City of Manila

Santa Ana Revisited

It has been a while since the Urban Roamer last visited the historic district of Santa Ana in Manila. At that time, the series was written based on the Urban Roamer’s scant knowledge of district as gathered from third party sources.

Over time, I have gotten to learn some new things about this district, most especially recently thanks to my interaction with people who know a great deal about the district itself, not to mention the opportunity to explore more in depth at least parts of it thanks to my work as a volunteer for the Cultural Heritage Mapping Project of Wikimedia Philippines supported by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

That opportunity came in the occasion of a recent Wikiexpedition  (not to be confused with the one) which was focused on mapping the different heritage landmarks around the district, also known as a whole as the Santa Ana Heritage Zone. Volunteers were assigned a specific part of the district to map out and document, not to mention explore some other sights along the way.


Part of the work involved learning and exploring the different houses located in the district. The Urban Roamer was fortunate to see some of the houses up close, notably the Perez House at Plaza Hugo, the Bernardo House now known as an events venue called Jardin de Isabel along Isabel Street, and the Santos House owned by a family who is actually related to comedian Jon Santos. It was amazing not only to see these old houses in such an urbanized setting but also seeing them well-maintained and, in the case of the Bernardo House, adaptively reused as a new landmark for the district altogether.

Perez and dela Merced Houses along Plaza Hugo
interior of the Ramos House
Bernardo House at Isabel Street, now part of an events venue called Jardin de Isabel
Santos House along Isabel Street
interior of the Santos House

Then there are the grandiose residences in the district. One of them was the Cojuangco-Ocampo House which the Urban Roamer was fortunate to see. It belonged once to the family of Eduardo Cojuangco (the father of San Miguel Corp. Chairman Danding Cojuangco) before it was sold to the family of Pablo Ocampo who became Manila congressman in the 1960s. His daughter Sandy is a Manila representative in Congress; the house serves not only as residence but also a venue for her political activities. One thing to note about the house is that it offers a great view of the Pasig River with a gazebo where one can unwind by the riverside, despite the current state of the river and the surroundings.

the gazebo at the Ocampo Residence with the Pasig River in the background


But perhaps the most notable of the Santa Ana houses is the Lichauco House, which is one of the few residences in the country declared as a National Heritage House by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. It currently serves as the home of the Lichauco matriarch Jessie Lichauco, who is probably the most amazing person you may need to meet in your lifetime for her sharpness and energy at her 102 years of age!

the 102-year old matriarch Mrs. Jessie Lichauco
view of the Lichauco house from Pedro Gil (pardon the basketball board)

If the Lichauco house looks interesting at the side fronting Pedro Gil Street, you should definitely check the back fronting the Pasig River, which looks imposing and more impressing. That is because in the olden days when river transport was in vogue, many riverside houses have their main entrances fronting the river.

shot courtesy of a friend via Facebook

Also found at that part of the house is a tall balete or banyan tree is estimated to be more than 100 years which has been declared by the Department of the Environment as a heritage tree.

The interior of the house features some interesting items, particularly a collection at the ground level of the house containing stuffed animals from the hunting trips made by the patriarch Marcial Lichauco who was one of the first Filipinos who went on an African safari back at a time when endangered animals were far from being a cause of concern.


The recent Wikiexpedition was also an opportunity to explore further the landmarks the Urban Roamer saw but not documented that well before. One of them being the Santa Ana Church Convent, whose patio was declared as a National Cultural Treasure as it was the site of the excavations done in the 1960s which yielded various Pre-Hispanic era artifacts. The convent itself is as old as the church and it shows with the architecture.

Remember the “miraculous” well (Pozo de la Virgen) at the back of the church? The Urban Roamer managed to explore it a bit further which itself was a discovery. The well has the look of an underground cellar with stairs leading to a shallow pool of water where the “miraculous” water is taken from.

The Urban Roamer also revisited the Taoist Temple across the rear of the church and got to learn new information about it. Apparently, it’s been around since circa 1890s and the temple itself has two chapels: the one on the left is the “female” side dedicated to the Our Lady of the Abandoned, the “goddess of mercy” while the one on the right is the “male” section dedicated to a Taoist deity based on a historical figure named Pao Ong, the “god of justice.”

the left chapel dedicated to the “goddess of mercy” AKA the Our Lady of the Abandoned
the right chapel dedicated to the “god of justice” AKA Pao Ong

Those discoveries are just the tip of the totality of the wonders Santa Ana has to offer. Clearly the 8 entries dedicated on this site is not enough to document all this. Nevertheless, such discoveries makes it even more enticing to return to this storied district to embark on further discoveries as a way for people to appreciate what Santa Ana has to offer and serve as an example of what can be done to save and promote whatever heritage is left in our metropolis.


More photos can be found on the Urban Roamer’s Flickr album


  • jr

    Hi! i have a cultural mapping project for Sta. Ana, focused on art organizations for my major subject. Do you know of more specific places that I could include? Hoping for your response! 😀 We could also talk via email 🙂 Thankyou!

  • Shiel

    Hi! I’m vey much interested in the Lichauco house for research purposes but never found any info if one can schedule a tour or a visit of the house. Can you share any info as to how you managed the feat? Much thanks.

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