#ExploreManila was a personal project that I started a few years back that was aimed at exploring the cities and the lone municipality of Metro Manila. The goal was discover each city/municipality's history, food stops, and culture amidst the hustle and bustle of city life. The city adventure had me enjoying a free kalesa ride in Pasig City, being personally accomodated by visual artist Cacnio (the artist behind the Php20-peso bill design) inside his Malabon home, looking for a historical monument in Mandaluyong, and searching for a historical lighthouse along the banks of Taguig. Through these adventures and misadventures, I have come to realize that Metro Manila is more than just a bustling metropolis.
It was unfortunate, though, that this adventure had to take the backseat for a time... until two Sundays ago. A long overdue visit to my sibling's final resting place down south spawned into a spontaneous city adventure that had me enjoying a hot afternoon exploring Paranaque.
Paranaque, located south of Metro Manila, is a city by the bay that is popular for its its posh hotels along the reclaimed area of Manila Bay. The city was officially founded in 1580 and was originally known as Palanyag. Its strategic location played an important role in the country's history from the Spanish period up to World War 2.
Paranaque has evolved from being a metro suburb to a bustling city. It managed to keep its traditions and history intact amidst the buzz of the city. Let us discover the city's history as we #ExploreParanaque!
Elorde Sports Center (Paranaque-Sucat Road)
Established in 1974, the Elorde Sports Center was the brainchild of Gabriel "Flash" Elorde - one of the country's best Filipino boxers of all time. This 3-hectare property is a sports haven and has become a brand associated to sport of boxing. It houses a stadium, boxing rings, tennis courts, and swimming pools. It is also a populat host for regular cockfighting derbies.
The brand has expanded widely in the metro but its original branch remains, not only as a venue for discovering and developing talents, but as an attraction, as well.
Getting there: From the Sucat bus stop along SLEX, cross to the other side of the Paranaque-Sucat Road. Take a jeep to Kabihasnan and ask the driver to drop you off at "Elorde". Fare is at Php10.
San Dionisio Chapel and Heritage Tree (Quirino Avenue)
This old Spanish Chapel is the home of the headless image of St. Denis or Tata Dune - a French Bishop who was persecuted by his persecutors.
The church stands out with its simple facade made from adobe, bricks, and cement. Its big open courtyard has a stage where their annual senaculo tradition is held. Installed on its walls is a "Lupong Tagapangasiwa ng Bisita" marker. Within its courtyard stands a huge Acacia Tree that provide a refreshing shade from the afternoon sun. The tree was declared a heritage tree by the city government in 2007.
Its simple interior is highlighted by a two-tierred retablo with the reverred image of Tata Dune, cradling his head on his arms, as its centerpiece.
The serene and peaceful ambiance of the place give you that relaxing provincial feel. I enjoyed taking a spot by the courtyard, enjoying the cool shade of its heritage tree, and enjoying the rustic beauty of the old chapel.
Getting there: From Elorde Sport Center, you can take a jeep to Kabihasnan and ask the driver to drop you off at San Dionisio Chapel.
The Cathedral Parish of Saint Andrew (Quirino Avenue)
At the heart of the old Paranaque stands a huge church that really had me in awe when I first caught sight of it. The Cathedral Parish of Saint Andrew is a church that has a touch of history, a sanctuary for the faithful, and a majestic beauty.
Established in 1580, the congregation were mainly from the barrios of La Huerta, Don Galo, and San Dionisio and was dedicated to St. Andrew. The church and the convent was completed in 1650 but convent was later on demolished upon orders of the Governor-General because of threats of an attack by Chinese pirate, Koxinga. The Paranaque Cathedral is one of the oldest churches in the country.
The four-century old church was built baroque style with buttresses on the side. Its facade is highlighted by an image of Saint Andrew with a four-storey belfry standing adjacent to the church. Its interior os majestic with its high ceiling and huge windows on the side. Its altar garbed in gold and white is highlighted by an image of Christ on the cross. Two adjacent altars flank the main altar. One bearing images of different saints and the other bearing the reverred image of the Nuestra Senora Del Buen Suceso.
The Nuestra Senora Del Buen Suceso was canonically crowned as the patroness of the city in September of 2000.
