During the late Spanish Colonial Period (1565-1898), horse drawn Travania plied the streets of downtown Manila, following railways embedded into the roads. In 1905, the Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company (now MERALCO) started operating the electric travania that replaced the horse-powered public transport system. These electric trains were to be the forerunners of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) systems that shuttle millions of commuters throughout Metro Manila, nearly eighty years after.
Railway systems have been operational in the Philippines since 1892, with the opening of the Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan, the first national commercial railway operating from Manila to Municipality of Dagupan, in the province of Pangasinan. However, after most of these railways were destroyed at the end of World War II (1938-1945), people relied on the buses and jeeps to get about the city, or to go to the provinces and back. In 1983, LRT line 1 started operations that covered the south-to-north and back route from Baclaran in Paranaque City to President Theodore Bulloch Roosevelt Jr. Avenue in Caloocan City. This was followed in 1999 by the Metro Rail Transit System (MRT-3), which traversed the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or EDSA, from Baclaran in Paranaque City, to the North Avenue in Quezon City. And finally the LRT Line 2 opened in 2003, traversing 13.8 kilometers east-to-west and back, starting from the Santolan station on the Marikina-Infanta Highway (commonly called Don Mariano Marcos Avenue) in Marikina, to the Recto station along Senator Claro Mayo Recto Avenue in Manila.
Starting off the eastbound route to the Santolan Station terminus of the LRT-2, passengers get on the Recto Station, which was named after Senator Claro Mayo Recto Jr. (1890-1960), a highly regarded nationalist politician, jurist and poet during the American occupation (1898-1946). During the colonial eras, the 3.2 kilometer Recto Avenue was divided into five shorter roads: the Tondo District route was named Calle Azcárraga after Marcelo de Azcárraga Ugarte y Palmero-Versosa de Lizárraga (1832–1915) the 13th Prime Minister of Spain and of Filipino descent; the Santa Cruz route was named General Izquierdo after the Spanish Governor General Rafael Gerónimo Cayetano Izquierdo y Gutiérrez (1820-1883); and in the Sampaloc District are Calle Paz (Peace), Calle Bilibid (Rope) and Calle Iris were all named after the creeks that ran through the areas (now named Estero Dela Reina, Estero de Magdalena, and Estero de Aviles respectively). Right beside the Recto Station is the Isetann Cinerama, a mall that opened in 1988.
A couple of hundred meters into the journey, the LRT-2 crosses Quezón Boulevard, which is named after President Manuel Luis Molina Quezón (1878-1944). Quezón Boulevard was constructed in 1939, connecting two Spanish colonial period roads:the southbound Calle Santa Rosa that goes to the Quiapo District; and northbound Calle Concepcion lead to the Santa Cruz District. During the American occupation, Calle Santa Rosa was later renamed as Calle Regidor, after the propagandist Antonio Maria Regidor (1845-1910), while Calle Concepcion was rechristened as Calle Martin after the nationalist journalist Martin Ocampo (died 1927). The Quiapo district is known for such historical landmarks as the Saint John the Baptist Parish (Quiapo Church, constructed 1889) and its miraculous Black Nazarene (made in 1606), the Nakpil-Bautista Ancestral Home and museum (built 1914), the Plaza José Sandino y Miranda (built in 1961), the Masjid Al-Dahab Golden Mosque (built 1976), and many more Spanish period homes and American period Art Deco buildings.
After crossing Quezón Boulevard, the LRT-2 passes by several business establishments and side streets, until it passes S. H. Loyola Street, which was named after the 1950s Congressman Sergio H. Loyola. The road was formerly called Calle Lepanto, after the 1571 Battle of Lepanto where the Venetian Republic and Spanish Empire won a miraculous and decisive victory in a naval battle against the Ottoman Empire. At the corner of Loyola Street and Recto Avenue is the Evangelical United Church of Manila, which was built in 1924.
