Growing Up in Cubao, Quezon City: History and Art

01 1945 camp murphy & zablan field
1945 Camp Murphy & Zablan Air Field

In the early 1970s, my parents relocated our family to Cubao, the commercial district of Quezon City. Our new home was along 8th Avenue in Barangay Murphy, which was once part of the 1935 American era (1898-1946) military base, Camp Murphy. Home first the Philippine Constabulary (PC) and Philippine Army Air Corps (PAAC), the base was named after the American Supreme Court Justice and Philippine Governor-General William Francis Murphy (1890-1949). Now the area has been divided into the Philippine Armed Forces’ (AFP) Camp Aguinaldo (after  the revolutionary general and President Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy, 1869-1964) and the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Camp Cramé (after the first Filipino PC commander, Brigadier General Rafael Crame y Pérez de Tagle, 1863-1927). Part of Camp Murphy is the Zablan Field the Filipino pilot, Major Porfirio E. Zablan, and this area is now the residential areas of White Plains and southern Katipunan Avenue.

During the Spanish Occupation (1565-1898), the area of Cubao was once friar lands that were part of the District of Morong (now Rizal Province). The location was believed to have been named “Cubao” after folk tales of spotting hunchbacked (kuba) witches in the area. When the American government confiscated these friar lands, parts of these were used to develop Camp Murphy, which the rest was still either farm lands or idle forests. After Quezon City was established in 1939, the district of Cubao was annexed to the new city by the late 1940s.

In the 1930s, many of the friar lands were already being converted into residential and business areas. Many of the Manila’s elite started building their homes in the verdant and hilly Hacienda Hemady (now called New Manila), to get away from the heat, congestion and pollution of Manila. Along with this exodus, was the growth of Philippine cinema, and the new production studios started transferring to these areas, which were still part of the Municipality of San Juan. In the nearby Hacienda Hamady, the Sampaguita Pictures Studio set up shop, while along Justice Pedro Tiangco Tuazon Boulevard in Cubao the LVN Pictures Studio opened in 1936. The studio was named using the initials of the founding families of De Leon, Villonco and Navoa, and continued to operate up to 2005. Now what is left of this historic film studio is a commemorative fountain, dedicated to the LVN studio’s co-founder and chairperson, Doña Narcisa Buencamino De León (1877-1966), and the fountain has been transferred to the Quezon Memorial Circle’s Quezon City Experience museum, in 2017.

00 1929 Mira Nila, Benitez Heritage House
1929 Mira Nila, Benitez Heritage House

Taking on the call to move in the soon to be established Quezon City were the educator, lawyer, journalist, civil servant, historian, athlete, and politician Conrado Francia Benitez (1889-1971) and his friend, Justice Secretary José Abad Basco Santos (1886-1942), purchased 3 hectares each to build homes for their families in 1929, in the area that was once part of the Hacieda Mandaloyon of the Ortigas family, Municipality of San Juan del Monte. Located between Highway 54 and Justice Pedro Tiangco Tuazon Boulevard (P. Tuazon Boulevard for short) and the North–South Circumferential Road (now Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, or EDSA for short), the area is now part of Cubao, with the only home to survive the devastation of World War II is the Benitez ancestral home, now called the “Mira Nila“, and is now declared a National Heritage House.

Also along P. Tuazon Boulevard for short is the Ponciano Bernardo Elementary School, which was established in the late 1950s. The school is named after the second mayor of Quezon City, Ponciano A. Bernardo (1905-1949), who was assassinated in 1949, along with the former First Lady, Doña Aurora Antonia Molina Aragón Quezón (1888-1949). And in 1992, the surviving children of Mayor Bernardo unveiled a statute dedicated to their father in the plaza of the school. The monument was sculpted by the National Artist, Napoleón Abueva.

04c 1988-92 napoleon abueva - ponciano a. bernardo
1988-92 Napoleon Abueva – Ponciano A. Bernardo

Napoleón Isabelo Billy Veloso Abueva (1930-2018) studied at the U.P. School of Fine Arts, under National Artist, Guillermo Estrella Tolentino (1890-1976), who was then the director of the school. Although trained in the classical style of sculpting, Abueva broke from its mold and began experimenting on modernist styles and techniques. Soon he became known as and Godfather of Philippine Modern Sculpture. Aside from the many historical monuments that are found all over the Philippines, Abueva has also been commissioned to create sculptures around the world. In his youth, he was awarded the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) award; which would herald more awards and distinctions in his life. He was proclaimed National Artist for Sculpture in 1976, making him the youngest recipient of this distinction. And just like his mentor, Abueva also served as dean of the U.P. College of Fine Arts.

