Friday, March 18, 2011

Quiapo Stroll: The Historic East

The Raon overpass was bustling with people and it was rather not easy to move. When we thought we’ve had enough and decided to go back down, we found it difficult. As some of you may know, that overpass has an ‘island’ at center, a concrete barrier about chest-high (that becomes a convenient display shelf for the vendors). And ‘traffic flow’ of all humanity who pass there is ‘one-way’. To backtrack means you have to go cross this overpass to the end and transfer to the ‘opposite lane’ to return. And we did just that. However, upon reaching the other end, we instead decided to go down and explore this other side of Quiapo, instead of treading our way back in that congested overpass. And the story begins…

One companion asked “what is there to see in this area?”. We all looked at each other seemingly asking the same question. But I suddenly remembered that nearby (almost directly across Plaza Miranda) is the ‘famed’ hub of pirated DVDs in this country. So, I suggested we go see the place, and everyone’s face lighted up hehe. Not that we were bent on hoarding those fakes, we seldom buy them (asuuuus, aminiiin hehe), but just to see the place and witness how brisk business is doing at that spot in the planet hehe.

We walked along Quezon Blvd., heading south with ‘across Plaza Miranda’ as our target destination. There were fewer stores, stalls or hawkers on this part of Quiapo, but just the same, there were either too many people or the sidewalk was too narrow for us to enjoy the stroll. So we turned left on reaching the first corner, thinking there’d be less people there. A bit apprehensive at where we were heading, we sighed with relief to have seen a police station over at a dead-end where the street bends to the right – IF that is any consolation anyway hehe. One companion suggested we go back and walk on main street (Quezon Blvd). But as we stood there, I remembered something… when I was little, my father brought us a few times somewhere in this area for one of the best tasting “pancit” and “lomi” that he and eventually all in the family enjoyed. And I recall there were big big old houses nearby. Shared that with my companions and we decided to walk this ‘side-street’. Voila! The big old houses!!!

Bahay Nakpil Bautista. That is one of the surprises. Yep, the phrase means “Nakpil-Bautista House”, so what? Well, aside from my fuzzy memory of yesteryears, none of us knew about this house, but seeing that there was a NHI Marker on the wall, we instantly knew this house has some historical significance or something. So we read it and let me try my translation prowess. Disclaimer: you ought to know that, I did not have Pilipino (or is that Filipino) as a subject in college, though 12 units of Spanish were compulsory. How absurd of UP, eh? But that rule/requirement was reversed the very school year after we graduated haha. So here goes my translation attempt…

“The House of the Nakpils and Bautistas. [Caused to be] Constructed by Ariston Bautista Lin (who lived from 1863 until 1928) and his wife Petronila Nakpil through renowned architect Arcadio Arellano in 1914. Dr. Bautista was a physician, philanthropist and inventor of an anti-cholera medicine. Julio Nakpil (1877-1960), revolutionary and composer of Katipunan songs also lived here, together with his wife Gregoria De Jesus (1876-1943), muse of the Katipunan and widow of Andres Bonifacio their son Juan (1899-1986) and his first cousin Angel (1914-1979) who are both renowned architects. Also on this house could be found the Nakpil Silver Shop (a jewelry store?) that was popular due to thorough quality jewelries” Or something like that hehe!

And the gossipmongers in us were almost a chorus saying "haaah? she married twice?!" hehehe. Anyway...

We marveled at this big thing for a while. Like most old houses in this country, this Nakpil-Bautista house is real big even for present day standards. And I liked it that they preserved the general look of the building. Some of the big window panels are obviously new in terms of make and material but the owners made sure they looked just like how the originals were made in the past. Asking bystanders if this house was still in use as residence, we learned that it is very much so, and in fact, the owner of that law office still lives there. Hmm, a nice piece of our interesting past! I must say, if today, you have a house big as that, you must be wealthy. How much more for them to have built that about a century ago.

As we walked and looked around, there were still a number of old houses standing in this neighborhood. Most are either haphazardly maintained or have succumbed to commercialist developments while others are in a sorry state of untended decay. The one beside Nakpil-Bautista house (beside the red fiera on the pic) also looked it was enormously grand in the past. Some of the carved wood on its exterior walls are still there, but its not as well-preserved as Nakpil-Bautista’s.

Hah, because of this “sighting”, our attention shifted from finding the ‘DVD country’ to ogling at the big old houses in the area. Thus, when we reached that intersection where Jollibee, Chowking, Greenwich and Mercury Drug dot each of the 4 corners, we headed left for more of them old houses instead of going straight into DVD country. Let’s explain this corner a little as it might confuse those not familiar with the place. The Mercury Drug mentioned here is not that one referred to in my previous blog. We were already on the other side of Quezon Boulevard from the Quiapo Church and Plaza Miranda. Mind you, we were again on Hidalgo St., but not the one mentioned in that previous blog either haha. Still confused? See the map. That’s what am referring to this time!

Oh, the few people who saw us awed looking at those houses even probably wondered why we would frequently stop and look a house from ground to roof. We just joked amongst ourselves that maybe those folks thought we wanted to buy those big big structures hehe. In our dreams! We decided to walk onwards in the direction of MLQU. Yep, that’s Manuel Luis Quezon University. Not that there was anything in particular we knew about in this area. We just thought of walking onwards because we could see that there were other old houses.

More old houses. On this street (still the ‘other’ Hidalgo St.) where there is considerably less traffic during a weekend, we saw more old houses reminiscent of the olden days. I wonder now, why are old houses so big? Ah maybe our forebears just had extra-large standards. That means, what is considered a respectable home of today might have been considered an animal cage during those times hehe. This one particular house is obviously an improved version but we liked the material and color used. It mimics the beauty of the original version, though a bit too shiny. And hey, we peeped at the sides, and in there, the building’s original materials are still the same. It is only this front (facade) that has been spruced up with such modernistic, though beautiful era-looking material.

Then we stumbled upon 3 more historical markers placed side-by-side on a wall-fence of a school. Probably the house or original structure is not anymore around to give way to this school, thus, for a memento, they just stuck those 3 markers on the concrete fence. Can’t say if said marker referred to the house/building beside it, but if so, said building has already been modernized too. Anyway, the historical markers tell of three persons, the first of which is a very prominent name (middle and last names mind you) that all metro manilans are very familiar with. Just read the pictures so you’ll have additional knowledge about the Manila. When I have more time, I promise I’ll try my best to translate these. Promise!

Whoa! Far to our right, we could even already see the spires of the famous San Sebastian Church as we stood facing the wall reading those markers! So we decided to head for that equally historic church. Along the way, there were still more old houses, though there were also modern buildings, one of which has its low fence also serving as a clothes dryer hehe.

Let’s do the San Sebastian Church next, okay?! C ya in the next blog entry!

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