A few meters from Loyola Street, commuters see the gray and blue walls of the San Sebastian College Recoletos, which was established by the Augustinian Recollects in 1941. Rising in the distance is the Basílica Menor de San Sebastián, the only Neo-Gothic and iron church in the Philippines, which was completed in 1891 by the Spanish architect Genaro Palacios with the help of the French engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923).
The next cross the LRT-2 passes is the intersection between Recto Avenue, Legarda Street, and Mendiola Street. The Mendiola Street is a favorite rallying point of anti-government protestors, for its close proximity to the Malacañan Presidential Palace. In 2010, the Mendiola Peace Arch was erected to supposedly represent the aims of peace by government and the protestors, but it is actually a gate to keep the demonstrators out, as with the noticeable barbed wire barricades at the sides. Mendiola Street was named after the colonial era educator, text-book author, one of the first University of the Philippines Board of Regents, Enrique Victorino Mendiola (1859-1914). In the 1990s, Mediola Street was changed to Roces Avenue, after the journalist and nationalist Joaquin ‘Chino’ Pardo Roces (1913-1988). Mendiola Street is also home to the Centro Escolar University (established 1907), the San Beda University (1901), the College of the Holy Spirit Manila (established 1913), and the La Consolación College Manila (1902).
The LRT-2 turns from Recto Avenue to Legarda Street, and stops at the second station, the Legarda Station. Legarda Street was once named Calle Alix after the 1860s magistrate José María Alix y Bonache, but the road was later renamed after the Resident Commissioner from the Philippine Islands to the United States Congress Benito Tuason Legarda (1853-1915). Behind the Legarda Station is the San Beda University, which was established by the Benedictine monks in 1901. Named after the English Saint Bede (673-735 AD), the San Beda University is also home to the beautiful Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat (built 1926), which is decked with murals by Fr. Lesmes Lopez, aided by Bro. Salvador Alberich, and additional work by Francesco Giannini; as well as stained glass doors by Eduardo Castrillo.
Less than a hundred meters for the Legarda Station is a former Art Deco convent, which has been transformed into the San Lorenzo Ruiz Student Catholic Center. It is a residential and retreat place for Catholic students from the nearby schools of the University Belt. The University Belt is the area covering the Santa Mesa, Sampaloc, San Miguel, Santa Cruz and Quiapo districts of Manila, and is known for the high concentration of educational institutions within the 6 kilometer radius. Among these schools are the Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST< established 1945), the FEATI University (1946), the Far Eastern University (established 1928), the Mary Chiles College (established 1913), the National Teachers College (1928), the Philippine College of Health Sciences (established 1993), the Philippine School of Business Administration (established 1963), the St. Jude College (established 1968), the San Beda University (1901), the San Sebastian College – Recoletos de Manila (established 1941), the Technological Institute of the Philippines (established 1962), the University of Manila (established 1913), and the University of the East (established 1946).
Next to the San Lorenzo Ruiz Student Catholic Center is the Arellano University (established 1938) and the Santa Catalina College. Established in 1696, the Santa Catalina College is run by the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. The present campus was constructed in 1951, after the Intramuros school was destroyed in World War II.
After Santa Catalina College is the Pasig River tributary, the Estero de Sampaloc, with J.P. Laurel Street right behind it. J.P. Laurel Street is named after the local resident President José García Paciano Laurel (1891-1959); but it had several old names before that; such as Calzada de San Miguel (after the nearby San Miguel Parish), Calzada de Malacañan (after the presidential palace down the road), and Calle Áviles (after José Vicente de Áviles who funded the extension of the road to the Rotonda de Sampaloc).