Other schools in the Cubao district are the Cubao Elementary School (established 1946), the Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo High School (established 1946), the Fort Aguinaldo Elementary School (established 1949), the Ponciano Bernardo High School (established 1967), the Ramon Magsaysay High School (established 1953), the Stella Maris College (established 1955), the Juan Sumulong High School (established 1961), the 15th Avenue Elementary School  (established 1963), the E. Rodriguez Sr. Elementary School (established 1968), the Carlos Garcia High School (established in the late 1971), the Roosevelt Memorial High School (established in 1933, opened in Cubao in 1947, relocated to present site in the 1969), the Technological Institute of the Philippines (TUP, established in Manila in 1962, and opened in QC in 1983), the Samson College of Science and Technology (established 1934, moved to Cubao in 1983), the Jesus Christ Saves Global Outreach Christian Academy (established 1996), the Starland International School (established 2001, opened Cubao branch in 2006), the Pail and Shovel Integrated School, and the STI Academic Center.

Many of the new migrants in the Cubao and New Manila districts area were the Chinese families of Manila, and many were still practicing Buddhists. And in 1948, the Poh Chong Temple was erected along Conrado Francia Benitez Street. Other points of interest along nearby P. Tuazon Boulevard are the castle of the culinary school, Chocolate Lover, and the PNP’s Camp Panopio Hospital.

1966 José Amado Araneta by Mario Casañas
1966 José Amado Araneta by Mario Casañas

From 1952 to 1955 the industrialist José Amado Araneta (1907-1985), of the Negros Province Spanish-mestizo Araneta-Roxas clan, purchased 35 hectares of land between Calle Quezón  (now Aurora Boulevard) and the North–South Circumferential Road (now EDSA), from the American conglomerate, Radio Company of America (RCA) and the family of Justice Pedro Tiangco Tuazon (born 1884). Araneta started developing the land into residential and commercial areas, enticing many residents and business from Manila to settle in the area, while Manila was slowing being reconstructed following the devastating bombings of World War II (1938-1945), which left much of Manila flattened. The first edifice constructed by Araneta was the family mansion along P. Tuazon Boulevard and North–South Circumferential Road (now known as Epifanio de los Santos Avenue).

And in 1966, one of the big businesses to transfer to Cubao was the Manila C.O.D. Department Store (established in 1948). The COD had already started the tradition of a colorful Christmas display in 1957, and carried it on to its new home in Cubao. And from 1966 until the C.O.D.’s closing in 2002, the Christmas display would become a local tourist attraction, with animatronic figures enacting various Christmas scenes, set to a yearly changing theme.

During the late 1950s, the Cubao district was still bare, but José Amado Araneta was able to bring interest to his dream of the Cubao as a premier commercial district, with the completion of the Araneta Coliseum sports and entertainment arena in 1960. Designed and constructed by the cousins, Architect Dominador Lacson Lugtu and Engineer Leonardo Onjunco Lugtu, the Araneta Coliseum was formally inaugurated with a bang, hosting the World Junior Lightweight Championship between the reigning American champion Harold Gomes (born 1933) and the Filipino challenger Gabriel “Flash” Elorde (1935-1985). With Elorde’s victory, the Araneta Coliseum would host many great events in sports and entertainments, including the 1975 launching of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

Still one of the greatest sporting events held at the Araneta Coliseum was the “Thrilla in Manila,” where Muhammad Ali (Cassius Marcellus Clay, 1942-2016) fought Joseph “Joe” William Frazier (1944-2011) for the unified WBC/WBA/The Ring/Lineal heavy weight title. To commemorate the great event, the country’s first “official” mall, the Ali Mall, was inaugurated one year after the fight, with Muhammad Ali in attendance. The Ali Mall was also the first to feature a multi-leveled covered parking lot, with a spiral driveway leading to all floors.

1967 New Frontier Theater
1967 New Frontier Theater

The 1970s saw a boom of many commercial establishments in the Cubao district. The one of the first cinemas was the New Frontier Theater (now Kia Theater, 2015), which opened right across the Araneta Coliseum in 1967. Soon more movie houses began to spring up along the stretch of Aurora Boulevard from intersections of EDSA to 15th Avenue, such ACT Theater, Ocean Theater, Diamond Theater, Coronet Theater, Remar Theater, and the Alta Theater. Opening in 1974, the Farmer’s Market offered a wide variety of wet and dry goods, while the adjacent Farmer’s Plaza had stalls selling various affordable products from furnishings to fashion. The Rustan’s Corporation, the premier retailer of international luxury brands in the Philippines of that time, launched its Rustan’s Superstore in 1973, with local and international designer brands, as well as a grocery supermarket. This was later followed by the expansion of the Shoe Mart Department Store in the 1980s. And in 1971, the Aranetas launched the Fiesta Carnival, the Philippines’ first indoor entertainment center with carnival rides, games, eateries, and even slot machines.