Getting there: From San Dionisio Chapel, you can take a jeep bound for Baclaran and you can ask the driver to drop you off at St. Andrew.
I noticed a couple of mansions just right outside the Paranaque Cathedral so I took my time to take a stroll around La Huerta. During earlier times, this old town had an orchard that was admired by many that it was said that people who travelled through La Huerta would stop to admire it. Unfortunately, the orchard slowly deteriorated as no one was able to really take care of it.
But beyond its famed orchard, La Huerta also played a role in Philippine history. It is the birthplace of Padre Masangkay, a Filipino priest who was involved in the Cavite Mutiny and later joined the revolution against the Spaniards, and Manuel Bernabe, a renowned Filipino author. Both have their own contributions recognized by the community.
La Huerta has its own collections of mansions that give you a glimpse of the past in La Huerta. These houses are privately owned so I only view them from a distance. These houses have maintained their grandeur despite the developments around it.
Simbahang Metodista Episkopal (Qurino Avenue)
This small Methodist Church along Quirino Avenue brings the honor of being the first Methodist church established south of Manila. The church was first established in 1901 in Mabong but was transferred to its location in 1917. Unfortunately, it was accidentally bombed during the liberation of Manila that took the lives of 77 Filipinos.
The church was rebuilt in 1950 with the aid of the Philippine War Damaged Commission and the Trinity Church in the US and was named Martyrs' Memorial United Methodist Church.
Getting there: From La Huerta, take a jeep going to Baclaran. Ask the driver to drop you off at Tambo.
Baclaran (Roxas Boulevard)
If Manila has Divisoria and San Juan has Greenhills, Baclaran is Paranaque's hawker center. This is where you can get goods that are really cheap from clothes, shoes, religious items, food, bags, and household items. For those who love to shop for cheap items, Baclaran is a place worth checking out.
Walking around the place can be confusing with a lot of stalls lined up on the streets that offer goods with really cheap prices. The keyword here is to haggle. Go around and check out the stalls before making the final purchase. Expect the crowd here on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Getting there: From the Simbahang Metodista Episkopal, take a jeep going to Baclaran
Baclaran Church (Roxas Boulevard)
In the midst of the hustle of commerce in Baclaran is the Redemptorist Church - one of the popular churchs in the metro. The church is a national shrine dedicated to the "Our Mother of Perpetual Help" and is one of the largest Marian congregation in the country. Wednesdays are often referred to as "Baclaran Days" as it is during these days that the novena is prayed.
The current church is the third structure to be built on its location. The church, with its Modern Romanesque design, took 6 years to be built since most of its funding came from personal contributions from devotees. It was officially dedicated in 1958 and has been open for 24 hours ever since. Pope John Paul II offered mass on this shrine during his 1981 visit in the country.
Its grand interiors stand out for its high ceiling and simple design. Its main feature is the image of "The Mother of Perpetual Help" installed at the altar of the church. The church has a seating capacity of 2000 but can accommodate as much as 11, 000 in a single mass.
The sprawling church compound has a small park and open spaces where visitors can relax before or after mass. Its recent addition is its belfry that features mosaic of its patroness on its four sides.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
I never expected to walk through history in Paranaque. I have always associated it as a food haven but it did not occur to me how this city grew out from our history. It is a city that was able to preserve its history and culture despite the rapid development happening within its territory. Unlike the other cities in the metro where urban development grew around or drowned around historical sites, Paranaque historical core has remained intact. Exploring the old barrios of La Huerta, San Dionisio, and Don Galo is like visiting a provincial town where you get to appreciate its stories and laidback vibe.
Local travelers are quick to jump on a trip to explore interesting and famous Philippine destination but seldom take the time to explore the city where they reside. We are all quick to share itineraries of the places that we have visited but we are stumped when asked about interesting places in our neighborhood. Metro Manila is more than just a bustling metropolis. It is a place where history was written, where old customs are still being practiced, and where you get to understand the different Pinoy cultures and traditions. You get to see the raw beauty of Manila by exploring it one city at a time.
Getting there: You can take a bus to Sucat from any point along EDSA. Alternatively, you can take a bus to Baclaran where you can take a jeep to Kabihasnan.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.