The Legarda Street ends at the Nagtahan Interchange (completed 1992), which is the intersection with Lacson Avenue, J.P. Laurel Street, Magsaysay Boulevard, and the Mabini Bridge that leads to Quirino Avenue. Opened in 1992, the Nagtahan Interchange is a Spanish ear crossroad formerly called the Rotonda de Sampaloc, with the 1884 Fuente Carriedo (Carriedo Fountain) placed in the center. The word Nagtahan means “To Stop,” after the road blocks set up during construction of the Mabini Bridge in the 1960s.To the north is Lacson Avenue, which was formerly called Governor William Cameron Forbes Street, and later renamed after the Manila Mayor Arsenio Hilario Sison Lacson (1912-1962). To the south is the Mabini Bridge was once called the Nagtahan Bridge, and was later named after the revolutionary Apolinario Maranan Mabini (1864-1903), who born in the area. The Mabini Bridge connects the Nagtahan Interchange to the southbound Quirino Avenue, which was once named Calle Luengo, and later renamed after the Philippine President Elpidio Rivera Quirino (1890-1956). To the east is Magsaysay Boulevard, which was named after the President Ramón del Fierro Magsaysay Sr. (1907-1957).
The LRT-2 passes the Nagtahan Interchange and continues east along Magsaysay Boulevard; it passes by València Street and the nearby Estero de València. The name València comes from an old Roman word, meaning valor, and some of the nearby streets are named after local historical personalities.
Passing the intersection of Magsaysay Boulevard and Dr. Domingo G. Ampil Street, there are several great examples of 1950s and 1960s modernist tropical architecture, such as the Sta. Mesa Residens Building and Solicarel Building. The geometric concrete slats at the side of the building were designed to let air flow through the windows, while cutting the glare and heat of the tropical sun. The angular tower on the Solicarel Building is actually a water tank, where Philippine Statistics Authority office is also housed.
The third LRT-2 station is located along Pureza Street (Spanish for purity), which leads to the campus of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP, established 1904). The PUP moved to its present site in 1971, taking in as a part of its campus the 18th century Carriedo Mansion and the 19th century Mabini Shrine. The Carriedo Mansion was the home of Spanish general and businessman Francisco Carriedo y Peredo (1690-1743), who had put up the money to build Manila’s first water system. The Mabini Shrine is the home turned museum of the revolutionary Apolinario Maranan Mabini (1864-1903), which was first located near the Nagtahan Interchange, and had to be moved for the road expansion and development.
The next intersection is the short Fortuna Street (Spanish for fortune), where the Olivares clan (my family) had their home before and during World War II, and subsequently transferred to Quezon City afterwards. The present Shell Gasoline Station is the site of our old home.
The Hippodromo Street was named after the Hippodromo de Santa Mesa oval horse racing track, which was built at the end of the road in 1881. Horseracing started in the Philippines with a straightway track that ran from the Basílica Menor de San Sebastián in Sampaloc to the Basílica Menor del Nazareno Negro in Quiapo, in 1867. This saw the establishment of the Manila Jockey Club (MJC), which is the oldest horseracing institution in Southeast Asia. The Santa Mesa Hippodrome closed in 1900, when the horse track was transferred to the San Lazaro oval in the Santa Cruz district.
The LRT-2 crosses above Philippine National Railways Tracks (PNR) Metro Commuter Line, which traverses 27 stations from the northern terminus at Tutuban Station in Tayuman Manila to the southern Calamba Station, in the Province of Laguna. The Metro Commuter Line is one of the only two operational railway systems in the Philippines, with several project to expand operations in Luzon and Mindanao.
After the PNR tracks are the Altura Street (Spanish for loftiness) extension and then the Old Santa Mesa Road. The Santa Mesa district was a flat land that was once owned by Jesuits during the Spanish era, who called the place Santa Mesa de la Misericordia (Holy Table of Mercy). In the American period, many of the friar lands were distributed to government and private owners, and the Tuazon family purchased much of the area. In 1911, the Jesuits established the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, near the corner of the Santa Mesa Road and Magsaysay Boulevard.
