Monday, January 21, 2008


Despite the niche in history that it proudly occupies, as well as being the home to many distinguished families, Tondo, Manila, has always been a subject of place-bashing -- that it's the dangerous, downtrodden underbelly of the city; teeming with crime, vice and disease.

And the fact that many political parties and candidates consider Tondo only in terms of votes, does not do much in terms of helping correct this negative perception. But then again, since Tondo has the densest population in the entire Metro Manila, it's only logical that this district may have more of everything when it comes to practically anything at all -- from good to bad.

Most of my classmates and friends at
Bonifacio Elementary School in Tayuman came from Tondo. They were, for the most part, regular kids like me whose parents were hardworking and ambitious; nurturing the usual set of middle class values common to many Manileños.

These thoughts permeated my mind yesterday while some friends and I walked along Moriones Street from Tutuban to the historical Tondo Church. It was my first time to walk the inner streets of Tondo. I was so energized by the experience that as soon as I got home later that evening, I searched online for additional information on this district. The results I found were colorful and fascinating, indeed.

Although renowned for being the most underdeveloped and economically-challenged district of Manila, Tondo is the birthplace of former president Joseph Estrada, singer and actress Regine Velasquez, businessman and politician Manuel Villar, and Manila Mayor Antonio Villegas. Andres Bonifacio was also born here. It was in Tutuban where he conducted the early Katipunan meetings.

The historical Tondo Church serves a great number of devotees, while Plaza Moriones was once considered the best alternative to Quiapo's Plaza Miranda. As for public education, Torres High was one of the best secondary schools in the nation. Supposedly, it produced eminent graduates who excelled in journalism, literature and public service.

In Tondo was also where Lakandula founded his kingdom.

Furthermore, here is what Wikipedia has to say about Tondo's rich history:

The former region of Tondo is over eleven hundred years old. Historically, Tondo already existed in the year 900 AD according to the Laguna Copperplate Inscription, a legal document written in Kawi now housed in the National Museum of the Philippines. According to this document, Tondo was ruled by person called Jayadeva who holds the Sanskrit title Senapati or "admiral".

In 1279 AD, the remnants of the Song Empire under the leadership of Grand General Zhang Shijie established Lusung Guo or "The Lesser Song Empire" at its capital Tungdu after their defeat from the Mongols at the Battle of Yamen. Tondo became so prosperous that around the year 1500 AD, the Kingdom of Brunei attacked it and established the city of Maynila on the opposite bank of Pasig River as the new capital of Luzon Empire. The traditional rulers of Tondo, the Lakandula, retained their titles and property but the real political power now resides in the House of Soliman, the Radjahs of Manila.

After the Spaniards conquered the Luzon Empire in 1571 AD, Tondo was initially included in the creation of the Province of Pampanga, the first colonial province carved out of the former empire. In census conducted by Miguel de Loarca in 1583 AD, Tondo was reported to have spoken the same language as the natives of the province of Pampanga. Institute of National Language commissioner Jose Villa Panganiban once wrote that the dividing line between Kapampangan and Tagalog was the Pasig River, and that Kapangpangan was therefore originally spoken in Tondo. Eventually, Tondo became a separate province in the later half of the Spanish colonial era.

Tondo, was one of the first provinces to declare rebellion against Spain in year 1896. In 1911, under the American tutelage, there was a major reorganization of political divisions, and the province of Tondo was dissolved, and its towns given to the provinces of Rizal and Bulacan. Today, Tondo just exists as a district in the City of Manila.

I will try to explore more of Tondo during the coming months, and as always, share my discoveries. I'm confident that much like Binondo, Quiapo and Santa Cruz, I will find many points of interest here (besides its famous Divisoria), as well as meet some of its charming personalities.


posted by Señor Enrique at 9:17 AM


Blogger pusa said...

thanks for sharing the photos, shame on me i should have tagged along with my brother when he attended the mass yesterday! but at least now it seems i was there too :)

January 21, 2008 1:12 PM  

Anonymous dave said...

