Wednesday, October 15, 2008


This was the scene yesterday at Manila City Hall's Plenary Session Hall as a public hearing was conducted by the Committee on Arts & Culture, presided by its chairman, Councilor John Marvin Nieto, more popularly known by his screen name Yul Servo.

This public hearing was in relation to the draft ordinances to rename two streets in Binondo: Condesa to Norberto Ty Street and Oriente to Victoria Ty Tan Street.
The intention is to 'honor' the ancestors of the family that founded the now largest banking conglomerate in the Philippines, Metrobank.

In a nutshell, the Metrobank group at yesterday's hearing stressed that the city's concession to rename these two streets -- Condesa and Oriente -- to honor their founder's ancestors would be a mere token of appreciation by the City of Manila for the jobs Metrobank had created, including the millions of pesos of charity money and grants that Metrobank had doled out through the years.

Ms. Gemma Cruz-Araneta, who headed the group representing the Heritage Conservation Society and the Manila Heritage and Historical Commission, reminded the committee that 'stories' give life and color to the city.

As an example, she cited the Sampaloc streets that were named after the virtues -- Trabajo (Work), Industria (Industry), Pureza (Purity), Honradez (Honor) -- because back during the 1920s-'30s, this part of Sampaloc was comprised of working class folks who treasured these basic human values. However, this 'story' has now been broken by the change of Trabajo into M. de la Fuente to honor a certain mayor of Manila.

Oriente street in Binondo, Ms. Gemma argued, commemorates the famous hotel in Rizal's time where Rizal himself stayed when he came back from his travels in Europe in 1892. Other names are whimsical and funny. For instance, Hormiga (Ant) in Binondo is called such because it is small and narrow. She then asked why can't we have a city full of romance, virtues and humor rather than one which honors mainly business tycoons and politicians?

And if indeed the goal is to honor a businessman or politician, will changing the name of a street really inspire people to remember him/her? Granting that Oriente is changed to Ty, how many people will know who the person is and why that person is being commemorated? Only a handful, she lamented.

She then asked what guarantee is there that after 20 years, the name of the street will not be changed again? In the 1950s, she pointed out, the main street in Ermita was Isaac Peral after the Spanish inventor of the submarine. Then in the 1970s, it was changed to United Nations. Now in the 2000s, there is pressure from the Romulo clan to change it to Carlos P. Romulo.

Finally, Ms. Gemma offered some suggestions like affixing a commemorative ceramic plaque to the wall of a street where so-and-so used to pass during his/her lifetime? The plaque should be beautifully made and should summarize the achievements of, say, the Tys. If a portrait in bas-relief is included, so much the better, she said, for the public can have a clear picture of who is being honored.

At the same time, she suggested that there should be a law stipulating that the ceramic plaque must remain in that given area even if the building to which it is affixed is torn down. The new building that will arise should carry the ceramic plaque. Such ceramic plaques, if well done, can in fact make our streets more attractive and more colorful. They will necessarily be bigger than the ceramic street signs from the Spanish period.

public hearing on the draft ordinances to rename Condesa to Norberto Ty Street and Oriente to Victoria Ty Tan Street, conducted by the City of Manila's Committee on Arts & Culture, will continue. The committee plans to invite representatives from the National Historical Institute on its next session.

Related link:

Old Manila streets lose names to politicians - PDI - Augusto de Viana

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Thank you!





posted by Señor Enrique at 7:06 AM


Blogger Dennis Villegas said...

Interesting article, senor. Although I really would just like to retain the old names of the streets. Changing of names is sometimes confusing. Some changed street names still are being called their old names like Raon (now Gonzalo Puyat), and Vito Cruz (In fact I don't know its present name).
Gracias for sharing, senor!

October 15, 2008 10:18 AM  

Blogger Dennis Villegas said...

Btw, your articles are very-ell written and I have to back-read many of your entries. I linked your blog into mine for easier hopping :)

October 15, 2008 10:25 AM  

Blogger Sidney said...

Hi Eric,
There is an interesting article about street names in Wikipedia.

It seems quite an universal problem...

October 15, 2008 10:36 AM  

Blogger FilMasons NSW said...

Kudos to Ms Gemma Cruz-Araneta for fighting the cause of the historical names of our streets. She is totally right in all her reasoning and the suggestion of a commemorative bas-relief plaque is the clincher! Well done.

Also well done for this posting and the accompanying picture, we know where heart is Senor Eric! Thanks also for publicising this important subject.

October 15, 2008 10:50 AM  

Blogger BCS said...

