City of Manila

Tales of a disappearing plaza and a moving monument

A plaza has been generally defined as an open space, serving the “village center” where people converge to do business or be entertained. And in the olden days of the city, long before malls, television, and the Internet became part of our lives, the plaza was the place to be to “hang out” and relax.

Here in the metropolis though, many plazas here now mean a different thing, thanks in part to the influence of urbanization. Nowadays a number of plazas of the old have somewhat disappeared in the midst of bad traffic, parked vehicles, and urban landscaping gone wrong. (horribly wrong in some cases)

One example, below:

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Believe it or not, this picture above is a plaza. It’s called Plaza Avelino, named after the educator Librada Avelino who founded the Centro Escolar University, which happens to be located less a kilometer away.

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But the name Plaza Avelino is something that has been largely forgotten these days, save perhaps for this police station which has named its detachment after the plaza. The place is more popularly known as “rotonda” even though there’s no actual roundabout structure but rather more of an intersecting point of 5 of Manila’s most busy and known thoroughfares: Ramon Magsaysay Blvd. at the east, A.H. Lacson Ave. (formerly known as Gov. Forbes Ave.) at the north, Nagtahan St. at the south, Legarda St. at the northwest, and Jose P. Laurel St.. at the southwest.

But at one time, there was an actual rotonda there and on the intersection once stood a fountain dedicated to Francisco Carriedo, the man who first dreamt of a waterworks system for Manila during the Spanish era. Inaugurated in 1882, (or is it 1884 as indicated in the sculpture? anyone can confirm?) the structure known as the Carriedo Fountain marked the completion of Manila’s waterworks system more than a hundred years after Carriedo’s death in 1743. While Carriedo did not actually build or design the waterworks system, his fortune helped made it possible as he bequeathed a certain portion of his wealth in 1733 to the Ayuntamiento specifically for its creation.

For almost a century, this landmark adorned this particular intersection of the city. The area that eventually became known as Plaza Avelino.

Carriedo Fountain at Plaza Avelino, circa 1900’s. Note the tranvia at the right which used to traverse what is now Legarda St.

Eventually the surrounding area of the plaza gave in to the urbanization of the area in the 1960s-70s as heavy traffic became an emerging problem in the area. The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, who handled the maintenance of the Carriedo fountain back then, decided to relocate the structure to its headquarters in Balara during the 1970’s as a way to alleviate the traffic situation there. It would remain there for around 20 years before the City Government of Manila requested to have the Carriedo Fountain back. The MWSS granted their request in return for a construction of a replica of the Carriedo Fountain at the MWSS grounds where the original one stood. Napoleon Abueva did the replica which now adorns the MWSS grounds while the original made its way back to Manila. Curiously though, it was not placed back to its old spot at Plaza Avelino but was rather relocated to Plaza Sta. Cruz where it now stands to this day…

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Carriedo Fountain today at Plaza Santa Cruz

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…in all its…uhmm…glory. Thank you unconcerned citizens and the City government of Manila for keeping it in such “splendid” (*sarcasm*) state

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I have no idea yet why. Perhaps concerns about its location or the traffic situation were some of the factors. Or maybe it’s because Plaza Sta. Cruz is near Carriedo St. whose also named after Francisco Carriedo. There have been calls to have the fountain brought back to its original spot. Well, not exactly on the same spot but perhaps to be placed at the landscaped garden and parking area created by the MMDA. Who knows, maybe the MMDA would do a better job in maintaining the fountain than what the city government is doing right now.

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MMDA’s landscaped garden and parking lot along J.P. Laurel St.

While the old “plaza” feel of Plaza Avelino is now lost in all the traffic in the area, commercial activity keeps it alive nowadays. Business in the area has been bolstered by the presence of a drugstore, fastfood restaurants, a convenience store, and just recently, a large grocery store managed by the country’s malling empire.

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another territory conquered by the Sy retail empire

Traffic here is still heavy especially at rush hour, though it has somehow been alleviated by the presence of intersecting flyovers and an elevated rail track which has covered the plaza under a concrete roof.

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Line 2 train and flyovers over traffic and Plaza Avelino
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the plaza under the concrete and steel shade

That last point, admittedly, is open for contention.

© The Urban Roamer

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