I like the pre-Hispanic part. I know there are inter-island empires in our area before the Europeans came, but I'm not sure which is factual and which is propaganda. Pre-colonial Southeast Asian history is one ignorance I'd like to erase.

January 21, 2008 1:12 PM  

Blogger luna miranda said...

Hi Eric. I love the contrast in the first photo---an old house and the red cars. The old house reminds me of our "grander" past...the cars, well, they show what we've become---a smoke-choked city.

I admire your braving the rain to take these photos. Planned of watching the caracol in Ayala Avenue yesterday, but I got lazy. Fiesta din pala sa amin! hehehe

January 21, 2008 2:58 PM  

Blogger g_mirage said...

I have never been to Tondo, but got friends there who do not have the attitude of how residents are shown in classical movies...When I hear Tondo I picture in my mind a police chase of a criminal...basag ulo and so...but thats how it is lang sa movies di naman ganoon in reality.

Great photos btw SenorE, kahit maulan, sugod!

January 21, 2008 9:22 PM  

Blogger nutart said...

Your write-up about Tondo is really fascinating. Tondo seems to me like a warrior uncowed despite all odds. There is something very Martian (not the planet but the god Mars or Ares) about it. Masculine. And now, like a once glorious figure to a derelict old Katipunero, Tondo has still captured our very sense of drama and awe---however you look at it.

I like the photo where you showed the native toys in the church premises. I had collected a lot of folk toys wherever I would go in the provinces. They are so ingenious and although not that durable (for children ;-)) they have more "heart" than the all the Barbies and Transformers combined.

January 21, 2008 9:29 PM  

Anonymous paolo said...

I don't think I've ever been to Tondo, unless of course, Divisoria is in Tondo which I had been once, while living in the Philippines.

Your pictorials are changing the way we look at this place, formerly the "butt" of all jokes in Manila. While some steotypes can not be erased, you showed us the beauty from within and a heart that beats to a different rhythm in society.

January 21, 2008 9:43 PM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

Eric, another memorable area. The wife used to live in Balut, Tondo, with her paternal grandmother before we got married. Her 1st cousin married into the Sugay's, Villegas' right-hand man in City Hall.

Recall passing through Pritil to get to her house. I recall railroad tracks side by side with some streets.

Maybe in another visit, more pics in those particular areas.

Safety? I was also warned then, but always rode the jeepneys during daylight hours.

January 22, 2008 1:44 AM  

Blogger Panaderos said...

Hi Eric,

Great information on Tondo. Just a question: Is the old Alhambra factory near Pritil still around? I wonder. I believe it stood near an estero near Juan Luna street. I may be wrong though.

January 22, 2008 5:19 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Don't feel too bad, Pusa; it rained. I got soaking wet and was afraid I'd get sick. Thank God (Sto. Nino) nothing of the sort happened :)

Not sure if the late pm procession went on as planned.

January 22, 2008 6:39 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Yes, Dave ... the pre-Spanish aspect of Manila's history would make interesting material for epic movies.

And unfortunately, especially with ours, not sure at times which ones are to be believed. But then again the same happens everywhere else.

By the way, are you familiar with Stephen Clbert of The Daily Show? He coined "Wikireality." That supposedly, if enough people believed in something, though not factual, it eventually becomes true ... hehehe.

January 22, 2008 6:44 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

"Caracol?" Is that a kind of procession, Luna?

Tondo has a lot of interesting old houses that must have been something else when they were first erected. As much as I admire them, the wooden aspect of which scares me because of possible fire hazard.

There's quite a lot of old/modern contrasts in this part of town :)

January 22, 2008 6:48 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

There were many horrific stories I heard while growing up in Manila, G. Mirage, about those Tondo's tough guys -- from the machete duels to gang riots after bouts with drinking... hehehe.

And whenever we see some brawny guys, we kids would immediately perceive them as stevedores from Tondo's piers. Too much!

Many thanks!

January 22, 2008 6:57 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Interesting analogy, Bernadette. Come to think of it, Tondo was inhabited by Muslim kings from before the arrival of the Europeans. Thus, some of those royalty and warrior-like qualities may have become a part of the genealogy/heritage of some Tondo folks.

