Tag Archives: Colonial Philippines

#262 Malolos Mestizo District

Ancestral house in Malolos Mestizo District (Photo from Traveller on Foot blogspot)

After the declaration of the Philippine Independence in Kawit, Cavite, General Emilio Aguinaldo moved the seat of first Philippine government to Malolos in Bulacan province. This district of Malolos has since become known as the Mestizo District where ancestral houses located near the town plaza bear witness to the town’s Spanish colonial era.

Aguinaldo also established various government offices in this district for the First Philippine Republic from September 10, 1898 to March 29, 1901. Today these so-called bahay-na-bato (stone houses) ancestral homes house commercial establishments. Unfortunately the lack of city planning and central authority to oversee the protection of these historical buildings has led to either the destruction of these buildings to give way to developers or the lack of maintenance.

One can, however, visit the few remaining buildings such as the Arcadio Ejercito and Adriano houses along Pariancillo Street, the Bautista house on Sto. Nino Street and the Carcel or former jailhouse across the Adriano building.

It would be a waste to see these historical buildings being demolished for modern developers or go to seed when they are witnesses to the nation’s early nationhood. Hopefully, both local and national authorities will take more serious action to protect historical districts such as the Malolos Mestizo enclave. (From: Traveler on Foot blogspot and other sources)

Mabuhay ang Malolos Mestizo District!

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#254 Parian (Cebu)

Cebu's Parian District

Parian was the original and affluent Chinese heartland of Cebu, founded as a de facto settlement in the middle of the 16th century. 

Today, nothing much remains of this district of fine houses and shops, except for a handful of old houses, like Casa Gorordo and the Jesuit Residence of 1730. Though it ceased to be wholly Chinese by the 19th century due to the rabid Chinese pogroms in the 18th century, Cebu’s Parian remained the enclave of affluent Chinese mestizos like the Borromeos, Cuis, Osmeñas, Velezes, Velosos and over 20 other families.

The center of the Parian was the church of San Juan Bautista. The fire station at the crossroads of Sikatuna and Zulueta streets is built on the foundations of the church’s convento. A small chapel nearby, dedicated to San Juan, is a mute reminder of this once impressive church.
The church was built by a mestizo Chinese secular priest in the 1700s. Jurisdictional conflicts with the convento of Santo Niño forced the bishop to demote the church from parish to the level of visita dependent on Santo Niño. 

In time, the church was abandoned and deteriorated. Its appurtenances went to other churches and to the Colegio de San Ildefonso, which inherited some of its furniture and statuary. The site of the church’s sanctuary was marked by a cross before World War II. (Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer, Other web sources)

Long live Cebu’s Parian district!

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#193 Blood Compact Memorial

The Blood Compact Memorial in Bohol


The Blood Compact site in Bohol marks the place where the Spanish colonist Miguel de Legazpi and the Bohol chieftain Sikatuna made a pact.

More than 40 years after Magellan’s death, Spain sent in 1564 four expeditions to establish colonies in the Far East, and to pick up a share of the lucrative spice trade which is under the control of the Portuguese. Legazpi attempted to sail to Cebu but was thwarted. He then decided to head to Mindanao but inclement weather forced his fleet to the direction of Bohol. 

In Bohol Legazpi was also given a hostile welcome since Portuguese raiders a few years back have raided the Visayan seas, plundered Bohol and killed or enslaved about one thousand of its inhabitants. But with the help of a Malay translator, Legazpi persuaded two chiefs of Bohol, Datu Sikatuna of Bohol and Datu Sigala of Loboc that they were not Portuguese, and had come in peace, and not to plunder or kill. This convinced the tribal kings (big mistake!) to end their hostility and enter a pact of friendship.

On 16 March 1565 (or March 25, records are vague due to the Georgian calendar reform in 1584), Legazpi and Sikatuna performed the now famous blood compact, probably not far from the modern town of Loay. This event is still celebrated in Bohol every year in June with the Sandugo (One Blood) festival every July where balls, dances, beauty pageants, fairs, sports events, and the re-enactment of the blood compact to signify the friendship formed between the Boholanos and the Spaniards.