The 4th station LRT-2 station is the V. Mapa Station, which is named after the American period Chief Justice Victorino Montano Mapa (1855-1927). The V. Mapa Street, where the station is located, was once called Calle Buenavista, where the Spanish era Sociedad de Tiro al Blanco (Manila Gun Club) was once located. Now the Don Bosco School (founded 1989) and the Unciano Colleges and General Hospital (founded 1976) can be located on the street.
Next major intersection the LRT-2 crosses is the Araneta Avenue, which is at the border of Manila and Quezon City. The road was named after the patriot Gregorio Soriano Araneta (1869-1930), who was a supporter of the Katipunan revolution against Spain, member of the Malolos Constitutional Assembly, and a Supreme Court Justice during the American Occupation. The intersection of Araneta Avenue is where the Magsaysay Boulevard ends, and the above Aurora Boulevard starts. This road was named after Doña Aurora Antonia Molina Aragón Quezón (1888-1949), first lady and wife of President Manuel Luis Molina Quezón (1878-1944), to whom the city was named after. At the corner of Araneta Avenue and Magsaysay Boulevard is the SM City Sta. Mesa (SM Centerpoint) mall, which was built in 1990.
Starting at the corner of Aurora Boulevard and Araneta Avenue are several schools, starting with the Central Colleges of the Philippines (established 1954), then the Immaculate Heart of Mary College (established 1949), and finally the University of the East, Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center (UERM, established 1956). The University of the East was established along Rector Avenue in Manila in 1946, and its extension medical school a year later, and was dedicated to the very popular President Ramón del Fierro Magsaysay Sr. (1907-1957).
The LRT-2 crosses the San Juan River and enters the San Juan City portion of Aurora Boulevard. Crossing the river is the Aurora Boulevard Bridge, followed by the Araneta Avenue Bridge (Old Santa Mesa Bridge), and finally the San Juan Bridge, where a February 4, 1899 encounter between Filipino and American troops lead to the Philippine-American War (1899-1902).
After the San Juan River crossing, the next road is the A. Luna Street, named after the commander of the Philippine troops during the Philippine-American War, General Antonio Luna de San Pedro y Novicio Ancheta (1866-1899). Close to this intersection is the 5th LRT-2 station, the J. Ruiz Station. The next intersections after the J. Ruiz station are G. Reyes Street, A. Juan Street, R. Lagmay Street, the fork of Lourdes Drive and Milagros Street, Mendoza Street, and F. Santos Street.
Once called Salapán Creek, the Ermitaño Creek, which was renamed after an old folk tale of a hermit (ermitaño) living on the banks. The LRT-2’s cross of the Ermitaño Creek signals the reentry into Quezon City.
The next major intersection is Broadway Avenue, which was named such in the 1930s by Doña Magdalena Hashim Ysmael-Hemady, as she developed the wealth subdivision in the 1930s, which would be now named New Manila. Broadway Avenue was named after the theatrical row in New York City, to reflect the growing interest in the American entertainment culture and Hollywood, especially with the opening of the nearby LVN (1936) and Sampaguita (1937) film studios, which marks many film starts, producers, and directors moving into the area. At the corner of Broadway Avenue and Aurora Boulevard is the Broadway Centrum, a mall that opened in 1987, and has now become the television studios for the live variety shows of the GMA Network. The Broadway Centrum film theaters were converted into sound stages, to produce the “GMA Supershow” (1978-1997), “Lunch Date” (1986-1993), “That’s Entertainment” (1986-1996), “Vilma!” (1986-1995), and “Eat Bulaga!” (1979 to the present). Later on the road’s name was changed to Doña Juana Rodriguez, after the first wife of Senator Eulogio “Amang” Adona Rodríguez Sr. (1883-1964), Doña Juana Santiago Rodriguez. The name was later returned to Broadway Avenue.