I had a calesa and airplane made of tin cans when I was kid. They were quite popular toys back then. Remember them?

January 22, 2008 7:03 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Yes, Divisoria is in Tondo. And the Tondo Church is walking distance from it. Been to Divisoria/Tutuban numerous times, but haven't really explored on foot the areas surrounding it.

Many thanks, Paolo! I will try to post more from various parts of this district.

January 22, 2008 7:07 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I remember those De Dios Transit buses that plied between Plaza Lawton and Balut, Amadeo. They used to pass by Misericordia Street -- between Batangas and Tayabas Streets -- where we lived. This area is sandwiched by two churches: Espiritu Santo on Avenida Rizal and Tayuman, and San Roque at Blumentritt).

There's a mega grocery store complex at Tayuman and Juan Luna near Pritil Public Market that I sometimes go to. Will definitely take picrures of the area.

I remember Yeba! If not mistaken, he succeeded Mayor Lacson. My parents were closer to his vice mayor whose name I forgot -- Cristobal, is it?

Trivia: Mayor Villegas started the Manila Film Fstival with my nephew's gradfather, Benedicto Pinga.

January 22, 2008 7:18 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Don't know about Alhambra factory, Panaderos, but will most certainly start asking around. I sometimes go to this area because of Puregold Supermarket, and will try to take pics next time.

Alhambra is the cigarette maker, right?

January 22, 2008 7:21 AM  

Blogger Panaderos said...

You're right. Alhambra is the cigarette maker. If I remember right, there was a public school across the street from it and there was an estero right next to its compound.

January 22, 2008 7:28 AM  

Blogger g_mirage said...

SenorE, since I read about Jose Villa Panganiban...might as well add that aside from authoring the tagalog-english dictionary, he also founded the Varsitarian, UST's school organ. There's an exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Sciences for its Pearl Anniversary...thought you might be interested to visit. Good day!

January 22, 2008 7:34 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Ok then, Panaderos. This Pritil-Tayuman junction in Tondo might be the next for me to go to and take some pics of. Thanks!

January 22, 2008 7:36 AM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

Eric, Herminio Astorga was Villegas' vice mayor.

Trivia. When we got here in the 80's a strip mall we visited in Daly City was rumored to be owned by Yeba who was alive then and that he had other real estate investments in the area.

BTW, isn't Alhambra the cigar-maker rather than cigarette?

Stephen Colbert now has his own show where he mimics The O'Reilly Factor.

January 22, 2008 8:17 AM  

Blogger nutart said...

Two items that made me quite interested---Alhambra cigars and native toys. There was a time when cigars wee Manila's main export items...which makes our tobacco perhaps at par with the Cuban tobacco. I tried an Alhambra as well as the Indonesian cigarette (was it called kretek?) they were both sweet yet kretek was spicier.

I also recall when I was a kid, my auntie's children had a huge cabinet full of beautiful native toys (from miniature rattan sala set to palayoks and kalans). They were so well crafted! I was inside a veritable enhanted Pinoy kingdom! And yes, the tin calesas ...but I didn't get see airplanes.That collection can make for a fortune. if it is still there!

January 22, 2008 9:28 AM  

Anonymous bw said...

Tondo the birthplace of Bonifacio and the former kingdom of Lakandula? no wonder why Tondo is known for its tough neighborhoods. The legacy of its warrior ancestors seems to in the blood of its citizens. And Estrada too? Well... never mind :)

January 22, 2008 12:24 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

Tondo is a very interesting place. I only know the neighborhood superficially. I covered the Santo Niño festivities last year and went back a few times to discover more. It is densely populated. Alas I never really felt at ease there for a photo shoot. You can get lost in the maze of little streets and as a foreigner you can't walk by unnoticed.
It is safe around Tondo Church but I wouldn't go inside Tondo's belly without a couple of muscular companions... ;-)
Be careful on your walks, Eric!

