Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Pasig City Museum
Plaza Rizal scenery



A river by its namesake runs through the city of Pasig. Like the body of water flowing between Laguna Lake and Manila Bay, it's caught in the grip of time -- the past and the future. At a glance in the present, it's no longer what it used to be. After decades of rapid commercialization, the scenery of rice paddies at the city proper has been replaced by man-made structures. With natural irrigation from the winding stream of the so-called Bitukang Manok gone, what was a significant witness to the assembly of a fleet of Kaitpuneros in May of 1896 is nothing but a faint creek now.What remains of days gone by are a few old houses that remind us how local life was like when the river was still pristine.

Cine Victoria and Concepcion Mansion

A stroll at the city proper will show any visitor the nostalgia of old Pasig when it was still a town. Scattered in separate streets are a few remnants of what can be considered heritage of the past. What used to be Cine Victoria that opened in 1927 ceased regular operation as a modern Victoria Theater in the '80s. The original structure of the theater is no longer there but almost across it is where the three-storey Concepcion Mansion stands in all its pre-war design glory. Now called Pasig City Museum, the Spanish-Baroque structure was once home to Don Fortunato Concepcion, a former mayor of the old town. It was designed by Architect Felizardo Dimanlig and completed in 1937.

Bitukang Manok
(left) Marker of Katipunan General Valentin Cruz; (right) Bitukang Manok
Plaza Rizal
Pasig City Museum

Library and Museum In One

For a kid growing up in the '80s as a kumbento boy of Pasig Catholic College (a parochial school that started exclusively for boys), I had a chance to visit the terra-cotta roofed mansion when it was still being run as both a library and museum. Every chance to do a research there was also a memorable museum visit because displayed on its walls were old paintings depicting what the town looked like before the Philippine Revolution. It was there where I saw one depicting a train railway at the spot where Dr. Sixto Antonio Avenue starts from the old Immaculate Conception Cathedral. My favorite spot there was the azotea where I once tested my dad's malfunctioning SLR camera.

Immaculate Conception Cathedral
Officially A City

While enrolled at the University of Santo Tomas, I saw less of Pasig on a daily basis because attending college in Manila meant that I had to spend most of my days there. It was in the same period when the town officially became a city.

Changes In The Landscape

From that time on, more changes -- both good and bad -- happened in the area. Large commercial establishments started to open in different spots. The sprawling public market called Mutya Ng Pasig got renovated and became more appealing to residents than the distant Divisoria. The post office was transferred to another location, leaving the old structure it once occupied unattended for years.
The original location of Pasig City's postal office
An old house along Dr. Sixto Antonio Avenue
Bitukang Manok
An old house near Parancillo

The Most Significant Change

What I consider to be the most significant change is that of the Bitukang Manok. A portion of it that got covered for decades to become a road was dug up and transformed back as an open creek with charming pathways on both sides. A marker for a Katipunan general named Valentin Cruz was erected at the site nearby. Called the Asamblea Magna or mass meeting site, it was where the notable resident of Barangay San Nicolas welcomed Andres Bonifacio and his group of more than 300 Katipuneros one rainy night. The fateful meeting would soon lead to the Pasig resident's exile in the Marianas and the assassination of Bonifacio who, according to Sentro Sentenaryo Sa Pasig's head convenor was not only vilified in early high society but was also tortured to bleed to death atop Mount Buntis. It's a historical landmark for the night when the Philippine Revolution was first fully conceived in secret, giving the street where I used to do house-to-house Christmas caroling as a kid a meaningful significance.

Bahay Na Tisa
A Temporary Gloom For Old Houses

There were even whispers about making a major road that would start at Plaza Rizal (formerly called Plaza de la Paz) to connect to a new bridge over Pasig River. This was, of course, to the detriment of local residents because it would mean widening the narrow P. Gomez Street which spans a section of the city where a few old houses are located. The rumor persisted for several years until people finally got tired of hearing about it.

Bahay Na Tisa
Bahay Na Tisa

The Future of The Bahay Na Tisa

At that time, it meant the end for Bahay Na Tisa, the city's oldest standing bahay na bato structure. Had the plan been pursued, the charming street would no longer show proof of memories that residents like me have of the area. It was at the 1850-built Bahay Na Tisa where I had constant choir practices as a kid under the musical tutelage of Dr. Tech whose relatives (seven generations of them from Don Cecilio Tech y Cabrera) happen to own the property. For whatever reason, the plan did not materialize and the whispers stopped. Soon, the Bagong Ilog-Sta. Rosa Bridge was constructed instead.

Raymundo Residence
The Raymundo Residence Behind The Plaza

Also located along the same street is what residents refer to as the Raymundo residence which used to house El Pasig, a bakery that rivaled Dimas-Alang for baked goods domination in the area for decades. The bakery is no longer there but the same ground floor has been renovated with the second floor kept intact. A schoolmate used to stay upstairs and I remember having to tackle the ground floor when the bakery got closed for good. We would kill time after school surrounded by antique decors, an old grand piano, and the prevailing smell of unbleached muslin cloth. From the old structure's window, the view of the city museum, cathedral, and plaza can be seen all at the same time.

Raymundo Residence view from Plaza Rizal
The Enduring Dimas-Alang

For its part in the whole changing scenery, Dimas-Alang endured in its location along the busy Mabini Street for being accessible to residents who continually depend on the reliable pandesal for breakfast and afternoon snack. Put up by Ambrosio Lozada in 1919, the bakery remained the same as it was before World War II. Unknown to many residents, though, the second floor was witness to the formative years of violin virtuoso Carmencita Lozada, Ambrosio's daughter. These days, Carmencita's younger brother, Manolo, is the one looking after the business and the house itself. Perhaps, there will come a time when the bakery will find it proper to have the music of the internationally known violinist played in the early hours of every morning for the young generation of Pasiguenos to discover her musical buoyancy that enthralled Europe from the '60s to the '90s.

Cine Victoria (Pasig City Museum)

Like any city undergoing transformation, Pasig can only go as far as its reach. Anywhere beyond it can spell ruin. Any attempt to step back and appreciate the past, however distracting, is essential. And whatever needs to be done to protect enduring treasures must be done today and not be put off for tomorrow.

Where To Eat Out In Pasig City?

Check out my compilation of interesting dining destinations in Pasig City here.

Plaza Rizal
Immaculate Conception Cathedral
(top) My uncles in the late '70s, taking a piss at the site where ULTRA is now is located;
(bottom) My grade school batch graduation -- Pasig Catholic College


  1. That's why I love Pasig City. So many old houses to choose from. Dapat to makita ni Glenn! <3

    1. Thanks, Paula. Nag-walk tour na 'ata sila ni Joaquin sa Pasig before I think ha.


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