There are a few places I can think of as “complex” as Central Manila, which by itself is considered the city’s intersecting point. On one hand, this place is home to two of the city’s iconic landmarks: the Post Office Building and the Metropolitan Theater. On the flipside, it’s one of the most convoluted places in the city, overtowered by flyovers which doesn’t really help relieve the area from unbearable traffic especially during rush hour. Then there is the open, green space straddling between the Post Office and Metropolitan Theater, which is interesting in itself.
Back in the Spanish colonial era, this area was once known as part of Plaza Arroceros, by itself a large open, green space which extended all the way to the present Manila City Hall. It is also significant as it is located near the old Chinese quarters or Parian, where Chinese immigrants first settled and did their business before they were moved to present Binondo.
When the Americans took over by the 1900’s, the old plaza was given a new name: Plaza Lawton. Named after Maj. Gen. Henry Lawton, a decorated American military official who served a colorful career, from the US Civil War and the Apache War of 1886, where his greatest achievement was in having the “adversary,” Apache chief Geronimo in this case, surrender. Ironically, he would die in action in 1899 during the Philippine American War (the highest ranking US military official killed in that war) in the hands of another Geronimo, Filipino Gen. Licerio Geronimo.
The plaza would get a name change again in 1863, the centennial of Andres Bonifacio’s birth, as it was not only spruced up but was also given a Filipino name: Liwasang Bonifacio (Bonifacio Plaza) in honor of the person declared as “the hero of Manila,” though probably for sentimental reasons or something, some still call this area as Plaza Lawton.
Sadly though, the plaza has been a victim of poor maintenance even though it is a popular venue for photographers as well as public demonstrations. While the Liwasan got a new lease of life back during the administration of Lito Atienza in 2002, sadly these developments were not really taken care of, no thanks to the apathy shown by some vagrants who wander around this area.
Despite its state, there’s something about Liwasang Bonifacio that still makes it a popular Manila landmark. Maybe it’s the view of statue of Andres Bonifacio in the foreground of a majestic fountain that fronts the iconic Post Office Building makes this appeal timeless and special. Something I hope that future generations will still get to enjoy in the midst of the changes in the metropolitan landscape.
© The Urban Roamer