Malate is probably the most colorful district in the city of Manila. Its humble beginning started when the chiefs moved to this enclave after losing Intramuros to the Spaniards. The arrival of the Americans saw its development as a posh residential area only to be rundown by the Japanese during the liberation of Manila. As it rose from the ruins of the war, it evolved to become the center of commerce and tourism of the city of Manila, together with Ermita.
Located on south west end of Manila, the district prides itself for having one of the best views of Manila Bay and the skyline of Manila. It serves as a home to many institutions - the Department of Finance, De La Salle University, and the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, to name a few. I took an afternoon walk in Malate to discover how it creatively fused urban life and its rich history creating its own distinct metro vibe.
Rizal Memorial Sports Complex
Standing on the former site of the Manila Carnival Grounds, the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex is home to many Filipino athletes. Inaugurated during the 1934 Far Eastern Championship Games, the land it sits on was donated by the family of Vito Cruz. Its four stadiums - track and field, swimming, baseball, and tennis; were designed by renowned architect Juan Arellano in art deco style. It is the biggest sporting venue styled in art deco in the country.
The complex was damaged during World War 2 since it witnessed one of the fierce fighting between Japanese and liberation forces. It was reconstructed in 1952 just in time to host the 1953 Asian Games. The 11-hectare complex has since hosted sporting and civic events including the only Beatles concert in the country in 1966. It was home to many great Filipino athletes that include Flash Elorde, Lydia de Vega, and Eric Buhain.
Just recently, I had the chance to watch our very own gymnast, Carlos Yulo, compete during the SEA Games in 2019 at the sports complex. It was great to see that a public clamor to stop its “development” has succeeded to preserve its cultural and historical value. The Rizal Memorial Sports Complex was declared a national cultural landmark in 2017 ensuring its preservation for the future generation and their Olympians.
The Harbour Square is probably one of the popular destinations in Malate as it offers a magnificent view of the Manila skyline. I initially thought that the area, including the adjacent ASEAN Gardens, was part of Pasay City. I got corrected after my research showed that it serves as the boundary between the two cities, favoring the city of Manila.
Harbour Square is a complex that houses a number of restaurants prior to the pandemic. It became an instant hit among locals because of its panoramic skyline view of Manila, be it a day or evening shot. It has become a good spot to relax and unwind after a day of exploring the city.
Naval Station Jose Andrada, Roxas Boulevard
Located along the southern end of Malate’s portion of Roxas Boulevard, the naval station serves as the general headquarters of the Philippine Navy. This government institution is the branch of the Armed Forces that patrol and defend Philippine waters. I was surprised that their HQ was a lot smaller and was located in Malate.
The Navy Head Quarters was once known as Fort San Antonio Abad, after a restored Spanish-period fort close to the area. The front lawns of the station has a canon and a navy chopper on display. The display is to honor the valiant men and women who served the naval force.
Manila Yacht Club
One of the most striking views at Harbour Square are the neatly lined yachts along the shores of Manila Bay. These boats are under the care of one of the oldest elite clubs in the country - the Manila Yacht Club. It was established in January 1927 and has also represented the country in the Olympics. The club has been actively supporting the Philippine Navy and in training our athletes.
The view of the yachts lined up along Manila Bay is striking and impressive. One cannot help but to slow down and admire the view and I could just imagine the beauty of the Manila Bay sunset from its docks. I will probably swing by to this spot along Roxas Boulevard one od these days to catch the sunset.
MET Museum / Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas
One of the most striking structures along Roxas Boulevard is the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Its concrete buildings look like a fortress guarding the country’s fortune. Well, it is the treasury office so its fortified structures are understandable. It does look grand when you pass by it along Roxas Boulevard.
Within the compound of the BSP also stands the MET Museum, home of the country’s modern and contemporary arts. Its three floors houses cultural and historical artifacts including artworks of Felix Hidalgo. Unfortunately, the museum was still closed during the time that I was exploring Malate and that makes this museum part of my museum bucketlist in Manila.
Marcela Agoncillo Ancestral House
Tucked in the busy street of MH del Pilar is the ancestral home of Marcela Agoncillo. She was the heroine who sewed the Philippine flag that was raised in Kawit, Cavite. The Malate residence was where the family stayed after their return from their exile in Hong Kong. The house was later burned down during the liberation of Manila.