January 22, 2008 3:25 PM  

Anonymous kyels said...

Tondo indeed has a very interesting history. Albeit it was often bashed with negative perceptions it has also given birth to great people like those mentioned in your post. On the surface things may look negative but when explored further within it may not seem so.

I like the photograph of the old houses. It's really wonderful to still see such old buildings.


January 22, 2008 4:41 PM  

Blogger luna miranda said...

Caracol Festival is Makati's own version of the mardi gras. It's participated by students from Makati's public schools. It's very colorful, with tribal and ethnic dances. It's celebrated on the feast of the Sto. Nino.

I have a couple of hilarious experiences in Tondo and Divisoria. One of my closest friends lives in Gagalangin...I got lost going to her house and asked a maton-looking guy if I could use their phone (di pa uso cel phone n'on) to call my friend. When my friend asked where I was, the man told me to tell my friend I'm at Boy Cactus' house. Boy Cactus then asked me if I was an NBI informant...turned out Mr. Cactus was a jueteng lord.:D

A visit to Moriones was a bit scary because of the area's reputation but we got home in one piece.:D Been to Baseco Compound a couple of times, too. Unforgettable, but not scary.

January 22, 2008 6:27 PM  

Blogger carlotta1924 said...

my friend and i got nervous when we alighted from the jeep on moriones going to north harbor. derecho na lang ang tingin namin buti walang me pakialam hehe.

my paternal lolo and lola lived in tondo during the war and until they moved to san juan with my pa and titos in the 50's. a couple of years ago we went back to tondo to see if their house is still there. the first one was completely gone (or siguro nilamon na nung palengke) but the second one was still there.

anyway thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful history of tondo. this is exactly what i'm looking for, a bit more of the philippines' history before the spaniards came besides the ones we learned in school. =)

January 23, 2008 5:27 AM  

Anonymous gulay201 said...

Alhambra is now Puregold Market, across it is the Rizal Elemtentary School and the new Pritil Market.

January 23, 2008 8:19 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Now that solves the problem, Gulay201. Thank you!

So Puregold complex used to be the Alhambra factory, eh? The Pritil market they also refurbished a couple of years ago.

January 23, 2008 8:48 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

My pleasure, Carla, and I plan to feature more of Tondo in the future :)

What could be intimidating about Moriones is the sheer volume of people/hangers on. I will try to get to know more about the local culture and share as I discover them.

January 23, 2008 8:51 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Oh my God, Luna! Moriones can be intimidating enough with having rub shoulders with the likes of Boy Cactus. Wasn't sure whether to laugh or be horrified ... hehehe.

The Caracol Festival seems interesting! I can't wait for Manila's Aliwan Festival :)

January 23, 2008 8:54 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

How true, Kyels. I agree with you :)

I plan to take more pictures in the future of several old houses which I'm sure Tondo has a lot of.

January 23, 2008 8:57 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thanks, Sidney. I plan to take your advice to heart. Nothing wrong with being smart, right? Besides, I wouldn't go at it alone, for the entire landscape appears very foreign to me. I'd definitely get lost.

January 23, 2008 9:00 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That's right, BW ... hehehe.

However, some Tondo folks are quick to point their fingers on the Warays for being the combative bunch :)

January 23, 2008 9:02 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Those tin toy airplanes made from milk cans were of simple silver color, Bernadette; not as colorfully painted as the wooden calesas. I think they still have those clay palayok toys. My sister had a set when we were kids.

Serious? Alhambra cigars were as good as those from Cuba? Whoa! Awesome.

January 23, 2008 9:07 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Haven't seen The Colbert Report, yet, Amadeo, but would love to. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart they show here on cable.

Yes, just found out Alhambra made cigars.

Yeba was that rich? Whoa!

Herminio Astorga, eh? I must have already forgotten. Thanks!

January 23, 2008 9:11 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Yes, he's supposed to be a very accomplished literary figure, G. Mirage.

Thanks for the reminder, I ought to check out UST's exhibits :)

January 23, 2008 9:14 PM  

Anonymous rhodora said...