The New Manila District was developed in the 1930s, by Doña Magdalena Hashim Ysmael-Hemady, a haciendera of Lebanese descent, and whose husband owned the Manila Grand Opera House. The New Manila District’s (then called Hacienda Magdalena) rolling hills had a breeze atmosphere, which was ideal for the Manila elite, who had to find a new place to build their homes away from the congestion and pollution of Manila. These allowed the new residents to build American and European styled mansions, compared to the old Bahay-na-Bato homes of the Spanish era.
The next major road of New Manila is Gilmore Avenue, which was named after a former American governor-general, Eugene Allen Gilmore (1871-1953), and is the location of the 6th LRT-2 station. The southern part of Gilmore Avenue is known for the many computer sales and rental shops, but it is also the home of the Convent of Carmel of Thérèse of Lisieux (established 1926).
The third major road of New Manila is Doña Hemady Avenue, named after the woman who developed the area in the 1930s. The road was originally named Pacifica Avenue, to celebrate American’s acquisition of Pacific Rim islands of Guam, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines from the Spanish, after the victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898. At the intersection of Hemady Avenue and Aurora Boulevard is the old Magnolia Ice Cream Plant and Ice Cream Parlor, which opened in 1970. After the plant shut down in 1999, the area was converted into the Robinsons Magnolia Mall in 2012.
The next intersection is Balete Drive, which has been around since the 1800s. The old Spanish road was once lined with many Balete trees (Ficus elastic), hence the name. What was once a romantic promenade turned frightful, with the many stories of ghosts appearing on the street, specifically about a white lady who would appear inside passing cars. These stories started after World War II, where many people were killed by the Japanese forces passing through the area.
The New Manila District is also the home of many religious institutions, such as the Convent and Church of Carmel of Thérèse of Lisieux (established 1926), the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres’s Novitiate and Provincial House (established 1931, now the Saint Paul University Quezon City), the St. Joseph Convent of Perpetual Adoration(established 1965), the Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae Maryhill School of Theology (established 1979), the Montfort Missionaries (established 1984), and the St. Columban’s House of Studies. What can be most clearly seen from the LRT-2 eastern route is the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM) Motherhouse and Generalate, which was opened in 1950 as part of the exodus from war ravaged Manila to Quezon City. Part of the RVM Compound is the Betania Retreat House, and Apostolic Center of Theological Studies; with the Venerable Ignacia del Espiritu Santo House further down Nicanor Domingo Street. The RVM was founded in Manila in 1684, by Mother Ignacia del Espíritu Santo (Ignacia Jerónima Iuco, 1663-1748).
The seventh LRT-2 station is located along the intersection of Betty Go-Belmonte Street, which is named after journalist Billie Mary “Betty” Go-Belmonte (1933-1994), who had established the Philippine Star newspaper and the STAR Group Publications. Behind the Betty Go-Belmonte Station is the Kalayaan College, which was founded in Marikina City in 2000, and transferred shortly to its present site.
The Barangay Immaculate Park is marked by roads named after American cities, such as Boston Street and Seattle Street. This marks the end of New Manila and the start of the Cubao District of Quezon City.
The distance between Aurora Boulevard and the intersections of P. Bernardo Street to C. Benitez Street is marked by many bus stations, such as the Dangwa Transportation Company (founded 1928), the Partas Transportation Company (founded 1989), and the Dela Rosa transit (founded 1991). P. Bernardo Street is named after the second mayor of Quezon City, Ponciano A. Bernardo (1905-1949); and C. Benitez Street is named after the educator, writer, and constitutionalist, Conrado Francia Benitez (1889-1971).
The next intersection is Pinatubo Street, which is named after the volcano located in between the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac, and Zambales. Pinatubo Street is also the home of the descendants of Mayor Bernardo.