10 1957-60 dominador lugtu - smart araneta coliseum
1957-60 Dominador Lugtu – Smart Araneta Coliseum

Over the decades more businesses grew throughout Cubao, while others folded up. The Araneta heirs took advantage of the opening of the LRT 2 by building the Gateway Mall in 2004, which linked the train’s Cubao Station with the mall, as well as a series of overhead walkways that connected to the Isetann Department Store (opened 1985), the Araneta Coliseum, and the MRT 3 train that traverses EDSA. Part of these develops also lead to major renovations of the Araneta Coliseum, starting 1998. The final renovations were spearheaded by Congressman and Architect Rufino D. Antonio, and the arena was finally named the Smart-Araneta Coliseum in 2012.

In 1972, the different shoe producers of the Municipality of Marikina put up a showcase “mall” in Cubao, called the Marikina Shoe Expo. In the 1990s the market was flooded with cheap shoes from China, and many of these businesses had to close down and leaving small stalls abandoned. In 2000, several artists and art patrons took over the abandoned stalls and put up galleries, bars, cafes and even curio shops transforming the place to the young artists’ haven, Cubao X. This would start a wave of more art establishments opening in Cubao, such as the Sining Kamalig in Ali Mall (established 1972 in Manila, transferred to Cubao 2000s), the gallery and museum of Philippine history murals Sining Saysay at the Gateway Mall, and the interactive Trompe-l’œil gallery Art in Island along 15th Avenue (established 2015). I would like to add that it’s a team of my former students who spearheaded the creation of the murals at the Art in Island, while many other former students have launched their art careers by exhibiting at the Sining Kamalig.

Both the residential and the commercial sections of the Murphy area of Cubao are under the governance of Barangay Soccoro. Its parish is the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish (OLPH), or Our Lady of Succor, hence the name of the barangay. The parish was established in 1964, but has it roots as a small chapel built in 1946. The chapel was part of an orphanage established by the Augustinian nun, Sr. Alfonsa dela Santissima Trinidad, who is best know as one of the founders of the La Consolacion College Bacolod (1919). Before her death, Sr. Alfonsa donated the land to the Archdiocese of Manila, and the local residents continued to maintain the chapel. This is where my family and I would spend 15 years of our lives, where my brother and I were part of forming a church choir. Other barangays in Cubao are Kanluran, San Roque, E. Rodriguez, and Silangan; which are mostly residential neighborhoods.

Aside from the OLPH, there are many other Christian places of worship in the Cubao district. One exceptional church is the Transfiguration of Our Lord Parish (established 1981), with its Brutalist architectural style and modernist sculpture designed by Sister Maria Celeste Parrilla PDDM (Sister Disciples of the Divine Master). Other places of worship are the Saint Ignatius Chapel in Camp Aguinaldo, the Evangelical Lord’s Church along Montreal Street (established 1968), the Nativity of the Lord Parish along Ermin Garcia Street (established 1981), the Iglesia ni Cristo and Radiance of Christ Ministries International along 9th Avenue, and the Jesus Christ Saves Global Outreach on 15th Avenue (established 1994).

1949-50 Immaculate Conception Cathedral (Cubao Cathedral)
1949-50 Immaculate Conception Cathedral (Cubao Cathedral)

As for the three Catholic parishes, they fall under the Archdiocese of Cubao, which was established in 2003. The Diocese of Cubao is housed at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. Located between Lantana and Vancouver Streets, the cathedral has a long history being established 1935 as the San Isidro Chapel, and later as the Immaculate Conception Parish in 1950.

15 what's left of our old home, along #67 8th avenue, cubao
What’s left of our old home, along #67 8th Avenue, Cubao

After 15 years living in Cubao, our parents moved our family once more to the City of Marikina, where they continue to reside. Despite all those decades past, I still find myself walking the streets of Murphy, Cubao, looking at what is left of our old house and chatting with former neighbors and old friends.

Panederia sa 10th Avenue, Murphy District
Panederia sa 10th Avenue, Murphy District

When I got married, I moved my own family first to Barangay Sacred Heart, which is northwest of Cubao, then later to Project 4 east of Cubao. The Project 4 area was one of my favorite haunts during my teenage years, as I would bike from Cubao to Project 4 and meet up with friends. And this will be the subject of my next article.



56 thoughts on “Growing Up in Cubao, Quezon City: History and Art

  1. my family started to live there 1930 cubao under san juan del monte until now our estate house stands test of time. I love the place and memory of our childhood


    1. Felt like I’m walking right in the streets of your stories…I’m being transported into those beautiful mansions of New Manila, touching and smelling the flowers in their luscious gardens… felt like I lived in those years… old soul…you brought me back home…


  2. Hello Mr. Lakansining….your article brings me memories of our stay in Cubao. My family lived in Cubao for 60 decades until our property in Arayat was bought. But we are still staying near Cubao which is along Bonny Serrano avenue.
    Please add that there is a church or chapel, St. Joseph inside Camp Crame which is air conditioned. I normally hear Mass here. Near the entrance unlike the church in Camp Aguinaldo which is quite a walk from the gate.
    I love Cubao…..i guess its part of my growing up years. Thanks for that npstalgic article.


