City of Manila

Where horses used to tread: Hippodromo St., Sta. Mesa, Manila

As Manila grew in the 19th century, the lands of Santa Mesa and the nearby areas have become home to prominent families of the era. One of them was the Tuasons, the forebears of the First Gentleman himself, Mike Arroyo. These properties eventually were donated or placed on rent as Manila was continuously expanding outwards and more people coming in to live in the city.

At the same time, the sport of horse racing began to take hold of Manila’s sporting and recreational scene. From its humble beginnings in 1867, it became so popular that it began to outgrow its original venue at what is now known as R. Hidalgo Street. Coinciding with the growing commercialism in that area, a decision was made to move to the a more spacious area in what was then a rural neighborhood of Santa Mesa.

A piece of land would be rented out from the Tuasons, giving rise to horse racing’s new home in 1880, the Hippodromo de Sta. Mesa or the Sta. Mesa Hippodrome. Built out of bamboo and nipa, it became a popular landmark especially among horse racing aficionados at a time of a booming racing industry. Holidays were declared during these race days as the oval became a venue for social gatherings and power meetings among Manila’s rich and powerful.

The outbreak of the Philippine Revolution and the need for a larger venue forced the relocation of the horse races in 1900 up north in Santa Cruz. (up where the old San Lazaro Hippodrome was) But the memory of the horse races once held in this part of the land still remains in the street where it once stood, aptly named Hipodromo.

Apart from the name, there’s no trace of the original structure nor has a marker been set in place in memory of old Hippodromo, other than the street that now traverses through it.

© The Urban Roamer

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