This day being the anniversary of Manila, the ever-loyal city, I would like to celebrate it with a simple feature on one of its smallest district, a place known as San Nicolas. I was going through a series of emotions when I first landed my sights on its streets, literally – a block lined up with old houses, knowing that some of the houses would be gone in the years to come. Some actually were already demolished when I got there with my friends.
I did have great time taking pictures especially this one house that use to be an educational institution (known as ‘Casa Vizantina’ then it became Instituto Manila, later on the Manila University). Just imagine a structure this great made of wood, three floor high! It towered the neighborhood for sure during its days. It was so beautiful! With its delicate designs, wooden staircase, walls and floors, I can’t find words that would even begin to describe how spectacular this place is.
Of course I was using my imagination again, for the place now is occupied by some of our poor kababayans, they never hid the truth when asked if they own the place or if some relatives gave them rights to occupy casa vizantina, they said it straight that they were illegal tenants. Don’t get me wrong, the casa is still beautiful, one could still appreciate the skillful designs and the durability of its form, its just that if you look close you could see its deterioration, sadly it could go down any moment.
There’s still so much left of the old San Nicolas. I never thought that I would find a concentration of old houses here in Manila! This are really old houses (unlike the recreated ones we know of, bagong luma?) this structures was established during the heyday of San Nicolas, when the Manila was booming economically. The area being close to the river and Manila’s port area added prestige to its reputation as an upscale neighborhood during the Spanish era.
You could find historical markers there, the Valenzuela residence (where the Kalayaan was being published also at that time) and the house where some of Rizal’s relative including where his mother stayed are on the vicinity. I was reading before a story about Oryang and Andres Bonifacio. The parents of Gregoria opposed her love for the Supremo that they decided to take her to San Nicolas and hide here in a house of a relative, Andres on the other hand was preoccupied with his secret meetings at that time which was hosted and supported by some well known residents of a place called San Nicolas. Little did they know that they were on the same area, Andres never found out that Oryang was in San Nicolas. Oryang was later on released; she has sent letters to the town leader complaining that she’s confined against her will. She was sent back to Caloocan.
There could be a reason why this town was spared during the wars, especially the so-called “liberation”. Unfortunately, Manila and the district’s residents never took advantage of that luck; there were ZERO conservation efforts here. It is as if they have made the decision to let the old houses die and in its place make concrete condominiums or whatever you call those ugly concrete structures that were built where the old houses once stood
There are still houses that are intact, like the house beside the Madrid Bakery. Where it was kept according to the people I spoke with for sentimental reasons. Calle Lavazares and Calle Madrid have some of the better preserved houses, I’m thankful that they decided to keep their houses that way, I just hope that one day, a Mañileno leader with foresight and imagination could put up an initiative to help this folks preserve this houses. This town could rival Taal and Vigan! (I could be exaggerating) but it can if they decide to make this a tourist walk! There so much left! I know that some of the houses have been brought down and some are soon to follow but there’s still hope, there are still few that remains standing proud. God bless those who kept theirs as it is.
A prominent Mañileno Congressman grew up in its streets, even he forgot. I guess this symptom is what most of our leaders have resigned themselves too, I could imagine that making project that would restore this relics of our great city is difficult, it will never be easy especially with the society we have now (inflicted with ‘national amnesia’), with all the problems that were undergoing why bother? I feel sometimes that this is a losing fight but then again we can’t stop remembering, this is ‘our’ heritage. We must save what’s left!
Happy 437th anniversary! Manila!