The house now function as a regular office and a laundry shop. The only sign to remind you of its historical value is the historical marker that was installed at the front of the house. The house is where Marcella Agoncillo lived in her senior years until her death in Taal in 1944.
North Sy-Quia Apartments
The North Sy-Quia is one of the posh pre-war apartments in the Malate area. It was built in 1938 and was one of three apartments built by the family. It was designed with a mix of modern and art deco style and had the installation of the first private elevator.
The North Sy-Quia Apartment still stands to this day with the same posh vibe. It is the oldest apartment in the Malate area. It is amazing that this quirky apartment has hosted some prominent artists and personalities.
Who would have thought that the vibrant Remedios Circle was once a cemetery? The Malate Cemetery was a Spanish-period cemetery that has a similar design as the Paco Cemetery. It was destroyed during World War 2 and was demolished to become a open air park/rotunda.
Unlike other nightlife areas in Manila, the party scene in Remedios Circle grew organically where local businesses took the risk in opening in the area. It was the opening of Cafe Adriatico that started the development of the vibrant nightlife of the area. It is also in this area that the LGBTQ movement started taking a stronger presence in the country.
Our Lady of Remedies Parish
More popularly referred to as Malate Church, the Our Lady of Remedies Parish was created in 1588. The church, headed by the Augustinians, was in charge of taking care of the faithful locals of Malate. The area back then was defined as an aristocratic barrio because it served as a meeting and recreational place of the Spaniards and Filipino meztizos.
The present structure was constructed 1864 and is the third to be built after the first two was damaged. The church was rebuilt completely and only the facade, which was designed with a mix of Muslim influence and Mexican Baroque, was retained. Again, the Japanese burned down the church and only the walls were left standing. The priests who lead the church and some parishioners were taken by the Japanese and were never seen again. Restoration of the church started during the 1950s under the auspices of the Columban brothers.
The Malate Church was dedicated to the Nuestra Senora de los Remedios, the patroness of childbirth. An image of the Our Lady of Remedies, that was brought to the church in the 16th century, remains enshrined in the church.
Rajah Sulayman Park
At the heart of Malate is a public square facing Roxas Boulevard and Manila Bay - the Rajah Sulayman Park. The place was a popular bathing spot along Manila Bay during the Spanish period and the reclamation and development of Roxas Boulevard, during the American period, cut the plaza from the shorelines of the bay.
The park was improved in 2002 to make it another Malate night life area complementing the nearby Remedios Circle. However, the project was eventually cancelled by the preceding city mayor. The plaza is now one of Malate’s centerpiece with a statue of Rajah Sulayman and a dancing fountain. Adjacent to it is the famous family restaurant - The Aristocrat.
Manila Bay Walk
Malate has the longest share of the Manila Bay Walk along Roxas Boulevard giving the place the best view of the Manila Bay sunset. One of the best memories of my stay in Malate was being able to watch the majestic sunset of Manila. I fondly remember enjoying the view of the sun going down while munching on a pint of ice cream.
The Manila Bay Walk is a strip of walkway that lies parallel to the breakwaters of Manila Bay. Walking along the strip, you would be treated with the beautiful Manila skyline on one side and the view of the Manila Bay on the other. It is a favorite afternoon spot for joggers and bikers.
The Bay Walk is a great place to catch an unadulterated view of the Manila Bay sunset. The experience will also be enhanced further once the beautification and restoration of Manila Bay is completed.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Who would have thought that I would be surprised at my new discoveries when I went for a second look at one of the places where I once lived and roamed around? I remember back then how we enjoyed dinner at Aristocrat, not knowing that a few meters away was the ancestral home of hero. You could also have partied the night away at Remedios Circle not knowing if the person you are dancing with was a real person or a spirit that was once a “resident” of the circle.😝
One good opportunity that the community quarantines opened for me was that I got to explore the metro more. The limitations in travel had me exploring travel spots that are close to home and within my “neighborhood”. It gives you a remarkable insight of hidden gems that lives under your nose. Traveling does not need to be a plane or a bus ride away. You can start in your own area and discover where your feet will take you.
Check out my Malate Youtube video coming out on July 10, 2021 (Saturday) on my YT Channel: #ByahengOffTheGrid
Getting there: You can get to Malate by taking the LRT 1 and you can go down at either Vito Cruz LRT Station or at Quirino LRT Station.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.