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More than their pancit and kakanin, the city of Malabon is also known as the heritage city of Metro Manila because of its well-preserved heritage houses. It is a heritage and culinary destination in the metro. Welcome to Explore Malabon!
This leg of our photowalk, which we have dubbed as "pencilwalks", is a part of a project that I spearheaded where a group of Instagrammers or IGers will be going around Metro Manila this 2015 to discover its sights and sounds. Dubbed as "Explore Manila!", we would like to give "staycation" a different look. At the end of this series, we would like to answer this question - what makes Metro Manila an alternative tourist destination?
Malabon is one of the densely populated cities located north of the metropolis. The city sits on a flat low-lying terrain making the city susceptible to flooding especially during the rainy season. The city was once under the jurisdiction of Tondo and was initially known as Tambobong. It was inaugurated as a city in 2001 when it celebrated its 407th founding anniversary.
C. Arellano and Gen. Luna Streets
Malabon is one of the early settlements in Manila and heritage houses is a common sight along Malabon's main thoroughfares. The great thing about it is that most of these houses are well-preserved and are still functional. On the back side of it though was that we were not able to get into one as most of it are privately owned. But it was nice to admire these old houses as we walked along Luna Street.
Food Stop: Jamico Restaurant
Malabon is a gastronomic destination and since we wanted to take a break from our morning walk, we decided to take our first food stop in a restaurant famous for their crispy pata - Judy Ann's Crispy Pata. Thanks to our foodie researcher, @aizeecream, we braved another 30 minutes of walking just to search for this place and it was worth the wait.
The crispy pata was crunchy, tender, and tasty. It had that right flavor and had that sweet tangy twist. The sweet tangy taste was from the homemade pickled relish that they sprinkle on the meat. A definite must-try dish when you are in Malabon.
Simbahan ng Concepcion
The "Simbahan ng Concepcion" is one of the oldest churches in Malabon as it was established in 1607 by the Augustinians. The current structure of the church was built in 1886. The church became the home of the Philippine Independent Church in 1902 and was later turned over back to the Roman Catholic church in 1906 after a Supreme Court decision in favor of the latter.
The church was designed with buttresses that could withstand earthquakes. The simple facade conceals the interior beauty of the church. A historical marker, installed in front, reminds its parishioners and tourists of its historical significance.
The church is magnificent with its grand interiors. The ceilings look grand with the 14 stations painted on the ceilings of the church. The altar's main highlight is the image of the Immaculate Concepcion, the patroness of the church. The same image was canonically crowned by the late Jaime Cardinal Sin in 1986.
Angel Cacnio Gallery
Tucked comfortably in Malabon is a home that houses the great works of Angel Cacnio. The gallery is located within the compound of his home and if you plan to visit the gallery, a prior appointment with them or the city government is needed. We were lucky that Mr. Cacnio was welcoming when we arrived and was warm enough to accommodate our "surprise" visit.
Angel Cacnio is a multi-awarded artist from Malabon having received the Gintong Parangal ng Malabon In 1981 and the Gintong Ama for Arts and Culture in 1996. He is a graduate of Fine Arts from UP Diliman and he is the artist behind the design of the 20-peso and 100-peso bills that are currently in circulation. His gallery showcases his passion for Philippine heritage, history, legends, values, and beliefs.
The warm reception of Mr. Cacnio was a welcome relief from the summer afternoon heat. I enjoyed listening to the stories behind his artworks. A painting of a lady hangs on a wall turned out to be a portrait of his wife that he gave as a gift. It was a profession of his unending love to her. He also has a wide collection of artworks that depict Filipino values and traditions.
He gamely showed us newsprints of the recognitions given to him by various organizations. He was proud to also show us his art designs on Philippine currency when he was commissioned for it. He was also proud to show us his approved designs for the Php20 and Php100 bills.
What really stood out for me for his warm personality. He was like a father who was showing of his works to his kids. He was beaming and you could really feel his excitement with every bit of story that he shares. One amazing thing is being able to see and feel his passion for the arts.
Malabon City Hall Compound
Rising from the Malabon landscape is the Malabon City Hall. The new building sits just right beside the Navotas River. It offers a great view of the Navotas skyline on the other side.
The Malabon City Hall was opened in 2008 as a one-stop shop for local government transaction. It prides itself for its digital system which aims to make government transactions faster.
We came to visit the compound with the afternoon sun. It allowed us to capture great cityscape silhouettes with Navotas on the background. It also allowed us to play around with our shadows in taking our captures.
San Bartolome Church
The San Bartolome is one of the oldest churches in Metro Manila. The church was established in 1614 and the construction of the first stone structure started in 1622. Further construction continued in succeeding years and in 1861, the construction of the Parthenon exteriors and columns started.
The church was badly damaged during the World War 2 and was restored starting in 1951. It was in 1958 that efforts to restore its dome and belfry started. San Bartolome Church has 7 bells under its care at present, two of which are dedicated to Sta. Rita and one to San Bartolome.
The strong facade of the San Bartolome complements the towering building of the city hall as they stand side by side. It is reminiscent of the strength of government and religion in our country. Its architectural design and columns is similar to that of Greco-Roman Temples. I remember standing in front of the church and I was just amazed by its sheer beauty.
The grand interiors are hard to miss with its painted ceilings and its dome. The church is highlighted by a simple retablo with San Bartolome as its central figure. The interiors and the exterior design of the church complements each other with its grand intricate designs.
Food Stop: Nanay's Pancit Malabon
Having a taste of Pancit Malabon is a must when you are in Malabon. This is one dish that placed Malabon in the culinary map of the Philippines. We headed off to Nanay's Pancit Malabon along Gov. Pascual Avenue where we heard has an authentic take on the dish.
Nanay's Pancit Malabon looks like your usual eatery by the street but do not be deceived by its looks as it has the tastiest pancit malabon dish that I have tasted. It does not scrimp on ingredients. A single serving is enough to satisfy your noodle cravings.
Pasalubong Find: Dolor's Kakanin
I am such a huge fan of kakanin and one thing that you should have before leaving Malabon is Dolor's Kakanin. At present, they have six kakanin on their menu list - Sapin-sapin, Kalamay Ube, Biko, Kamoteng kahoy, and Mais. They also have puto galapong ang my personal favorite, pitsi-pitsi.
Dolor's Kakanin is one that has been part of Malabon's culinary heritage dating as far back as the 1930s. Now, these rice cakes are one of the most sought after desserts and snacks by Filipinos.
Post Travel Notes:
Our Malabon exploration is one that I will forever remember with fondness as I met one of the finest artists in the Philippines - Angel Cacnio. I think it is the highlight of our walk. My only regret is not being able to ask him to sign a Php20 bill for my keepsake. I guess that will be one reason for me to head back to his gallery and have a chat with him again.
Malabon was a history and cultural delight for me. It is amazing to see heritage sights standing beside modern structures. It was also great to discover how the city government is able to optimize tourism opportunities with their tricycle tours. Now, that is one that I need to try out soon.
“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.