Mabuhay ang Bohol!

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#188 Calasiao Church

The Parish Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Calasiao, Pangasinan (Luzon, northern Philippines) was built by the Dominicans in several stages that spanned  the 17th to the 19th centuries.

The church is considered as the best-preserved church complex in Pangasinan province. The bell tower and some parts of the church were recently reconstructed, having been damaged by an earthquake. Despite natural calamities the church is well conserved and the recent work has not deviated from its original appearance.

The sprawling convento or convent – the site of the 18th century Synod of Calasiao – has an excellent example of a separate kitchen structure. The retablo mayor (major altar)  is massive and its complex woodwork may be seen at the back.

Long live Calasiao Church!


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#172 Pasig River

The Pasig River may never win an environmental award but for historical and cultural value, the Pasig River, which cuts across Manila and ends in Manila Bay, is one of the famous and iconic rivers in the Philippines.

Once an idyllic river in 19th century Manila, the Pasig River has inspired countless romantic ballads, folklore and is a witness to countless battles and key epochs in the Philippines’s turbulent history. It is also an inspiration for writers and the Philippine national hero Jose Rizal has used the river as a setting or backdrop in many of  his novels and literary writings.

Photos from the late 19th century and the pre-war years show picturesque views of the river. Lamentably, today’s Pasig River symbolised the hard times that Manila (and the Philippines) has fallen into. Severely polluted by both urban and industrial waste, the Pasig River has become a veritable sewage canal that is bloated with the refuse of congested Manila. The historical Spanish fort in Manila, the Fort Santiago, stands along Pasig River and views of the Pasig River and Manila Bay from the fort can offer the casual visitor a wonderful sunset view (ignore the smell).

Historically, the Malacanang or Presidential Palace is bordered by the Pasig River and the river occupied a key role in the ouster of former President Joseph Estrada who was reported to have eluded an arrest order by crossing the river in a boat (fat luck, he didn’t drop into one of Pasig’s festering whirpools!).

Despite volumes of environmental reports, stacks of books and countless attempts to save the river, the Pasig has remained the tragedy that it is- a liquid scar in the face of Manila.

Long live the efforts to save the Pasig River!

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#149 Pakil Church

Pakil Church or the Pedro de Alcantara Parish Church in Pakil, Laguna (Luzon island, northern Philippines), was built in 1767 after 35 years of construction. In 1788, the Virgin of Turumba was enshrined in this church. The church’s architectural design has Corinthian and Ionic styles or elements.

Despite calamities such as earthquakes and World War II, Pakil Chuch has survived with most of its architectural features still intact. Along with the rectory, a fire damaged the church in 1851. Repairs were done in the same year. The church survived two earthquakes in 1881 and 1937. Fourteen icons grace its main altar with the Archangel Michael towering above the others. Each icon is housed in an elaborately carved niche in Spanish colonial style.

Although the interior of the church has been renovated recently, the design of the church remains basically the same.  The church belfry has four small bells and one huge bell. Today, Pakil Church is now a major tourist destination in Laguna province.

Mabuhay ang Pakil Church!

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#77 Vigan

Vigan's Mestizo district

Vigan City is known for having one if  not the only intact Spanish-era district in the Philippines.

Located in Ilocos Sur province in nothern Philippines, Vigan is the capital of the province which lies on the western coast of Luzon, facing the South China Sea. Vigan is a World Heritage Site as it has one of the most intact Hispanic towns in the country complete with authentic cobblestone streets and unique architecture, some of them dating back to the 17th century, which fuses Philippine building design with colonial European (Spanish) architecture.

Among the landmarks in the city is the Mestizo district where the oldest Spanish-styled houses are located. Former Philippine president Elpidio Quirino, the sixth president of the Philippines also had a residence in Vigan, the Syquia Mansion.


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