I'm agreeing with Araneta on this. I personally also think that a commemorative plaque of some sort will go a whole lot farther in carrying out the purpose behind the proposal than a simple name-change (both in honoring the person(s) and educating the public).

October 15, 2008 11:20 AM  

Blogger sheilamarie said...

Hola Senor Eric! hmmm... changing the names will do nothing but confuse the motorists. I hope they find other means of honoring these people.

a couple of the streets in Victoria Island were named after English men (as Nigeria was colonized by the Brits).

Imagine the street names Saka Tinubo, Eso Close, Kasunmu Ekemode, Kofo Abayomi Street, etc. to name a few. Then you will see Walter Carrington Crescent, Thompson Avenue. I mean, where's the romance in that?

and I do prefer seeing african names on the streets, even though I have a heck of a time remembering and pronouncing them. lol!

October 15, 2008 4:13 PM  

Blogger NOYPETES said...

Amen to Gemma Cruz Araneta's proposals instaed of the street name change. Why not preservation work on these streets rather than changing the names? The MetroBank folks can maintain the old facade of the first bank in that area and a plaque commemorating the founders and relate it to the growth of the community.

"A proper understanding of our history is very important to us because it will serve to demonstrate how the present has been distorted by a faulty knowledge of our past. By unraveling the past we become confronted with the present already as future."

Renato Constantino

October 15, 2008 11:32 PM  

Blogger Photo Cache said...

Is this really the time to spend enery and time on changing names? I thought that there could be more pressing items on the agenda to focus on.

I am more into preserving/keeping the old name.

October 15, 2008 11:51 PM  

Blogger Panaderos said...

I agree with Ms. Araneta's stand for the most part. However, I don't agree with putting up a ceramic plaque and affixing it to a building. Why not just add an additional sign on top of the current street sign that would say that Condesa Street is also the Norberto Ty Commemorative Street or some name to that effect? A ceramic plaque would be quite expensive to replace should some unscrupulous characters decide to deface or vandalize it. Just my two centavos on this issue. :)

October 16, 2008 3:02 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it is best to name streets according to their directional trend - northerly to southerly and easterly to westerly, one direction is Avenue and the other, Street and commence the numbering from a chosen arbitrally crossstreets as the intersection of 1st Avenue and 1st Street and go outward from there.

If you are anywhere within the grid and somebody says you need to go to, say, corner of 25th Avenue and 3rd Street you instantly know how far you need to go and how you can get there from where you are.

They do this is in major cities in the US of A and other countries and it is a great assistance to out-of-towners and a downers for those clowns or their relatives or goffers who are on ego trips and want their names or the names of their choice affixed to everything except a toilet bowl LOL.

October 16, 2008 4:29 AM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

Here's a light-hearted recommendation for this impasse.

Recommend that the Tys affix the names of Oriente and Condesa to their ancestors' names, a customary gesture many ethnic Chinese do upon getting Filipino citizenship(adding Christian names).

This way the family can claim the honor of having streets named after their ancestors, without having to change the street names.


October 16, 2008 6:24 AM  

Blogger IndioBravo said...

Or build a monument,a small picture or painting perhaps.But please,spare the street name.Old street names are heritage already.I think that's were the problem starts.Old street names "should be" considered heritage.....If we can't protect these, what more of buildings and places.tsk,tsk,tsk.

October 16, 2008 6:46 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I think Vito Cruz has been changed Ocampo.

And I totally agree with you, Dennis. Not only is it confusing, it also robs the people of personal history they've associated with those particular streets whose names have been changed.

Thank you! I've already listed your site in my Manila Photojournalism blog :)

October 16, 2008 9:54 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thank you for the URL, Sidney.

Yes, it does seem to be a universal issue these days, but I think in some countries, the city and town administrators are more judicious with their decisions when it comes to changing the names of their streets.

October 16, 2008 9:57 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

My pleasure and thank you, too, Mario.

You can only imagine hos discombobulated it was for met when I returned to find many of the names of the streets of my youth had been changed. Even the street where I grew up :(

October 16, 2008 9:58 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That's right, BCS! Most of these street name changes onlky stroke the egos of the families, relatives and friends of the person being 'honored' with a name of a street.

But who cares besides them? No one, I'm sure.

October 16, 2008 10:00 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Hi Sheilamarie! How are you and the family? Trust all is well.

Here in Manila we have streets named after some American administrators during the colonial period -- such as Taft and Harrison.

