Located right along the north bank of the Pasig River near the mouth where the river meets the Manila Bay, one can find the district known as San Nicolas. But for the regular city-dweller, the mention of San Nicolas may not ring as it is overshadowed by its neighboring Binondo district and that shopping area called Divisoria, an area that is actually part of San Nicolas but has grown more prominent than the district itself.
Regardless of its diminished stature as of late, one cannot discount the important role San Nicolas has played in Manila’s history and development, thanks in part for its role as the city’s business and commercial hub, a natural extension for the Filipino-Chinese based in neighboring Binondo to do their day-to-day trade. Its location is also a favored factor given its proximity to the Pasig River and the Manila Bay as trade at the time was being carried out by the boats delivering goods to and from the port.
With the city’s economic development in the 19th century, many have come to take up residence as well in this district, and San Nicolas became a bustling commercial business, as well as residential district as many families stay and do their businesses under one roof. Those residences that have managed to survive until today gives one a glimpse of San Nicolas’ colorful heritage which help provide the district a unique character. Some of these structures can be seen standing side by side with modern buildings, providing an interesting contrast of sorts in the way the district has developed.
Unfortunately for these surviving structures, their continued existence is imperiled thanks to creeping and rapid urbanization the district has gone through in recent years. Then there are also the problems of decay and neglect they face which can attributed to lack of funds or know-how in preservation or being indifferent to whatever happens to the structure especially if they prefer building a new one instead.
Given the proper attention and planning, San Nicolas has the potential of becoming a destination of its own right. Granted the structures are not lined up as nicely as the houses in Vigan are, they nevertheless provide a link to the city’s past that must be preserved for present and future generations to appreciate. It will be an utter shame if one day we wake up to belatedly realize that the link to the city’s past was there all along right under nose but failed to recognize and protect that link until it has disappeared.
Acknowledgements to the volunteers of Heritage Conservation Society for their inputs that were used for this entry
© The Urban Roamer