City of Manila

Of railways, shopping, and Andres Bonifacio: the story of Tutuban Center

It may be hard to imagine it today, but this particular part of Manila at first did not look like the bustling, at times chaotic, place of commercial activity that we know of today. In fact, this area was then a thriving agricultural community where the people there make a living manufacturing a coconut-based alcoholic drink called “tuba.”

Andres Bonifacio (taken from the web)

It would be in this community along Azcarraga Street where a significant event would occur on November 30, 1863: the birth of who would become the founder of the secret society known as the Kataastaasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (otherwise known as the Katipunan or KKK) that would pave way for the Philippine Revolution. I’m talking about no other than the Supremo himself, Andres Bonifacio.

But as the Philippines, and Manila in particular, was experiencing the beginnings of economic progress during the mid-19th century, some things had to give. In this case, the farmlands and old tuba-making community there along Azcarraga had to give way for the construction of a railroad system as decreed by the King of Spain Alfonso XII in 1875. Work would begin 12 years later for the construction of a railway line from Manila all the way up north to Dagupan in Pangasinan which would be completed on November 24, 1892.

the Tutuban rail station before the dawn of the 20th century (taken from the web)

The former farmland is now the center of the city’s budding railway transport system, as it would become the main terminal and center of operations of the railway’s operator, the Manila Railroad Company. It was given a new name, reflecting its past and its future: Tutuban, a portmanteau of the train onomatopoeia “toot-toot” and tuba that used to be made there in the past.

Eventually, the Manila Railroad became the Philippine National Railways, (PNR) the rail network extended far south to Bicol, while the northern component was abandoned years past but is now awaiting revival. Tutuban itself has gone through some changes as well as the PNR decided to move to a new central terminal a few blocks farther up north from the original site. Fortunately, the original train station’s façade was left intact to be adaptively reused to become the centerpiece of a commercial complex development which would become the Tutuban Center that we know today.

the former train station, now the Centermall of Tutuban Center

the interior of the preserved portion of the old train station of Tutuban

The former train station is now the “Centermall,” the flagship building of the complex that has managed to blend the old charm of its past and its present functions in meeting bustling commercial activity that come through here each day without let up. In addition, 2 other buildings were built that catered to the small and medium businesses who wish to do business in Tutuban, as well as to the budget shoppers that comprise the majority of the complex’s patrons. Unfortunately, one of the buildings caught fire recently, forcing it to be closed down for the time being though it has not hampered the operations of the complex in general. At the same time, the center has been undergoing some redevelopment as part of its efforts to become a prime shopping destination in Manila, such as opening a virtual and zoo and opening a 41-room hotel in the complex.

the Prime Block building of Tutuban Center, catered to budget shoppers
the Cluster Building which also catered to budget shoppers but is closed at time of writing due to damage brought by a recent fire

And in honor of the Supremo who was born and raised at this place, a monument in was built right in the complex, commemorating the life and heroism of the Tutuban native who grew up to ignite a revolution for the country’s freedom.


On a personal note, the Urban Roamer thanks the people at DDG Magazine, for featuring me as their “featured blogger” on its latest issue. DDG Magazine by the way is an “indie” lifestyle magazine. you won’t find this yet at bookstores & magazine stands but if you wish to get a copy, you can call 468-6261 or text 09998857659. I might be writing some articles for them as well in the future so do watch out for it!

Acknowledgements as well to Tutuban Center and ManilaHub

© The Urban Roamer

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