By the way, here's an article by Ambeth Ocampo on this regard:


Taft and the 'friar lands'
By Ambeth Ocampo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:44:00 01/10/2008

Taft Avenue in Manila is always in danger of being renamed by enthusiastic lawmakers in the local or national government who have no sense of the history that goes into a street name. So many of Manila's landmark streets that have "been sanctified by usage" have been renamed after people who are better forgotten by history. We are fortunate that the renaming of España Avenue has been withheld because of an almost overlooked deed of donation that stipulates that the land cut by this famous avenue will be and remain public provided it is called España Avenue.

I am often seen as an obstacle to progress, and sometimes I am even described as an ostrich who hides his head in the past to evade the issues of the present. Yet when it comes to street names that have been in use for at least 50 or 100 years, we must show some respect or learn proportion. For example, I met someone who proposed that Santa Monica Street, one of the ancient street names in Ermita, Manila, be changed to the name of some relative who was "illustrious" to the proponent but obscure to me.

I asked her, "Can you give me one good reason we should change this street name?"

She answered, "Who is Santa Monica? What did she do to merit a street name? She is only the mother of Saint Augustine."

So I worked on her pious sentiment and said, "She may only be the mother of Saint Augustine but she is a saint in her own right. Can you say the same thing of your relative?" End of discussion.

There have been attempts to change the famous Manila street names Taft and Harrison on the grounds that the names of former colonial officials have no place in our nationalist times. But then history is a record of all that has happened to us, both good and bad. These two Americans, Taft and Harrison, compared to many colonial careerists in the archipelago from Spanish times, were good to the Philippines and the Filipinos and their names should remain to remind us of their life and deeds.

The New York Times recently featured an exhibit of vintage photographs of an American mission to Asia in 1905 headed by Taft. I hope that this exhibition will be brought to the Philippines if only for us to see what the country
looked like a century ago. Taft and his party did not just stay in Manila, they traveled to Iloilo where they were well-received. In 1905, Taft's mission was to help figure out an end to the ongoing Russo-Japanese War, and also to show legislators and the world the beneficial effects of America's civilizing mission in the Philippines.

Based on photographs, William Howard Taft (1857-1930) who headed the Philippine Commission to the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century was a big man, literally and figuratively. This man from Ohio was to become the 27th president and 10th chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. There are two famous photographs of Taft, one astride a carabao and another riding a small horse. It is said that he went up to Baguio on horseback to enjoy its cool climate and had himself photographed. Then he sent the photo to the US secretary of state with a note that he had arrived safely in what was to become the Summer Capital of the Philippines. The secretary of state replied to acknowledge the photograph with the question, "How is horse?" Taft must have weighed over 200 pounds.

What Filipinos also forget is that Taft negotiated the disposition of the so-called "friar lands" in the Philippines with Pope Leo XIII in the Vatican in the summer of 1902. To prepare for this task, Taft met with the superiors of the various religious congregations in the Philippines and conducted interviews with Filipinos regarding the expulsion of the Spanish friars, and again the "friar lands."

Transcripts of these interviews were published for the information of the US Congress. Taft wanted to know about the relationship of the religious orders with the Filipinos and, of course, the extent of their land holdings. (Lands held for Ecclesiastical or Religious Uses in the Philippines Island etc., 56th Congress 2nd Session. US Senate document 190)

If we are to go by the number of pages, the Dominicans had the longest interview at 16 pages of transcribed text, followed by the Franciscans (12), the Augustinians (10), and the Jesuits (a mere three pages). We must remember that the Jesuits were expelled from the Spanish Philippines and only returned in 1859 when they reopened a school that is now the Ateneo de Manila University. Perhaps if they had stayed on, they would also have
merited more pages because they would also have had accumulated significant landholdings.

What is significant is that the Benedictines are also included in this document even if they only arrived in the Philippines at the tail-end of the Spanish period and had very little to speak of, because they started as missionaries in Surigao and were captured by the revolutionists. The small community regrouped in Manila and set up a small school for boys that is now San Beda College. Benedictines were interviewed by Taft and merited all of one page, with Taft doing most of the talking. He even shifted the subject from land to the liqueur I mentioned in my last column called "Benedictine," which he wished the monks of Manila would produce for his enjoyment. Hidden in this Senate document is a footnote to food and Taft's human side.


October 16, 2008 10:20 AM

October 16, 2008 10:24 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I agree with you, Noypetes.

Instead of renaming these streets to honor their ancestors, besides what you had suggested, how about more scholarship foundations, or libraries in the inner cities (not just in swanky new cities) or mini parks?

October 16, 2008 10:28 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Like you, Photo Cache, I support retaining the old names.