My first visit to Manila as a child was in Tondo. I was only four years old then. My mother brought me along with her to attend the funeral of my cousin (daughter of my uncle who worked as postmaster general of Manila many years ago.)

I can still remember the house we went to sleep in - looked very much like that one in the second photo. Strange. I can't seem to erase that scene in my mind as I was going down its stairs, I was clad in my white Sunday dress,... and to think I was only four then. It still haunts me so vividly until now.. :)

January 29, 2008 5:47 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Isn't that something, Rhoda? The funeral and the huge gathering of people in that house must've have awed you so much that it stayed in your memory. I have the same memory recall with my paternal grandfather's funeral.

January 30, 2008 7:35 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was such a pleasure reading your article "A WALK TO TONDO CHURCH". I used to do that. From HCCS (Holy Child Catholic School, which I attended) until I reach home in the most famous street in Tondo-BANGKUSAY (now F.Varona St), chained with the streets like Pitong Gatang, Panday Pira,Dandan and Herbosa, Velasquez to the West and Barrio Magsaysay on the east, whew! You made me smile and cry at the same time, reminiscing the times I was there. Masyadong senti ang mga taga-Tundo! hehehehe!
God bless and Good luck!

February 21, 2008 10:47 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thank you very much, Anonymous! Sorry I've made you cry, but then I'm sure they were tears of joyous remembrance of this very popular part of Manila. :)

I will try to cover more of Tondo in future postings. It is really a very vibrant and interesting place that I must explore.

Again, thank you and God bless, too!

February 22, 2008 7:55 AM  

Blogger tony said...

Buenas Senor Enrique,

Gracias por visitar mi pagena de multiply, mucho gusto!

Here's a short blog about; Bonifacio, Tondo, and how Katipunan was discovered by the Spaniards...

Salamat sa pag-alala at sa iyong nasaliksik na mga detaliya sa buhay ni Gat Andres Bonifacio ang Bayani ng Maynila, ang lugar ng Tondo at Katipunan. When I was growing up in Binondo (Binundok), I used to take photos of historical houses & places as reference for my own curiosity. I came across "Meisic" (I asked my father, who was a history buff himself, the source of this name, I was told that, it's because of the number of Chinese who lived in that place MaINSIK), area surrounding calle Reina Regente and calle Soler, which was the border of Binundok & Tondo district. In Meisic, there was or might still be the "Jose Abad Santos High School" on it. But during Bonifacio's time Meisic, was a "Quartelles de Guardia Civil" (Spanish Civil Guards Outpost), until the fall of Manila to the Americans, which they took over, then passed it on to the "Manila Police Department" (was still there during the "60s). To be more detailed Bonifacio was from Tondo, but always hang around with Emilio Jacinto who lived in “Calle Trozo” a place closed to a river where logs like narra, molave, ect...coming from Tanay, Laguna, & other places, were floating to be used for building houses. The house where Katipunan was founded, was destroyed by fire on calle Azcarraga, near Divisoria. Calle Azcarraga (now Claro Recto) is a shape of a bow, from Divisoria going towards Malacanan. The Malacanan part down to Reina Regente was called "Calle Yriz" & from Reina Regente to Divisoria was called "Calle Azcarraga".
The leaking of the secret "Filibusteros" (subversive) society was because of Padre Mariano Gil, fria-curate of Tondo. In the first week of August 1896 he dispatched a messenger to the naval commander of Manila to inform him of the existence of Katipunan in Tondo. The commander forward the information to the governor-general, who lost no time in dismissing it as a figment of the imagination. Father Gil then went to the military governor of Manila to try his luck. Father Gil was nursing his wounded pride when two Katipuneros working in "Diario de Manila", Teodoro Patinio & Apolinario de la Cruz had a quarrel & Patinio provably out of spite, let out the secrets of the Katipunan to his sister. Patinio's sister a devout catholic, was so oppressed with fear , she informed Sor Teresa, the "Madre Portera" of the orphanage were she was an inmate. Sor Teresa advised Patinio to confess to the "Cura Paroco", Mariano Gil. At six in the afternoon of August 19, 1896, Patinio repaired to the Tondo church to see Father Gil the revelation that there were 1,500 armed men in San Mateo ready to attack the Spaniards. The proofs of existence of the secret society was obtained in the printing shop of the "Diario de Manila". There Katipunan receipts were being printed secretly & daggers were being manufactured between noon & 1:00 pm, during "siesta". Father Gil sent a message to Lt. Jose Cortez of "Guardia Veterana de Manila", what Patinio had confined to him. This was not enough Father Gil rushed to the printing shop of the "Diario de Manila" & accompanied by the owner, searched for & found the evidence. Teodoro Patinio was shown the evidence & pronounced them real. With Lt. Olegario Diaz singing paeans to the efficiency & sharpness of the "Guardia Veterana de Manila", the newspapers next day published the discovery of the Katipunan.

