City of Manila

Roaming in Old Sta. Mesa St.

Straddling between Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard and V. Mapa Street is a street with an interesting name: Old Sta. Mesa. Before the wisecrack questions are raised, yes it is old as it says it is. In fact, the area of Old Sta. Mesa is one of the oldest places in Manila’s geographic district of Santa Mesa, having served as the “poblacion” or town center of this suburb by the turn of the 20th century.

If it is true that the heart of a certain place illustrates the character of that place, then Old Sta. Mesa defines the evolution (or in this case, urbanization) of this once-sleepy community to a bustling little urban enclave. Perhaps one sad consequence of Santa Mesa’s “radical” transformation is the lack of heritage today of “old” Old Sta. Mesa. Save perhaps for this house, part of which has been transformed into a photo studio.

Nevertheless, it still forms part of the eclecticism of the street. Where else can you find a Catholic church, Protestant school, commercial establishments, and a line of motels all along one street?

We begin at the corner of Old Sta. Mesa St. and Ramon Magsaysay Blvd. is the Police Station 8 (popularly known as Presinto 8) of the Manila Police District, which serves Santa Mesa and nearby San Miguel communities. Right opposite the station is a line of stores found at a building that has become a landmark by itself: Stop & Shop. On the other side of the street is Super Mightee Mart (formerly Fernando’s Supermarket) one of the pioneer standalone supermarkets in the city before Puregold and SM SaveMore appeared on the scene.

First established in 1911, the Parish church dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has long exclusively served the Catholic community of Santa Mesa. Right beside it is the Sacred Heart Catholic School, (known to oldtimers like me as the Sta. Mesa Parochial School) run by the Archdiocese of Manila.

Another lowkey landmark in the area is the Communication Foundation for Asia (CFA) center. For kids who grew up reading Pambata magazines and Gospel Komiks, the foundation is the brains behind those publications. They also are also known as one of the pioneers in development communication in the country, having been around since 1973.

A new commercial building complex

From Old Sta. Mesa, shown below is a view of Teresa St., more popularly known as the road that leads to the main campus of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. Formerly an asphalted road like the rest of the streets here, it was soon paved with brick tiles as part of then Mayor Lito Atienza’s Buhayin Ang Maynila program. making the street sort of like a virtual extension of the PUP campus.

Gloria Dei Christian School, a Lutheran school found along Old Sta. Mesa St.

And of course, a tour of Old Sta. Mesa would not be complete without these landmarks that make Santa Mesa, especially on Valentine’s Day…

©2009 The Urban Roamer

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