October 16, 2008 10:29 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That's one idea that I go for, Panaderos, as done in New York City. It works and it does not take away the old names in which many people have personal histories attached to them.

October 16, 2008 10:30 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

"They do this is in major cities in the US of A and other countries and it is a great assistance to out-of-towners and a downers for those clowns or their relatives or goffers who are on ego trips and want their names or the names of their choice affixed to everything except a toilet bowl LOL."

I agree with you, bertN ... and this is what makes Manhattan so tourist-friendly. Everything is easy to locate.

As Sidney once quipped, "Vanity of vanities!" Lol!

October 16, 2008 10:32 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That's a good idea, Amadeo ... hehehe.

At the meeting, it was also suggested the combination of the old with the new name: Condesa de Ty Street ... hahaha!

Ah, these tycoons. Don't be surprised when you come come next time to find Carriedo renamed Sy (to honor the founder of Shoe Mart).

October 16, 2008 10:35 AM  

Blogger BCS said...

--->Most of these street name changes only stroke the egos of the families, relatives and friends of the person being 'honored' with a name of a street.

But who cares besides them? No one, I'm sure.<---

I second that, Señor Enrique! And I couldn't agree more.

October 16, 2008 11:07 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I like that idea, too, IndioBravo! Even a mini park!

Unfortunately, with so much money being dangled as "grants," I wouldn't be at all surprised if Condesa and Oriente are renamed as Metrobank is requesting.

October 16, 2008 11:11 AM  

Blogger ka tony said...

Kamusta Eric,

Sa aking palagay ang nararapat na gawin ng ating pamahalaan ay ang paglalagay mga "historical markers" sa mga makasaysayang lugar at mga lumang pangalan ng mga kalsada.

Babalik na naman ako sa "marketing strategy" karamihan sa atin at tulad rin ng mga nagpapairal ng ating batas, ang basihan ng "pagiisip" o "kuro-kuro" ay ang "kaniyang sarili" o "self judgement". Ang kamalian dito ay kung susuriin natin halimbawa, tayong nakababatid ng kasaysayan o importansya ng "Calle Oriente" sa ating kasaysayan, ang pagpapalit ng pangalan nito sa "Ty Street" ay isang kamalian. Subalit kung masulit nating susuriin at tatanungin ang mga kabataan at mga karaniwang mamamayan na 'di nakababatid ng ating kasaysayan, nakakarami sa kanila ay sasangayon na dapat lang na palitan. Una, marahil hindi nila alam ang kasaysayan ng "Calle Oriente", Kung bakit dito panandaliang nanatili si Rizal, maaaring itanong pa ay, sino mga ba si Rizal? Ang mga wala talagang alam sa ating kasaysayan, marahil ay mas kilala pa nila si Mr. Ty na nagtaguyod ng malaking bangko!

Isa magandang halimbawa, ang obra ni Hidalgo na, "Assassination of Governor Bustamante" Ano ang importansya ng obrang ito sa ordinaryong tao? Sino ba si "Governor Bustamante" at sino si Hidalgo? Napakalaki ng magiging kaibahan, pagkakaintindi at magiging halaga, kung ating ipaliliwanag kung sino si Bustamante? Ano ang naging kaugnayan niya sa ating kasaysayan? Bakit siya pinaslang? Sino si Hidalgo? Ano ang kaniyang naging buhay? Sa pagpapaliwanag nang mga ito sa hindi nakababatid sa mga katanungan ito'y, magbibigay buhay, liwanag, magbibigay kahulugan at halaga sa obrang pininta ni Hidalgo.

"Ang pagkakaintindihan at tamang pagligaw sa isang dilag ay magbibigay ng 'romansa' sa magkasintahan"

Ganitong 'romansa' ang madarama, kung ating ipaliliwanag sa ating kabataan at mga ordinaryong mamamayan, na hindi nakababatid ng ating kasaysayan. Huwag nating siguruhin na lahat ng ating kababayan ay nakakaalam ng ating nababatid at hindi rin dapat tiyakin na batid natin ang nalalaman ng ordinayong mamamayan!

Kung atin lang sasabihin na "huwag palitan" ang pangalan ng Calle Oriente na walang pagpapaliwanag at makasaysayang taglay nito, lahat ng pangalan ng ating mga lansangan ay tuluyang mababago, kasabay rin nitong maglalaho ang kasaysayan ng ating bansa!