Just some detailed additional info, for the interest of our kababayan, specially the youth who were given wrong information & forced to believe by the colonizers, in order to cover their faults, crimes & greed. Tulad ng aking kinathang tulang epikong "Vivora" naaayon sa buhay ni Artemio Ricarte sa huling yugto....

"Bayani ka lamang kung ikaw'y panalo,
ngunit isang sukab pag ikaw ay talo;
kaya't kapalara'y nagdidikta rito
kung ikaw sa bansa'y bayani o lilo."

Tony Donato

Gracias otra vez Senor Enrique de Manila.

June 29, 2008 11:30 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Tony,

You've just inspired me to pursue an old plan to take a picture of a monument in Tutuban (Divisoria) that was thought of to be of Bonifacio's but not, and with your permission, take an excerpt from this comment of yours as part of my accompanying text.

Two points I'd like to raise:

1) Why is our city council fond of replacing the names of our streets with those of "has been politicians?" Don't they have any respect for our local history and culture?

2) Our local history in terms of the pursuit for independence -- from the Spanish era onwards -- seems mired with betrayals. Sad.

Again, many thanks, Tony for sharing with us this historical information.

God bless you!

June 30, 2008 7:30 AM  

Blogger tony said...

"You've just inspired me to pursue an old plan to take a picture of a monument in Tutuban (Divisoria) that was thought of to be of Bonifacio's but not, and with your permission, take an excerpt from this comment of yours as part of my accompanying text." ...Senor Enrique

Senor Enrique,

It will be an honor from a fellow "Builder's Alma Matter" to use any of the blog I wrote. I would like to thank you for giving me the pleasure and chance to spread the "true history" of our beloved country right or wrong. There's a lot to learn specially the mistakes that most of our so called "heroes." But hey! who doesn't make mistakes? Jesus the Son of God, made a mistake about poor Judas...He's GOD, supposed to be perfect! Men have to make mistakes to learn, siguro kaya tayong Pinoy hindi matuto kaya paulit-ulit ang ating mga kasalanan at kamalian.

Anyway, you have my blessing to use any of my blog, the honor is mine. Nga pala teacher ko si Mr. Policarpio sa Algebra, naglalakuwatcha ako sa class niya para maka pag-pinball. Naging teacher mo ba si Mr. Ocampo sa P.E....he, he, he funny guy!!! Viva Mapua!

Thanks again Senor Enrique

June 30, 2008 7:58 AM  

Anonymous fransvarona said...

As a true-blue Tondo child ( born and raised in Bangkusay, studied elementary & high school at HCCS), I missed the joy, fear and excitement of living there.
My heart bleeds and laughs at the same time......I love Tondo... where my heart belongs.....someday, I will come back to my hometown....Tondo.
Thanks for this is a...

July 10, 2009 8:16 PM  

Blogger Xylone said...

Thank you for this piece of literature about my Hometown. I was born in 1979 and lived in Tondo until 1994 - when I went to New York City. I have not been back, mainly because of the stories and I do not know how I would feel if I go back. Again thank you for this, and I hope you do not mind that I follow your blog now also.

October 22, 2010 2:03 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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