“Manila, Manila, I keep coming back to Manila!
There is no place like Manila. Manila, I’m coming home.”
As this retro song goes, what is with Manila that people would love to come back to this bustling metropolis composed of 16 cities and 1 municipality?
Inspired by a fellow Instagrammer, @byaherong_gala, I decided to embark on a different kind of “staycation” where I intend to discover the nooks and crannies of Metro Manila. We know Manila as a shopping and nightlife destination with the proliferation of malls and bars in all of its four corners. This time I wanted to discover the culture and historical contributions of the Philippines’ center for commerce, governance, and culture.
With that being said, I would like to invite you to walk with me and explore Manila!
Navotas was a real eye opener for “Explore Manila!” and our group did not expect to kick-off the project with scenes that we probably just see in documentary shows on television. It was real and it was surreal for me.
North of the metropolis is Navotas City, dubbed as the “Fishing Capital of the Philippines” as majority of its residents are into the fishing industry. The city was once part of Malabon and was believed to be connected to the mainland. However, the waters of Manila Bay continually breached through the weak land between Navotas and Tondo which eventually formed the Navotas River, separating Navotas from the mainland. It is believed that name of the city was derived from the Tagalog word “nabutas” brought about by this natural event.
San Jose de Navotas Parish Church
The first stop for our exploration was the very first place of worship of Navotas, the San Jose de Navotas Parish Church. Located along the city’s main thoroughfare, the church stands mighty in the center of the city. It was first established in 1859 and the first structure was finished in 1877. The current church structure was built and completed in 1895 and it also went into reconstruction in 1964.
The simple and beautiful church façade complements the beautiful and more elaborate interiors of the San Jose de Navotas Parish Church. The massive and sturdy design of the exteriors evokes strength which is probably how we can define the people of Navotas, having to withstand yearly flooding in most of its areas.
The massive interiors of the church is worthy of appreciation. It is highlighted by a simple wooden retablo with the Jesus Christ on the cross as its central figure. But what really impressed me was the baptistery of the church. The baptistery is lowered by two steps from the actual floor level so everyone attending the ceremony will have a better view of the ritual. It is highlighted by a mural of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus Christ.
Silently nestled along M. Naval is the “Century House”. You will find little information about this house from the internet and we just happened to bump to it as we headed towards the city hall of Navotas.
The house is not open to the public and only the upper half of the house is visible to tourists. I guess the only indication that the house is a century old is its signage at the front and the capiz shell windows.
Navotas City Hall
The city hall of Navotas City stands tall in the city’s skyline. It is one of the major and prominent landmarks in the city as it rises right beside the Navotas River. It is the seat of power of the city as it houses the Mayor’s office and most of the local government offices that provide the basic services to its consitutents.
Interestingly, the building was constructed on a higher ground and the presence of amphibian vehicles in the city hall is enough proof that the area gets flooded during the rainy season.
We knew that the Navotas River is located just behind the city hall but finding a viewing point was not easy. We had to pass in between buildings just to be able to get a vantage point of the river.
The view of Navotas River was our first taste of the ugly side of rapid urbanization. Both sides of the Navotas River was peppered with informal settlers. The river system have also declined through years of neglect and abuse. The pungent smell and the floating garbage along the river was a strong indication of its deteriorating state.
Navotas Fish Port
From Navotas City Hall, we took a tricycle to head off to the premier fish center in the Philippines and is considered to be one of the largest fishport in Asia – The Navotas Fish Port. Most of the residents of Navotas City eke out a living from the fishing industry because of its proximity to the sea. The Navotas Fish Port is at the heart of this industry. It sits on a 47.5-hectare of reclaimed land in Manila Bay and handles an astonishing 800 tonnes of fish daily.
Our initial plan was to check out the “Bulungan” Market but our “manong” driver dropped us off at the docking area of the port. The place was a myriad of colors coming from all sizes of fishing vessels. Small boats were with large colored umbrellas were ashore. Interestingly, these outrigger boats only had one “katig”, used to balance the boat. When we asked one of the fishermen why his boat only had one “katig” and he replied that it makes it easier to approach the bigger boats when they bringing passengers and selling their wares.
Just a short, and quite scary, walk through streets with fish establishments on one side and the slum area on the other side, we reached the Bulungan Market. The market derived its name from the word “bulong”, a Filipino word for whisper. In this market, fish traders whisper their price bid for a huge pail containing fish. The highest bidder gets to buy the intended “banyera”.
I was amazed at the sight of the market with all the pails, containing fish, scattered around the area. On one side, you have a group of men cleaning shellfish as they prepare for it for trading. The pungent smell of the sea and fish was enough reminder that I was in an area that I do not encounter regularly. It was something new and exciting.
Post Travel Notes:
Opening project “Explore Manila!” with Navotas gave me and my companions a different point of view of Metro Manila. I vividly remember the distinct smell of Navotas. It really stood out for me. The pungent smell of the sea, fish, and the polluted river overwhelmed my sense of smell that I just became numb to it. But more than the smell, Navotas was an eye opener to the plight of the indigents in Metro Manila with most of them living under horrid conditions.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.