I wanted to visit the Museo ng Makati but since it was closed I found myself wandering the streets of what was before the center of San Pedro Macati in the middle of the day.
I made surprising discoveries – because until that moment of my visit I had no idea that the local government commemorative metal markets in the old streets of Macati. Bronze plaques with descriptions of how the busy streets of the poblacion was once used, how it look like and what kind of people lived in the area.
I’m sure that those commemorative markers did not placed a dent on the city’s budget, considering Makati is the richest city in the country – they could afford to have more of them if they want to. What is important, and I think this was accomplished there, is that the people are made aware of what the place was once like. If locals can appreciate their area’s history, they’re they’re likely to come up with solutions on how preserve, maintain and protect their heritage places.
So what was San Pedro de Macati, its poblacion, was like in the mid and latter part of the 20th century?
The place was a summer villa for the rich Manila folks. Several families had houses near the river. Rest haus as they call it these days but much of Macati was still wild “cogon” land. The Poblacion’s riverside market must have been a fascinating place: “fish vendors yells out their merchandise of ayungin, hipon, tilapia, talilong, kanduli and biya…Various products were also peddled on the river aboard cascos…fish, shrimps, firewood from the forest of Binangonan, coconuts from Laguna, nipa shingles and delicacy made out of jammed panutsa called inuyat (a delicacy like panutsa from the province of Morong) were sold”.
The Presidencia, now the Makati Museum, is a beautiful building that was built in the 1930’s. The land where it stands was donated by the Ayala’s. Although I haven’t seen whats inside the building, the Presidencia is a good example of architecture that dates back to a time when government offices were made with style and elegance.
The term “presidencia” came from the title of local chief executive then – municipal presidents. Locals, more familiar with Spanish than American English, called their offices Presidencia. This was the municipal and city halls during the Yankee era. In other countries Presidencia refers to the office of a prime minister.
The original cemetery of Makati before it was moved to Kalayaan is located in the Poblacion area. It was said to have a “12 foot wide gate with massive block of Molave wood connecting the gate posts overhead…there’s also a Molave crucifix on top of a stone pedestal”. Some of its occupants were known “Spanish clergies and Spaniards”. The area is now Plaza Cristo Rey.
When you think of Makati you characteristically think of the premier finance hub with expensive high rise residences and villages comparable to the swankiest and richest neighborhoods abroad. This is why a lot of people are surprised to see a centuries old churches standing in the midst of this busy modernity that is Makati.
Sts. Peter and Paul Church was first built by the Jesuits. The land was donated by a man made rich by the galleon trades. It was reconstructed after the British destroyed it when they occupied Manila.
Its strange how words got corrupted. The area was known to locals as “sampiro” before, from San Pedro, the patron saint of the area. Its likely that many of the locals then were primarily composed of Chinese mestizo (how else could a pronounciation of the word San Pedro be that far from the original!). San Pedro was later dropped and Macati was recognized as a separate municipality. Then Macati became Makati. Makati or Macati refers to the receding tide of the river according to old folks – quite possibly, Makati also describes the low water level of Rio Pasig in the area. To this day, one of the only bridge that was ever built to connect Makati to Mandaluyong is in this historic area.
Kudos to the Makati local government! I hope that their initiative would be replicated by other LGU’s. So that people would know what used to exist before our modern jungle of steel, glass and concrete.