Mabini150: Mabini and Nagtahan

If there is one place in the metropolis that has a solid association with Apolinario Mabini, it would be the road and the neighborhood called Nagtahan which straddles between the present-day districts of San Miguel and Santa Mesa in the City of Manila.

flyover at Nagtahan, 2014

Nagtahan got its name from a word in Tagalog which means to stop or end. It was named so because in the olden days, Calle Nagtahan was a dead end, ending a few meters before the bank of the Pasig River. Despite that, it grew as a rural suburb of Manila during the late Spanish colonial period as some decided to take residence in the area. One of them happened to be Apolinario Mabini’s brother, Agapito, who married a woman belonging to a somewhat landed family, the Del Rosarios.

When Apolinario Mabini decided to enter law school in 1888, his brother’s family offered him a place to stay in Nagtahan, in a house owned by the Del Rosario. It would be in this simple dwelling that Mabini would live through most of his life and where he would eventually breathed his last. Owing to its significance, the government eventually acquired ownership of the house some time after his death.

the Mabini House at its original site in Nagtahan (courtesy of Xiao Chua)

In the 1930s, plans were drawn to build a bridge that would finally connect Nagtahan to South Manila, particularly Pandacan and Paco. However, the planned bridge would hit the original site of the house. Thus, the government acquired a piece of land adjacent to the bridge which would become the second site of the Mabini house.

the clanky Nagtahan Bridge in the 1950s; Mabini’s house can be seen at the lower right (courtesy of Vic Torres at Manila Nostalgia)

In the 1960s, the clanky wooden Nagtahan Bridge (a Bailey type of bridge) was to be replaced with a concrete one. At the same time, there were also plans to widen the Pasig River to accommodate barges plying the river, especiallyafter an incident in 1960 in which a barge rammed through the bridge causing it to tilt and bring forth flooding problems as well in the nearby areas. These factors would mean expansion of Nagtahan which would again adversely affect the Mabini house. Thus in 1960, it was moved to its third site, this time south of the Pasig River inside the compound of Malacañang Park in Pandacan which is also the headquarters of the Presidential Security Group.

the Malacañang Park/PSG compound where the Mabini House used to be located

The house would remain in the compound, inaccessible to the public owing to the high security placed in the area, until 2009, when plans by the Metro Manila Development Authority to widen the Pasig River to address flooding issues in that part of the city meant that the house had to relocated…again. This time, it was moved back to the north of the river but instead in the campus of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. (PUP) More on that in a future installment.

Meanwhile, the concrete Nagtahan Bridge that was completed by 1963 went through a change of its own when Pres. Ferdinand Marcos decreed in 1967 that the bridge be renamed in the honor of the hero who have lived his life in Nagtahan. Thus, Nagtahan Bridge became officially known as Mabini Bridge. (though people still refer to the bridge by its old, now unofficial name)

To conclude this special Mabini150 series, the last entry will be about the Mabini Shrine and Museum at its new home in a campus

Acknowledgements as well to the book “Philippine Heritage Homes: A Guidebook” by Jaime Laya, Maria Cristina Valera-Turalba, and Martin Tinio Jr., (out now in bookstores so grab a copy now! #plugging) Alah-Eh! Pagkasarap, and the Philippine Presidential Museum and Library.

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