Located along the northern bank of the Pasig River, just right next door to Mandaluyong, you can not miss finding Punta on the map. Who can miss that piece of land that’s bulging out and surrounded by the rivers of Pasig and San Juan? And if you look at the map below, Punta does have a peninsula-like appearance, which may be why the Spaniards called the place as such, after their native word for point or tip.
As Bacood is to Santa Mesa, Punta is what you can call a sub-community of the district of Santa Ana, separated from the Santa proper by the Pasig River. Despite the presence of the bridge formerly known as Lambingan, (named so because of the lovers who used to make the PDO’s at the bridge) now renamed by Manila’s yellow-loving mayor as the “Pres. Corazon Aquino and Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. Bridge” (long name I know) people still rely on good old-fashioned water transport via motorized bancas to cross either side of the river.
And recently, another mode of transportation along the Pasig River became available in the area, thanks to the Pasig River Ferry with a station located near the formerly-named Lambingan Bridge.
Punta has long been known as “Little Tondo” (something I didn’t know personally) not much because it resembles Tondo as far as demographics are concerned, Punta being populated mostly from the lower classes or what some would consider the urban poor. The monicker was given because of Punta’s bad reputation of having violent riots breaking out in the area especially during the 1970’s-80’s.
The violence in today’s Punta has somehow diminished (if not disappeared completely) Punta’s reputation is so bad that it’s said that even taxi drivers dare not venture in the area. Or maybe the drivers just want to avoid navigating around Punta’s narrow roads. with some parts don’t even leave room for some pedestrian traffic.
The demographics of Punta’s residents today still come mostly from the lower classes. Some may find the place to be “ghetto-like,” the conditions in the area is not as bad as some people perceive. In fact there are a number of interesting places to check out even in place called “Little Tondo.”
Punta prides itself as the birthplace of one of the country’s most dominant religions in the modern age, the Christian sect known as the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC or Church of Christ) It was on Punta where on July 28, 1914, Felix Manalo started the ministry with a handful of followers. The structure below is the first formal place of worship of the group built in 1937.*
That same house has been restored recently and now serves as the museum of the Iglesia ni Cristo (which we hope to visit inside one of these days) while the ministry and religious services of the INC were relocated to a larger venue a few blocks away, bearing the trademark Gothic-style architecture many INC chapels today have. Perhaps it’s no coincidence as well that the street the museum and the chapel is situated is named after the INC founder.
Aside from the INC, another dominant “icon” that Punta has become identified with throughout history and until today is PHIMCO or the Philippine Match Company. Founded in 1927, this Punta-based company has long been in the business of making matches, lighters, and mosquito coils, brands that have long been a part of the lives of almost every Filipino.
Perhaps due to the demographics of the area, Punta has been a site of at least a couple of large-scale urban settlement projects handled by both government and non-government groups.One housing project in the area was put up recently by the Archdiocese of Manila, with the help of Gawad Kalinga, called the Jaime Cardinal Sin Village. Named after Manila’s longtime archbishop, the place is not an actual village of houses, but rather looks like a condominium complex of sorts, with a number of low-rise buildings built and offered for those who could not afford to have a decent home.
Being a village named after Cardinal Sin, you cannot miss his monument greeting you at the village entrance, right in front of the church dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Ina ng Laging Saklolo)
Another housing project, which is the most prominent, is fact one of the first urban housing projects of the government was built in Punta, when in 1965, then Pres. Diosdado Macapagal supervised the completion of the Punta Santa Ana Tenement House, which is also the country’s first tenement housing site.
While at first glance and on the outside, the building still looks fine and grand with its sheer size and area, the building has actually suffered serious decay over the years, a decay so alarming that it has already been deemed condemned by the country’s Public Works department 10 years ago. But you can trust the resolve (or stubbornness) of the residents there to stick it out there despite the dangers and do what they can to find some fix to the problems in the building rather than be relocated far away from the conveniences of urban living they have been used to for so long.
A fitting metaphor to how attached many of us are to urban living and what we do so as not have that lifestyle taken away from us.
© The Urban Roamer