The main thoroughfare of Metro Manila, as it passes through the cities of Caloocan, Quezon City, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Makati, Manila and Parañaque is Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or EDSA. Named after Epifanio Cristóbal de los Santos (1871-1928), an influential politician, writer, historian, painter, musician, ethnographer and philosopher during the American occupation (1898-1946), the road was opened in 1940. At the center of EDSA is the Metro Rail Transit System (MRT-3), which started operations in 1999, plying the north-to-south and back route from North Avenue Station in Quezon City, to Baclaran Station in Paranaque City.
Crossing EDSA to the east is the LRT-2’s eighth station, the Araneta-Cubao Station. Named after the industrialist José Amado Araneta (1907-1985) and his family, who purchased 35 hectares of the Cubao District in the 1954, and developed it into the commercial center it is now. The area of Cubao was named in the early 20th century, after an old folk tale of the once forested area was haunted by hunchbacked (“kuba”) witches; and if one would see such a creature, they would declare “Kuba, o!” The streets of the southeast corner of the EDSA-Aurora Boulevard intersection are named after Philippine revolutionary generals, such as Negros Revolution leader, General Juan Anacleto Araneta (1852-1924), and Cavite general and the 1st Philippine president, Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy (1869-1964).
Before the Araneta family purchased large tracks of the Cubao District, these lands were part of the American period military base, Camp Murphy. Established in 1935, the military camp was named after the American Governor-General William Francis Murphy (1890-1949), and the streets were all named by numbers, starting the 1st to 4th streets at the west of EDSA, and 5th to 20th streets to the east. The eastern portion is now called Barangay Murphy. 15th Avenue leads past the Trompe-l’œil gallery, Art in Island, and ends in Camp Aguinaldo, the Philippine military camp that took over the remnants of Camp Murphy in 1965. 20th Avenue ends with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Logistics Command, at the intersection of Bonny Serrano Avenue, named after the high decorated Korean War (1950-1953), Colonel Bonny Serrano (died 1970). At the corner of 20th Avenue and Aurora Boulevard is the Technological Institute of the Philippines (founded 1962), whose Cubao branch opened in 1983.
A few meters after the Technological Institute of the Philippines is the A&S Lamps Company, which used to be the Ortañez Hospital and Ortañez University, which was established in the 1950s.
Beside the World Citi Medical Center (founded 1971) is the LRT-2’s 9th station, the Anonas Station, which is named after the Anonas tree (Anona reticulata Linn). The Anonas Street is part of the 1950s government Homesite Program, to relocate Manila residents affected by the war. Most the roads in the Project 3 district are named after indigenous trees, such as the Nara and Sampaloc trees.
Moving past the Anonas Station, the LRT-2 enters the Project 4 District of Quezon City. Along the Aurora Boulevard Project 4 route are the National College of Business and Arts (established 1968), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (founded 1986), and the Philippine School of Business Administration (PSBA, established in Manila in 1963). The PSBA Quezon City campus opened in 1981, and is noted to be designed by the modernist Arch. Otilio Ocampo Arellano (1916-1981).
The LRT-2 ends its Manila to Quezon City tour, with the 10th station, the Katipunan Station. The station and intersecting road were named after the Philippine revolutionary group against Spain (1896-1898), the Katipunan (KKK), which is short for Kataas-taasan, Kagalang-galangan, Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan, as it is believed that the Katipuneros used this route to travel from Manila to the northern Novaliches District. And in exiting the Katipunan Station, travelers will spy the entrance to the Monasterio de Santa Clara, which was first constructed in 1950. Established in 1630 in Manila by the Catholic Order of the Poor Clares, the order also joined the exodus from the devastated Manila to settle in Quezon City. The original monastery was located directly along Aurora Boulevard, but it had to move to the southeastern corner of Katipunan Avenue and Aurora when the Katipunan Flyover Bridge was constructed in the 1990s.
There are more bits of historical trivia about the different landmarks along the westbound and eastbound routs of the LRT-2, however these should be tackled in the next articles. The next article will explore the history of the Good Shepherd Provincialate and the St. Bridget School Quezon City.