PHOTOS: 10 Manila Plazas and Parks, Then and Now
History is everywhere, if you know where to look
(SPOT.ph) During colonial times up to sometime before World War II, it was considered fashionable to meet up in public spaces like parks and plazas. This was way before the time when shopping malls filled our days, and sitting under a tree didn't feel as scorching hot as it is during summer nowadays. These parks and plazas have survived wars and undergone renovations through the years, but there's no denying the rich history that is found in each one of them.
Here are some snaps of Metro Manila’s parks and plazas from long ago and how they look like today.
Plaza de Goiti
Now known as Plaza Lacson, Plaza de Goiti is located behind Sta. Cruz Church. It is named after Martin de Goiti who founded the city of Manila in 1571. In the 1900s, Plaza Goiti was considered the transportation hub of the city because it had the tranvias, which were operated by Meralco. The plaza's name was changed in 2003 to honor the memory of former Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson.
Balara Filters Park
This 60-hectare park is located in Diliman, Quezon City. It’s one of the city’s oldest recreational areas, having opened in 1953. The park has three swimming pools, a windmill, an amphitheater where Atang dela Rama once performed, a picnic grove, and several Art Deco buildings.
Rizal Park, also known as Luneta Park, is one of Manila’s most important historical landmarks. This was where national hero Jose Rizal was executed, back when it was called Bagumbayan. Today Rizal Park is a family-friendly hangout, but during the Spanish era, they executed a total of 158 political enemies on its grounds.
Also known by its former name, Plaza Lawton, Liwasang Bonifacio is a city square in front of the Manila Central Post Office. Before being called Plaza Lawton, it was actually called Plaza del Fortin. This was where people usually gathered to hear musical numbers by street performers.
This circular heritage park was once a cemetery built by Dominicans for rich Spanish families. Jose Burgos, Mariano Gomez, and Jacinto Zamora are among those buried here. Jose Rizal was also originally interred at this cemetery-turned-park right after his execution. During World War II, this was where Japanese forces kept their supply and ammunition.
Quezon Memorial Circle
This national shrine and park was originally intended to be the National Capitol, which would be the base for the three branches of government. Work started in 1940 but construction was stalled during World War II. After the war, it was decided that it would be a shrine dedicated to former President Manuel Quezon, instead. The 217-feet mausoleum houses his remains.
The old Nayong Pilipino in Pasay was a 45-hectare theme park with miniature versions of famous Philippine sites such as the Banaue Rice Terraces, Mount Mayon, Chocolate Hills, and more. In 2004, several areas of the park were affected by the expansion of the adjacent airport and there were plans to move the park near Manila Bay. These plans did not push through, but a new Nayong Pilipino soon opened at the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.
Nayong Pilipino now has a smaller site in the former Orchidarium in Rizal Park. It was most recently the venue for Parkfest, an event which gathered arts and crafts enthusiasts, from May 28 to 29.
Plaza Sta. Cruz
In the 1900s, the Sta. Cruz district was like Manila’s Broadway, where one would go to watch theater or variety shows called bodabil or vaudeville. Plaza Sta. Cruz’s main spectacle is the Carriedo Fountain, which celebrates the installation of the water system by Spanish engineer Don Francisco Carriedo in 1884. The original fountain was made from bronze and marble, and was originally located at Plaza Rotonda at the foot of the bridge in Nagtahan. The replica was built at Plaza Sta Cruz.
Plaza de Roma
During the Spanish era, Plaza de Roma was the public center of the city, where people flocked to watch bullfights and other events. It was called Plaza de Armas (not the same one in Intamuros) and was converted to a garden in 1797. When the Americans ruled over Manila, they called it Plaza McKinley after U.S. President William McKinley. When the Philippines had its first cardinal in the College of Cardnals in 1961, the city celebrated by renaming the spot Plaza de Roma.
This plaza is located in front of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene or Quiapo Church. Today, the area is filled with fortune tellers and people selling lucky charms or amulets. In the 1970s, the plaza was infamous for the Plaza Miranda bombing, where nine people were killed during a Liberal Party political rally. The 35-foot obelisk in the square has a statue on top of a woman bearing a torch, which represents freedom.
Photos from Nayong Pilipino's Facebook page, Philippines Shocking History (Nayong Pilipino); Nostalgia Filipinas (Plaza de Roma); Lou Gopal (Plaza de Goiti, Plaza Sta. Cruz); and by Edison Sy at Panoramio (Quezon Memorial Circle)