San Juan

Club Filipino: Manila’s Storied Social Club

The presence of social clubs in a city tend to be overlooked but they nevertheless play an important role in the city’s social development. In the case of Metro Manila, social clubs such as the rotary Club and the Elks Club have made their mark in the social landscape of the metropolis.

Then there is the Club Filipino, one of the oldest clubs in existence in the country. It is also perhaps one of the most popular social clubs in the country, particularly due to the role it has played in the country’s history.

The club was founded in 1898, right after the June 12 declaration of the Philippines’ independence from Spain. It was founded during an interesting period in the country’s history as it was struggling to gain recognition from the international community while its former and future colonial masters (AKA Spain and the United States, respectively) were struggling to gain control of the it at the same time. The club’s original name reflected that struggle to remain independent as it was originally named Club Filipino Independiente.

The club was first established in Manila at 9 Calle Alix, the street now known as Legarda Street. Its first members mainly belonged to the ilustrado class, those belonging to the middle and upper class members of society. Nevertheless, the club stood out because it was the first social club in the country to have Filipinos as members, at a time when most of the social clubs in the country catered to the expatriate communities here.

The club temporarily ceased operations during the Philippine-American War and resumed operations after the war. However, they had to deal with the new status quo. American authorities zeroed in on the club and its name and the club eventually relented to the “request”. It first was renamed to Club Internacional but eventually shortened its original name to what we know it today as Club Filipino.

Despite the kerfuffle, the club still carried out its functions hosting social events in the city, such as holding balls and parties. At the same time, it was slowly taking on a different role as well, that of being a venue for the country’s political affairs.  Under the spectre of American rule, the club hosted a number of political gatherings, both formal and informal, as some of the country’s prominent statesmen walked in its halls at one time or another.

During its first 80+ years, the club has moved from one location to another. From its original home in Calle Alix, it moved to Plaza Goiti (now Plaza Lacson) and then to Manga Avenue in Sampaloc/Santa Mesa years later. In 1970, the club relocated to a more permanent home in Greenhills in the Manila suburb of San Juan. Its new home was built in a neo-bahay na bato styled structure designed by Architect Gabriel Formoso.

Photo credit to Ramon FVelasquez/CC-BY-SA-3.0

Club Filipino’s role as a venue for the country’s political affairs was cemented on February 25, 1986 when Corazon Aquino took her oath as President of the Philippines in the club’s premises. To be In commemoration of this historic event, the hall where she took her oath  was eventually renamed as the “Cory C. Aquino Kalayaan Hall.”

With almost 120 years in existence, it is impressive to see a club such as Club Filipino that has been able to weather the continuing changes in the landscape of the metropolis, and the country as a whole. It is reasonable to expect that the club will continue to perform its role as a host in the social and political affairs of the country.


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