City of Manila

the heritage of Santa Ana

I mentioned in a previous post about Santa Ana’s hidden treasures, treasures of heritage to be exact. It is fortunate to find out that despite the rapid urbanization going on around the 400-plus year-old city, the old heritage of the city is still alive in this “quieter” part of the city. For someone who appreciates the beauty of cultural heritage, it is a welcome relief to see it somehow alive in the district of Santa Ana.

Back during the 19th-early 20th centuries, Santa Ana became known as an enclave of some of Manila’s upper class families. The lush environment and the cool breeze of the Pasig River made living in Santa Ana back then a privilege of sorts that attracted many who were trying to move away from frentic activities of a growing Manila. The old houses that have remained here are a reminder of the community’s affluent past.

One place to find traces of this past is at the heart of Santa Ana itself, where you’ll find what may look like a basketball court but is actually a plaza named Plaza Hugo.

sta ana plazas


It is sad to see some houses have fallen into a state of disrepair. Which is a pity because this area alone can be transformed into a cultural tourism destination, a little Vigan if you will. You can just imagine the possibilities of what a house like this one below can become if given the proper treatment.


And while you might think the picture below is just one of those many outdoor basketball courts placed in the middle of the street or someplace, that is actually Plaza Hugo itself. Named after some fellow named Juan Hugo (I have yet to find out who he really is) the plaza actually serves more than just a basketball court. If you notice the stage in the background, it also serves as a venue for presentations like theater plays. Yes theater is still alive in this part of a film/tv-viewing metropolis.


The brainchild of actor/councilor Lou Veloso, Tanghalang Sta. Ana has been one of the few and successful community-based theater groups here in the metropolis. They are actually based just at the back of the plaza, here in the Sta. Ana Arts Center. The place where it now stands was once an old dilapidated warehouse that Veloso acquired some years ago to be converted into what it is now. It’s also nice to see the architecture of the structure still left intact, blending with the heritage of the community itself.


Another place of interest to visit around the plaza is a small, low-key house located just at the back of the Sta. Ana Church which actually serves as a Taoist temple, which is happened to be dedicated as well to Santa Ana’s patron, Our Lady of the Abandoned. Nothing like a good peculiarity of an east and west blending of sorts.


From the information I got from one of the readers, it was said that long ago, there was a Chinese garments trader who received an order from a lady to have some garments delivered to the biggest house in Santa Ana. Upon arriving and asking with the residents there, he realized the biggest house there is the church itself. So he entered the church and realized that the woman who ordered the garments was the Lady itself. So the story goes that he had himself converted to Christianity and built the temple across the church that still stands to this day, dedicated to Our Lady of the Abandoned.


Just a few blocks south from Plaza Hugo is another plaza formed by a rotunda intersecting the streets M. Roxas, Jose Syquia, Revellin, and Zamora. Interesting that it bears the name “Lumang Kampo Santo,” which actually means “old cemetery.” Does this mean this place used to be a burial ground of sorts?


Today, the possible remains of its possible past is a statue of what looks like a headless angel in the act of flying up the skies. In reality, the figure has a head which is raised too high that it gave an illusion of headlessness.



Currently, this plaza is known as the Philippine-Thailand Friendship Circle, which was first opened 11 years ago by the city government on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Philippine-Thai relations. In celebrating this diplomatic relationship, you will find Philippine and Thai-inspired structures around the park.

Like this one, which is called a chedi, which is what Thais call for the stupa, or a structure where Buddhist relics are kept.

DSC03056And this one, the good old bahay kubo, or the nipa hut of the Philippines, with a carabao included.

To be continued…

©The Urban Roamer


  • Lita Javier

    Hi. Thank you for featuring the Iglesia ni Cristo Museum at Punta. As curator of the museum, there are a few things I would like to point out in your text which I think should be corrected. First, the structure which is now a museum was built in 1937 as the FIRST FORMAL WORSHIP BUILDING. The first worship building was built on rented land on Gabriela Street in Tondo. It was made of local materials -nipa, bamboo, woven bamboo for walls – by the brethren themselves but was burned by non-members of the church two years after it was built. The museum is a restored building – that is, the FIRST FORMAL WORSHIP BUILDING restored to the way it looked in 1937. Restoration took place between 1993 and 1999. It was inaugurated as the third museum of the Church in May 2000. We have a main museum in Quezon City (inaugurated in 1984) and a site museum in Ewa Beach, Oahu, Hawaii (inaugurated in 1998). This second museum is the building where the first worship service of the Church was held in 1968 and is therefore also a restored building.

    I hope you would find the time to consider this comment and make the needed changes in your text.

    You are invited to visit the INC Museum when/if you are available. Give us a ring – 9814311 local 4312 or 4327.

    • mywastedspace

      thank you for the clarifications. already made the necessary changes in the entry.

      I’m looking forward to visit the museum soon and hopefully gain some more information regarding INC history.

  • Andrew Enriquez

    Hello all,

    My Paternal line is from this region of manila. My grandfathers name is Virgilio cena Enriquez and he was born in 1942 he worked for Pan Am. His Fathers name Was Venancio Enriquez and he was born in 1922 and apparently was an antagonist against the Japanese during WWII. An auntie also told me he had something to do with the Jeepnys after the war and had lost several brothers during the war. His wife was Fortunata Cena. My great Grandfather was Canuto Enriquez and was born around 1899. the only thing i can gather from family is that he may have been involved in the fire department. Canuto’s wife was Bonifacia Martinez. Please if any of these names sound familiar contact me.

    Thank you
    Andrew Enriquez

  • ruben s. hernando

    My compliments for a very nice article. Yes, Sta. Ana is a “quieter” part of the city. As one article described it, Sta. Ana is a part of Manila that still retains a certain rural charm. I should know, having lived and grown up in Sta. Ana from 1951 to 1993. I have to admit, one the biggest mistakes of my life, is when I decided to leave the district and move to an adjacent place. I still pass by the area, my old haunts, and cannot help feel nostalgic about the place. While so many new buildings and structures have sprouted, I still can see the old houses that were part of my youth. I still like to pass by Syquia, M. Roxas, Suter, and the other streets where me and my friends used to ride our bikes. Who can forget the comics stand of Cesar, just in front of Sta. Ana Elementary School, where we used to browse comic books, and save enough money to be able to buy the latest Superman or Batman comics? Mang Teroy’s bike rental place at Kasarinlan street, where we used to rent “Balloon Tire” bikes for the princely sum of .25 centavos for half an hour? And I remember going to the ferry “terminal” at the back of the public market, where we learned how to smoke, telling each other tall tales. I miss Sta. Ana, and who knows, one day I may just go back and stay for good.

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