As was mentioned before, Santa Ana’s overlooked heritage flavor is a tourism goldmine of sorts waiting to be utilized fully, thanks to a number of Spanish and American-era architecture that still defines the area. If the houses along Plaza Hugo are not enough for examples, you can also find some old, grand, and, sadly, some dilapidated houses right across the plaza, along the vicinity of Old Panaderos St. If you’re hungry, you won’t find any bakeries here, unfortunately. However this area was once before the place where bakers live and/or ply their business during the Spanish times. I’m not sure if the old houses still standing in the area once belonged to some baker there. With the pictures below, one can imagine how much potential these houses have as crowd-drawers of sorts, given the proper maintenance and attention.
Right along the area is Embarcadero St. which means “landing place” or “wharf” in Spanish. The street’s name reminisces the time when this part of Santa Ana used to be a wharf for boats that ply along the Pasig River back in the days when trade and transport was very much thriving at the Pasig River. Even today, the wharves of Santa Ana, while no longer as busy as before, still manages to live on serving the residents and visitors there, thanks to the motorized boats that cater to those crossing north Santa Ana (aka Punta) as an alternative transport of sorts.
Going back to the vicinity of Santa Ana Church is another prominent plaza in Santa Ana located right smack in the middle of Pedro Gil St. named after and dedicated to Santa Ana resident and main personality in drafting the 1899 Malolos Constitution Felipe Calderon. Fun fact: back in the days when tranvias and not jeepneys were the kings of the road in the realm of Manila’s public transport, Plaza Calderon served as a tranvia station before. Even today, the place is still as busy as ever, thanks to the presence of many establishments around the area, most especially the Santa Ana Public Market.
Apart from the church, another landmark you cannot miss around Plaza Calderon is the Santa Ana Market. While, the marketplace has been around for a long while, the present structure that you see is a fairly new one, built under the term of Lito Atienza under his “Buhayin ang Maynila” (Revive Manila) program.
Despite its historic and cultural value, it has fallen into a sad fate of its existence being erased by the throes of commercialism, like a number of heritage structures. The main culprit (aside from neglect from the city government) is a retail and residential giant whose plans for the property have yet to be disclosed. You can expect worse traffic in the area once whatever project these people put up there is completed. For this roamer, it’s frustrating to find the places you’ve been hearing and reading about have now disappeared, especially if it’s the first time for you to go there.
All is not bleak though, as some examples of Santa Ana heritage in this part of the district remain intact. One such example are a number of old houses along Pedro Gil St., which were converted and restored into school buildings for the Manila branch of the O.B. Montessori Center.
Another such remnant is the Xavier House which has been owned by the Jesuit priests since 1947. As the name implies, it is named after St. Francis Xavier, one of the foremost Jesuit missionaries during the 16th century. The Jesuit National Office for the Mass Media was based there; its longtime head Fr. James Reuter still lives in the house from what I gather.
It also holds a special place in our history during the events to what led to the EDSA People Power I Revolution that toppled the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. The Xavier House became an operations hub of volunteers led by Fr. Reuter throughout the 1986 snap elections and the outbreak of People Power. Despite the media blackout enforced during that time, the media office based at Xavier House has still managed to gather what was going on, a function that proved to be beneficial when Fr. Reuter and some of the Xavier House volunteers drew up the plans and set up the underground station known as Radyo Bandido up north at the J&T Building in Santa Mesa.
The Xavier House was in the news recently, thanks to an erroneous newspaper report that it was sold to the same retail and property magnate mentioned above. While the Jesuits have refuted the story to be untrue, the possibility of losing Xavier House is still out there, so to speak, as the Jesuit administration admitted that they have been experiencing financial difficulties that have made maintenance of the house to be of a challenge of sorts. On the bright side of things, it is good to hear that the Jesuits assured that they are looking into all possible options in maintaining and preserving this little-known landmark.
Another interesting landmark that made into the news recently is a 65-plus year-old house located right next door to the Jesuit house. This house belongs to the family of the late writer and diplomat Marcial Lichauco. Being a diplomat for a patriarch, this house was no stranger to gatherings and other events attended by fellow diplomats and statesmen. It also boasts a good riverside view at the back. Having withstood the changes that wrought onto Santa Ana, (thanks in part to the determination of the heirs of Mr. Lichauco to preserve this house) the Lichauco house still stands today. In recognition for its significance as one of the few remaining examples of old Santa Ana, this house was recently declared a heritage house by no less the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. This roamer hopes to visit this house personally one of these days and be able to appreciate it further.
The landscape of Santa Ana is one of the few examples here of the somewhat unequal treatment heritage is getting in a community. Santa Ana is lucky that it has still manage to keep some of its heritage in the face of the rapid urbanization that has already affected some of the community’s cherished landmarks. If Santa Ana is to keep its identity and promote it more, all sectors must work hand in hand to raise the appreciation of a heritage long overlooked in this part of the city.
updated on 12/20/10
© The Urban Roamer