As of this writing, Metro Manila has been wet from the monsoon rains for about a week now. Some areas are already flooded and, in other areas, residents are being primed to evacuate because of possible flooding. This is just one of the realities of Metro Manila and yet we still love it.
On a normal day, it is a bustling metropolis that bursts out in colors and life from sun up to sun down. Just what are the gems hidden in the city? Welcome to Explore Manila!
Walking inside the cemetery while the sun is setting is not exactly our idea of a #pencilwalks activity. It was the last stop of our Caloocan leg for “Explore Manila!” and the cemetery is an attraction in the city of Caloocan.
Caloocan City was the center of Katipunan activities against Spanish rule, making it historically significant, not only in Metro Manila, but in the whole country. It was within the perimeters of the city where secret meetings between Andres Bonifacio and his men were held that would eventually lead into a revolution that would later free the country from Spanish rule.
Presently, the city ranks third in being the most populous cities in the Philippines with an estimated population of 1.5 million, with a majority practicing the Roman Catholic faith. It is a bustling economic cell with its malls and have also been associated with the motorcycle industry with its own cluster of dealers.
Just what attractions does Caloocan have? We walked the streets of this city to uncover its hidden attractions.
Horace Higgins Hall (PNR Compound, Caloocan)
Tucked behind rows of makeshift houses is a building that has withstood the test of time – the Horace Higgins Hall. The site served as a railway station for the Manila-Dagupan line of the PNR when it opened its operation in November of 1892. It also served as a junction for both the North Line and the South Line. Sadly, the North Line ceased its operations in 1988.
Horace Higgins Hall is what is left standing from this great era of train travel in the Philippines. The building once served as a warehouse of the PNR and was the site of the first train trip to Dagupan in 1892. Its architecture is also considered to be of foreign influence.
Unfortunately, the building was left in a state of neglect. During our visit, we were informed that the taking of pictures of the building would require a permit from the PNR. I inquired as to why that was the case and I was told that it was because it was a historical site. The funny thing is that they consider it a historical site and yet the PNR have failed to actually take care of something that is of historical value to Filipinos.
By the way, my shots of Horace Higgins Hall were stolen photos while we tried to ask permission to take a picture of the building’s façade.
Getting there: From Monumento, you can take a jeep along Samson Road and go down in front of UE Caloocan. Cross the street to New Abbey Road and walk along the street until you reach the second corner to your right (C. Apostol Street). You will find the Horace Higgins Hall at the end of Apostol Street.
San Roque Cathedral
The church was founded in 1815 and the construction of the first church structure was completed in 1847. Apart from being a center of faith in the area, the church also served as a meeting place by the Katipuneros who was fighting for freedom against Spain. It was damaged during the armed struggle and was constructed in 1914. It was again renovated and blessed in 1981. During our visit, the altar was also undergoing refurbishments.
The simple church façade dominates the town center’s skyline. Strong and sturdy was how I would describe the church’s architectural design. The simple exterior was in contrast to the “projected” grand interiors of the church. I am writing “projected” because we only saw a tarpaulin design, which we all mistook as the actual altar, during the visit. The altar was undergoing refurbishment during our exploration.
Getting there: From Horace Higgins Hall, you can walk along M. Hizon Street, turn right on P. Burgos, and then right on A. Mabini Street. You can also take a tricycle as an alternative to walking.
Caloocan City Hall
Amidst the hustle and bustle of Caloocan’s city center, the city’s center of governance sits quietly watching over its domain. I wouldn’t have had noticed had I not been told by a fellow viajero that the building that sits right across the church is the Caloocan City Hall.
She further shares that the city hall once looked grand and beautiful but through time had blended with the cityscape. Unlike other city halls that I have seen previously, the Caloocan City Hall does not have that grand look compared to others.
La Loma Cemetery
Walking the hallowed streets of La Loma Cemetery while the sun was setting on the horizon did not give us the creeps. It gave us a look on how the cemetery has evolved through the years starting from the present and then going back to the past.
La Loma Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Metro Manila occupying a land area of 54 hectares in Caloocan and Manila. Also known as Campo Santo de La Loma, it was opened in 1884 and is the home of great architectural designs spared during the World War 2. It is also the final resting place of Felipe Agoncillo, Marcela Agoncillo, Cayetano Arellano, Josefa Llanes Escoda of the Girl Scout of the Philippines, and Felisa Dayrit.
One could really see the difference of social status in La Loma cemetery as the newer burial crypts are smaller while those that can afford have bigger crypts or have mausoleums. The mausoleums are also a representation of the past as most of them have been existent for decades while the other part of La Loma houses the more recent burials.
We have seen the old and bigger mausoleums that showed a piece of history and family fortunes. Unfortunately, we were not able to see La Loma Cemetery’s heritage site, the “Lumang Simbahan”, because it was already 5pm and going around the cemetery at that time was not advisable, not because of nocturnal entities but more of its illegal inhabitants.
Having missed the “Lumang Simbahan”, I guess it is going to be another opportunity for a #PencilWalks activity in the future.
Getting there: From the city hall, you can take a trike to Rizal Avenue Extension. Take a jeep headed for Manila and ask the driver to drop you off at La Loma Cemetery. Permits are also needed for you to be able to take pictures within the premises of the cemetery. You can also try going for stolen shots when there are no guards around.
The Bonifacio Monument is the most iconic structure that is commonly associated with the city of Caloocan. The monument is located on the north end of EDSA and is dedicated to Andres Bonifacio, the founder and Supremo of the Katipunan. The monument designed by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino.
The monument sits in the center of activities in Caloocan with buses and jeep going around the rotunda. People have been milling around the surrounding areas going about their daily activities while every now and then, the sound of the LRT buzzes through. It is amazing to see such development in the area when a century ago, the sound that you would probably hear in the area was the shout of freedom fighters fighting for Philippine independence.
Getting there: From the La Loma Cemetery, you take a jeep to Monumento. The monument is hard to miss as it is at the center of a busy intersection.
Post Explore Notes:
A taste of history, religion, and the creeps – that is how I will describe the exploration that we did in Caloocan City. It is a city bustling with activity but sits on a land that is historically significant. Too bad though, that little attention is given to these sites, with the exception to the Bonifacio Monument, as to its preservation and/or restoration.
Again, I hope that with consolidated efforts of people interested in the preservation of history, we can do more to make history alive to others. And please, can we kick out the idea of photography permits for historical sites.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.