Beyond Fish and Floods: Exploring the Navotas City Proper

Navotas, the north-westernmost city of Metro Manila. And for many of us, two F’s come into mind when we hear Navotas being mentioned: fish and floods.

The Urban Roamer has long been curious about Navotas and what it has to offer other than those two. Ever since having gone on that Malabon trip that included a stop at the city, it has always been a plan of this roamer to explore this part of the metropolis.

And finally, after years of plans that did not push through, it finally happened.

First things first, it would not be possible talking about Navotas if we do not talk about its connection to its neighboring city Malabon. After all, being neighbors, Malabon shares those 2 F’s as well. In fact, Navotas was originally part of Malabon and it was only in 1859 that Navotas would become a separate town in its own right (save for a brief period from 1904-1906 when Navotas and Malabon were reunited).

Because of this, Navotas is admittedly not as culture-rich as Malabon. Nevertheless, Navotas has managed to carve a unique identity, that of being the center of the Metro Manila’s fishing industry. In fact, Navotas is probably one of the few remaining industrial areas in Metro Manila which has seen many former industrial properties converted to commercial and residential spaces.  In fact, it is not uncommon to see large gated areas along the streets of the city, some of which are warehouses for fishing companies based in the city.

The Navotas city proper encompasses 4 barangays: San Jose, Sipac-Almacen, Navotas East, and Navotas West. Navotas’ main thoroughfare is M. Naval Street, named after Mariano Naval, who was Navotas’ gobernadorcillo (the town mayor as he was known before) from 1890-1891. It is also the center of commerce of the city as a number of commercial establishments, especially those in the city center are located along this stretch of this one-way road (yes, Navotas’ streets in the city proper are that narrow).

Navotas East and Navotas West may be the old town center of Navotas, but today the center is at Sipac-Almacen where one can find the city hall and its newly-built hospital, as well as many commercial establishments.

San Jose on the other hand holds the distinction of having the city’s oldest church, the San Jose de Navotas Church. It was the site of the first Catholic church in the town, originally built in 1859. The present church though was built in 1892 and has served as the city’s center of Catholic faith, as well as one of the very few heritage structures that can be found in the city, as many of them have disappeared due to urbanization and calamities. One particular ancestral house, the Santos-Andres ancestral house used to be located along M. Naval before it was transferred piece by piece to its present site in Antipolo.

As far as calamities are concerned, it has become a way of life in Navotas that they have learned to adapt. Multiple drainage systems can be seen on both sides of the sidewalk, with one just a few steps away from the other. Rescue operations have rafts and boats at their disposal. Not to mention, all residences in the city have at least 2 levels, with newer residences having 3 now. Like in Malabon, sidewalks and roads have been elevated multiple times while newer structures built on even higher elevation.

Navotas’ multiple drainage systems
A possible old house on the right and a row of 3-storey residences on the left


While there is not much see to see in Navotas when it comes to tourism and such, Navotas has its own unique character that deserves some appreciation. It somehow represents the resilience and adaptability of the city with what it has. It may not have as rich of a culture, but it was able to harness its strengths in resources and work around its disadvantages in topography to become the progressing city that it is today.

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