A Tale of Two Tondo Plazas

City of Manila

Aside from the previously touched upon Plaza Amado V. Hernandez, there are at least a couple of plazas in Tondo that are significant in their own right. Let’s check out these two Tondo plazas and their respective histories and points of interest.

Plaza Morga

Located between Nolasco and Sta. Maria streets and right across the Mary Johnston Hospital is Plaza Morga. It was named in honor Antonio de Morga, a Spanish lawyer and colonial official who once served as deputy Governor General of the Philippines. He was also known for being the captain general of the fleet that fought the Dutch who were preying on the waters near Manila in 1600. What’s notable about this battle was that one of the participants of the Spanish fleet was the San Diego, and it was this battle in which the ship suffered heavy damage and eventually sank, along with various artifacts which would eventually be recovered in the 1990s and are now on display at the National Museum.

Portrait of Antonio de Morga at the National Museum

By many accounts, Morga was not really that accomplished as an official. Even in the aforementioned battle, he was called out for some questionable decisions. Nevertheless, he would become better and more favorably known as a historian thanks to his seminal work “Sucesos Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas” (Events in the Philippine Islands) which is one of the best (if not the best) documentary works on the country during the early Spanish colonial period.

Interestingly, Plaza Morga does not bear a monument of him or memorial in his name. Instead, one can find in the plaza is a monument of Macario Sakay, the revolutionary who continued the Filipino resistance during the American colonial era, even after Emilio Aguinaldo’s capture in 1901. He would eventually declare himself president of the “Tagalog Republic”, the revolutionary government which sought to overthrow American rule and reestablish Philippine independence.

Sakay was eventually captured in 1906 and was hanged as a “bandit” the following year. Despite being branded as a “bandit” by the Americans, he would eventually be recognized as a freedom fighter and revolutionary, thanks in part to the landmark film of his life which was released in 1993. In 2008, Sakay would eventually have a monument of his own erected in Plaza Morga.

Plaza Moriones

If plazas helped define a certain town or locality, there is no doubt that Plaza Moriones fits the bill as far as Tondo is concerned. Sure Plaza Amado V. Hernandez fit the bill of the typical old town plaza, but Plaza Moriones is more prominent and historically significant of all the Tondo plazas.

Like Plaza Morga, Plaza Moriones was named after a Spanish official, Governor-General Domingo Moriones y Muralla, who served from 1877 to 1881. Unlike Morga, he at least had a major accomplishment as a government official, and that is the construction of Manila’s sewerage system, an occasion celebrated by the unveiling of the Carrriedo Fountain around that period.

Plaza Moriones itself is a strip of shaded oasis of sorts in the middle of Moriones Street, filled with some trees and some monuments. One of those monuments is dedicated to patriot and writer Honorio Lopez, who wrote the popular almanac the Kalendariong Tagalog.

There is also a monument designed by Eduardo Castrillo called the “Sigaw ng Tondo” (Cry of Tondo), which immortalized the contributions of the men and women of Tondo in striving to create a better community.

Plaza Moriones has long been the center of political activity of the district. It has known as Tondo’s Mendiola or Plaza Miranda, even though the political activities in Plaza Moriones predate the occurence of such activities in either Plaza Miranda or Mendiola. It was the chosen venue for the establishment of two significant movements in history: the first trade union federation of the country in 1902 which is the Union Obrero Democratica Filipina and the communist movement Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas in 1930.

One thing to note is that both movements are working class-led movements helped cement Tondo’s reputation as the heart of Manila’s working class community. Thus, Plaza Moriones has been considered by many as the true heart of Tondo.

 

 

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