to be for musical theater presentations, where future artists and entertainers like Cecille Guidote, Charo Santos, Celeste Legaspi, June Keithley, and the Revilla sisters would get to hone their craft. The theater would eventually earn the monicker “the Broadway of Herran.”

Inside the Fleur de Lis Theater (photo courtesy of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines)

Recent Developments

St. Paul Manila would later be elevated as a university in its own right in 2004 as part of the St. Paul University System, the first university system recognized by the Commission on Higher Education.

Despite the growing commercialization of the area in recent decades (not to mention a street name change to what is now Pedro Gil), St. Paul University Manila has remains not only as a landmark but as a remnant of Manila of old.

 

Acknowledgements as well to St. Paul University Manila