the Metro Manila City/Town Name Guide

There are questions that are not asked often but never fail to make heads scratch whenever they are asked. One of them being “how did this place get its name?”

Today, we will attempt to answer this question with regards to the origins behind the names of the cities and town (yes, as in one town) that comprise Metropolitan Manila. Some of the information that will be shared here may be of common knowledge to some, but it is still worth knowing. Who knows, you may be asked about in in a game show or something. 😉

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Discovering the birthplace of Philippine television

October 23, 1953 is a milestone event in the history of Philippine mass media, and of Philippine television in particular. This date is now being celebrated as the birth date, so to speak, of television in the Philippines.

The idea of television in the Philippines was something seriously thought about since after World War II as the country was trying to rebuild after the destruction it experienced. In fact it was the dream of an American engineer named James Lindenberg that the country would be the first in Asia to have the first television broadcast through the company he founded in June 13, 1946: the Bolinao Electronics Corporation. (BEC)

James Lindenberg (courtesy of Xiao Chua)

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commemorating the first shot of the Philippine-American war

At this time, we marked the 111th anniversary of the outbreak of the Filipino-American war, part of a chain of events that began way before of how we ended up being screwed by the Americans who were in the processing of building their own colonial empire and became their “little brown American brothers” regardless of the positives and negatives that were borne out of these events.

For those who at least still remember those lessons in Philippine history way before, we were told that the Filipino-American war began on February 4, 1899 when an American soldier named Willie Grayson fired that first shot. Depending on which book you read, Grayson either shot a Filipino soldier who violated the demarcation and crossed American lines at the San Juan bridge which at that time served as the boundary of the areas under American and Filipino control or one from his command (did not specifically state if it was Grayson himself or someone else) fired the shot in retaliation to opposition by Filipino soldiers because Grayson’s command violated the demarcation.

And for a long while, the San Juan Bridge (which was also known as the Tulay ng Balsahan) was the accepted site where it happened.


an old image of San Juan Bridge (courtesy Philippine American war by Arnaldo Dumindin)

|Then, almost 10 years ago, research done by Benito Legarda, the former head of the Philippine National Historical Institute (NHI) showed that the actual site where the event took place was actually in an area called Blockhouse 7 which marked the boundary between Manila and Barrio Santol in what is now Quezon City. To be specific, it was at the corner of what we now know as the streets of Sociego and Silencio in Sampaloc/Santa Mesa district. (it could go either way as far as the address is concerned though technically the site is in Sampaloc)


So in 2003, the NHI decreed officially that the first shot of the war happened in the vicinity of the former Blockhouse 7, prompting not only another change in our history books but also moving the marker commemorating the first shot of the Philippine American War to this quiet corner of Sociego and Silencio. (quite coincidental too that Sociego’s name comes from the Spanish word which means tranquility and Silencio’s from another Spanish word which means…you guessed it, silence)



the site of old Blockhouse 7

This has naturally stirred protests from some quarters in San Juan as it has lost a part of its own history with this move by the NHI. Nevertheless, the NHI stood pat on its findings and San Juan Bridge lost a marker…until recently.

Now San Juan Bridge has a new marker courtesy of the NHI, which puts the bridge back on the pages of history again. (or it could also be taken as NHI’s “consuelo” gift for having lost the old marker of the first shot) Unfortunately the paint on the marker’s lettering was worn off when I took this:

the new marker at San Juan Bridge

But basically the marker states that it was on that bridge on January 29, 1899 where the Filipino and American forces drew up the agreed demarcation line between the two forces which was to be violated less than a week later. It also adds another piece of tidbit that a battle between Filipino and American forces happened on the bridge on February 5, 1899, a day after the firing of the first shot.

Given the confusing and sometimes conflicting nature our history has been suffering under for quite sometime, I’m afraid it will not be the last we will hear of stories of moved markers and history being told as more confusing than before.

credits: Inquirer, Aguinaldo: dubious hero? blog, Philippine American war by Arnaldo Dumindin

© The Urban Roamer


the most awkward-looking Rizal ever

Today marks another commemoration of the martyrdom of the Philippines’ national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.

And being the country’s national hero, you can never escape his name and image almost everywhere you go, from the streets you traverse to the matches you use.

Then again, he is THE national hero so there’s not much one can do about that.

That principle will also apply whenever we come to see him standing in front of some town plaza or municipal/city/provincial hall in his trademark long black overcoat and, sometimes, holding a book or two on his chest as if he was about to sing the National Anthem.

This particular monument of Rizal however, takes the cake for having a “unique” representation of him. Continue reading


Christmas in the city: the moving Christmas displays

It was 52 Christmases ago when a small department store located along Rizal Avenue in Manila thought of a creative gimmick to entice prospective shoppers to go to their store.

Without much funds to do advertisements on print and radio, Alex Rosario thought of putting up a belly dancer plaster doll which was fitted to the motor of an electric fan to make it move. It became a hit for his department store known as Manila C.O.D.

Who would have thought that this simple marketing strategy would be the beginning of what would become a well-loved Christmas tradition? Who would have foreseen that it would soon evolve into a tradition that has found its way to become a staple of Christmas in the city, a spectacle which has meant more to generations beyond what supposed to be Christmastime advertising? Continue reading