Tulad rin ng aking kinakatakot na saktor ng ating lipunan, ang Petit-bourgeoisie. Hindi ko naman nilalahat, karamihan sa ating mga kababayan na nasaibang bansa ay nasa sektor na ito. Maaaring sa ibang bansa sila ay isang ordinaryong mangagawa, subalit kapag ang ito'y nasa ating bayan sila ay "Ilustrado" o "Petit-bourgeoisie" Ang kinakatakutan ng rebolusyonaryong pamahalaan ay ang sektor na ito. Tulad rin sa nangyaring kataksilan na ginawa ng mga "Ilustrado" sa pinasimulan na himagsikan at pamahalaan ni Gat Bonifacio. Ito'y naulit na naman nangyari noong "people power" kalayaan sa diktatorya ni marcos. Kaya nga't kasalukuyan ang ating pamahalaan at kakalagayan ay tulad na muli noong panahon ng dupang na marcos.

Tayo'y hindi matuto sa aral nang ating kasaysayang nakaraan, madali tayong makalimot, kaya naman madali tayong mapagpatawad, kaya rin madalas tayong maloko, kaya paulit-ulit ang ating pagkakamali, tuloy ang ating kasaysayan ay naglaho!

Kinakailangan ng ating kabataan at mamamayan ay "Reeducation of our History & Culture" upang burahin ang maling kasaysayang ipinilit na ipinundar sa ating murang kaisipan ng mga kolonyalista. Upang tayo'y magkaroon ng pagmamahal, malasakit, dignidad, onor, pagpapahalaga sa ating bayang Pilipinas. Tuloy magkaroon tayo ng ating hinahanap na "Pilipino Identity"

Maraming salamat Eric,
ka tony

October 16, 2008 3:50 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Kamusta, Ka Tony!

Firstly, allow me to respond in English since I think faster in it than in Tagalog; don't want to lose my thoughts :)

Speaking of Filipino identity, Arnold Azurin, the man I had once mentioned in which I was fortunate enough to have met and had coffee with, has written an intriguing book on this regard -- "Reinventing the Filipino - Sense of Being & Becoming." You may know him or have heard of him.

He is the founding member of the 'Pambansang Unyon ng mga Manunulat,' former research writer of the Population Center Foundation and the Presidential Commission on Government Reforms. He has been teaching (off and on) the social sciences and literature since 1967 in various colleges and universities, including UP. He writes for periodicals and journals mainly on political culture. He was the one who recommended that I read "Between Two Empires" by Theodore Friend.

Like you, Arnold is a research specialist, according to some UP folks I had spoken to. Anyay, you may want to check out his "Reinventing the Filipino."

Yesterday, I was talking to a city councilor of another city in Metro Manila, and brought up how much power the city councilors have in terms of approving a proposal for a change of a street name. He said that "not much" anymore since new laws had been enacted. These days, he claims, besides the city council, one must also get the approval of the Philippine Post Office and most of all, that of the National Historic Institue. Without the approval of the latter, no change of street name will take effect. Also, he said that it only takes a protest of a single resident of a certain street to hold the name change for many years.

Hence, there is a great chance, after all, that Oriente and Condesa Streets will remain as such.

I may also write Yul Servo, a letter to this effect.

Thank you, Ka Tony!

October 17, 2008 6:14 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Senor Enrique, tama po kayo at si Ms. Gemma Cruz-Araneta. Hindi po dapat palitan ang mga pangalan ng mga kalye sa ating mga siyudad lalo na sa Maynila sapagka't nag-uugat lang ito ng kalituhan sa mga tao, nagbabale-wala sa ating kasaysayan at sino po ba ang mga taong ito na hindi naman kilala ng karamihan sa mga Pilipino? Mayroon po akong nakakatuwang karanasan ng minsang pag-uwi ko ng Pilipinas galing sa pagtatrabaho sa ibang bansa ay makakita ako ng mga karatulang PED XING sa may Roxas Blvd. at Espana. Sabi ko sa kapatid ko, sino ba namang intsik ito na kung saan-saan ipinangalan ang mga kalye? (Tawa ako ng tawa ng malaman ko kung ano ang ibig nitong sabihin!)

October 17, 2008 4:15 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Lol ... naalala ko din ang isang pamangkin na nagtanong kung sino itong sikat na intsik na si Ped Xing!

Sana nga huwag matuloy ang pagpapalit ng mga pangalan ng ating kalye.

Alam mo ba na ang pangalan ng kalye na aking kinagisnan ay inalis na sa listahan kasi napalitan na ng Tomas Mapua? Kalungkot-lungkot talaga. Parang nabura ang aking magaganda at masasaya na mga alaala ng aking kabataan. Sana hindi nila pinalitan ang pangalan ng Misericordia Street.

October 18, 2008 9:13 AM  

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