Sta. Mesa: Manila’s north­east­ern edge


The border be­tween Sta. Mesa, Man i la and the city of San Juan, where SM Sta. Mesa now stands, is a unique place that stands at the cusp of his­tor­i­cal eras and phys­i­cal land­marks of the me­trop­o­lis. It is a key sec­tion of Manila’s sto­ried Sam­paloc district and its sto­ries are beg­ging to be told.

Sam­paloc gets its name from the tamarind trees that lined and shad­owed its streets; at least back in the Span­ish colo­nial era. Like the rest of Manila, the district of Sam­paloc prof­fers two,

Sta. Mesa has come a long way from be­ing just a sleepy bar­rio. It has risen to be­come one of the busiest sec­tions of the city …ev­ery bit as ur­ban as the rest.

or ac­tu­ally sev­eral, faces. On one side, it is teem­ing with shops, mar­kets, the Univer­sity Belt, and rows of run­down apart­ments, or ac­ces­so­rias. On the other end (where SM Sta. Mesa sits) it was a res­i­den­tial quar­ter that is evoca­tive of a more quiet and re­fined past; and now, a promis­ing ur­ban fu­ture.

Manila’s third district en­joys a wide em­brace, from the San Juan River and the stone bridge that Sta. Mesa crosses, to the Pasig river at Nag­ta­han, and on to the bound­aries of the dis­tricts of San Miguel, Quiapo and Santa Cruz.

Sam­paloc was founded by Fran­cis­can priests in 1613. Here, they built a church to Nues­tra Señora de Loreto on what is now Bustil­los Street. As they did, the new parish church set the point from which the town­ship was go­ing to ra­di­ate, as was typ­i­cal in most towns.

But Sam­paloc proved to be not quite so typ­i­cal be­cause, cu­ri­ously, in 1783 the Fran­cis­cans or­dered the re­lo­ca­tion of an­other church, the Church of St. An­thony of Padua from its orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion in Paco to a par­cel of land just off Calle Bustil­los. It faces off with the Church of Our Lady of Loreto, and now acts seem­ingly as a sec­ond parish church to the lo­cale.

In 1891, how­ever, an­other church was to be con­sid­ered as an­other re­li­gious land­mark in addition to the pre­vi­ous two —

the San Se­bas­tian Church. Touted as the world’s first and only

pre­fab­ri­cated all-steel church, this mi­nor basil­ica was de­signed by Span­ish ar­chi­tect Ge­naro Palacio as a fire- and earth­quak­ere­sis­tant struc­ture. It sits on the site where the pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tions of the church once were, af­ter it was de­stroyed by fires and an earth­quake be­tween the years 1859 to 1880. The church, with its soar­ing spires, is a prime ex­am­ple of the Gothic Revival style in the Philip­pines.

Not far from the San Se­bas­tian church was the orig­i­nal horse race track that was laid out by the Manila Jockey Club in 1867 in what is now R. Hi­dalgo Street. The tracks were laid on a straight course and stretched for about a quar­ter mile long. For close to 20 years, the place thun­dered with the pound­ing of horses’ hooves and cheers from crowd, be­fore the race­tracks were moved to a big­ger home in Sta. Mesa.

Up un­til the early Amer­i­can pe­riod, Sta. Mesa was just one of the bar­rios that com­prised the Sam­paloc district. In 1911, it achieved a sta­tus of be­ing a sep­a­rate re­li­gious district, and di­vided Sam­paloc into two parishes. The newly cre­ated parish is now known as the Old Sta. Mesa, which ex­tended from V. Mapa to Sta. Mesa Boule­vard.

The neigh­bor­hood was com­posed of wealthy Span­ish and Filipino fam­i­lies who built sum­mer houses at­tracted to Sta. Mesa’s cool cli­mate and the pic­turesque streets that were lined with ilang-ilang trees. So nu­mer­ous were the trees that it was not for long un­til it be­came an in­dus­try — flow­ers were har­vested, pressed and the oil were ex­ported in great quan­ti­ties to per­fumeries in France.

In 1881, shortly af­ter its re­lo­ca­tion, the Manila Jockey Club once again opened its doors and re­sumed horse rac­ing in the Sta. Mesa Hip­po­drome, in the street that now bears the same name. For four days dur­ing rac­ing sea­son, ev­ery­thing was at a stand­still, and ev­ery­one in town, from the gover­nor to the arch­bishop to the elite, the ex­pats down to the mar­ket ven­dors at­tended th­ese rac­ing events.

Sta. Mesa is also known for a beau­ti­ful land­mark, the Car­riedo Wa­ter­works Foun­tain; named af­ter the Span­ish phi­lan­thropist, Don Fran­cisco Car­riedo y Peredo, who made it his life mis­sion to bring potable wa­ter to city of Manila. Up un­til 1878, Manila had no run­ning wa­ter, and the pop­u­la­tion looked to the rivers and es­tu­ar­ies as the chief source of wa­ter.

Do­nat­ing P10,000, which even at the time was a size­able amount, a mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter­works was es­tab­lished by Gov. Domingo Mo­ri­ones. Upon com­ple­tion, the wa­ter sys­tem was then able to de­liver 16 mil­lion liters of wa­ter per day to 300,000 peo­ple. A foun­tain was built in honor of this event and the man that made it pos­si­ble. It was lo­cated at the point where Sta. Mesa Boule­vard, Aviles, Nag­ta­han and Le­garda Streets con­verged.

In the 1970s, the foun­tain was trans­ferred to Plaza Sta. Cruz where it re­mains to this day but not af­ter a replica of the foun­tain was made by Na­tional Artist Napoleon Abueva and brought to the wa­ter treat­ment plant in Old Balara in Que­zon City. In­ci­den­tally, Fran­cisco Car­riedo did not just bring us wa­ter, he also lent his name to the street in Manila where the orig­i­nal Shoe­mart was lo­cated.

In the 1950s, plans to re­vamp Sta. Mesa were un­der way, and the con­struc­tion of the new Sta. Mesa mar­ket en­sued. It was a big shop­ping com­plex, and was pop­u­lar for the sell­ing of PX goods. The shops were laid out in straight rows, with al­most no

end in sight. A tall build­ing for of­fices was planned at the rear over­look­ing the San Juan bridge, but it was never con­structed. The big­gest at­trac­tions in the mar­ket were an in­door skat­ing rink and hobby shops fea­tur­ing slot cars and re­mote con­trolled minia­ture planes.

To­day, Sta. Mesa has come a long way from be­ing just a sleepy bar­rio. It has risen to be­come one of the busiest sec­tions of the

city …ev­ery bit as ur­ban as the rest. It is now a con­flu­ence of moder­nity and his­tory, high-rise build­ings and a pop­u­lar mall but still re­tain­ing the char­ac­ter of the old district and its small town heart­land.

The Sta. Mesa mar­ket was the shop­ping place to go for PX goods in the ‘60s.

Magsaysay Av­enue, as it looked in the ‘50s, had prob­lems with jay­walk­ers.

Sta Mesa was the site of cordage or rope fac­to­ries us­ing Manila hemp.

The San Juan Bridge was the site of the start of the Filipino Amer­i­can War.

The Car­riedo foun­tain at the turn of the cen­tury was a prominent land­mark north of Malacañang.

The orig­i­nal Sta. Mesa mar­ket was orig­i­nally planned with a skyscraper at the rear.

The Car­riedo foun­tain as it looked be­fore its decorative makeover late in the 19th cen­tury.

Sta. Mesa was the site of ‘50s sub­ur­ban de­vel­op­ment be­cause of its prox­im­ity to cen­tral Manila.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.