      1. make an article about the projects 2, 3, and 4 area… where the term “jeproks” was derived..


    1. monte de piedad is used to be arizona malayo sa seattle and corner nun lantana sa immaculate church. monte de piedad start sa edsa ends sa aurora papunta ng n domingo maliit lang na kalye yan. those areas ang name ng mga street galing sa USA ours used to be virginia st. now sgt catolos


  3. I was born at Cordillera st cor. España blvd. ( now E. Rodriguez blvd).. In the mid fifties, we lived at Victory Ave. near Quezon Ave. at the time the Sto Domingo Church was under construction.. After a few years (1957) we transferred at Aurora blvd. cor. Annapolis st. the site now of Mc Donalds. Among the notable landmarks in that area of Cubao during that time that Araneta Coliseum was still being built was Capitol Rural Bank, where PNB is now, the Cubao Elementary School and the Cubao H/S which is just beside us… One of the pioneer business establishment in the area is Fernando Auto Supply, our neighbor at the time. Now located near 15th Ave. along Aurora blvd. In the early 60’s, Cubao area has progressed so much that even Manila COD Dept Store and Ma Mon Luk resto. has decided to open up their branch in the area.


  4. More Cubao Trivia:
    It had an ice skating rink – used to be next to New Frontier – was taken down and replaced with Nation theater.
    Notable 60’s restaurants before the advent of major food chains were Ma Mon Luk, Hong Ning – in front of Stella Maris and the Aristocrat – next to Farmers. It used to be a night club which was popular in the 60s. Later Nena’s bibingka and Josephine’s restaurant opened. Nena’s was place to refresh your tired aching feet after shopping around the Shoe Expo. Josephine’s was a restaurant that catered to huge parties of up to 500 people. Lot’s of wedding receptions and school proms held here. Further south near P Tuazon was the Barrio Fiesta along EDSA which was close to the Kobe house.
    Early stores include Assandas (in front of Stella Maris) and of course COD which you mentioned, before Farmers market was built.
    One of the older buildings still around is the Prudential bank bldg in front of PNB which is also old.
    Places where kids hung out before Fiesta Carnival – Fun Center near Quezon theatre. They had arcade stuff, billiards and fuzz ball.
    The first Jollibee was an ice cream house was along Aurora blvd near Stella Maris. They also served burgers.
    The major toy shop was Arcegas in New Manila – still part of Cubao.
    Cubao was a major hub for Metro Manila Love Bus – the iconic Blue Bus that first offered air-conditioned point to point rides in Metro Manila.
    Before Ali-Mall was built there was a putt-putt course in the area.


    1. I forgot, there were more notable establishments along Aurora blvd that were worth mentioning.
      There was a Little Quiapo restaurant along Aurora blvd – had the best halo halo.
      Before National Bookstore there was Vasquez bookstore.
      Before Mercury there was a Commander drug.
      Before Shoemart there was Gregg’s shoes.
      Tops barber shop offered manicure while you had your haircut.
      For eyeglasses and eye checkup, there was Acebedos.


  5. Sir your works are worth preserving at the QC Public Library Local History Section for research purposes. Great job sir.


  6. #BatangCubao# isa pako dun,nagpapatunay ng kagandahan and rich cultural background of Cubao.i was born and raised in Cubao,Q.C.,i love being here and made my life complete. One of d best places in d metro…


      1. Thank you so much for this well detailed article and even featuring my elementary school, Ponciano Bernardo Elementary School. I’m still staying here in Cubao since childhood. Reminiscing some of the old memories of Cubao is wonderful.


  7. Grew up in 14th Av near P Tuazon between 70 to 82, and seen this history right before my eyes since I drove Jeepney plying Libis-Cubao while studying at MIT.
    My brother used to sing at the Choir at OLPH Church.
    Missed the place as I am now living in NYC and remembering my roots is priceless. 🙏


  8. My family used to leave in 20th Ave cor P. Tuazon near the Shell Gasoline Station. Sadly, my relatives decided to sell the small compound. I missed Cubao.


  9. Angie
    March 7, 2019
    Kudos for the informative and historical write-up about Cubao and Murphy. It really brings back old nostalgic memories and cherished events of our childhood from 1950 to 1974.
    My siblings and I grew up in 14th Avenue. Our late father served inthe army for 25 years and his last assignment was in Camp Aguinaldo , Murphy.
    All of us siblings finished our primary education at Murphy Elementary School. My older brothers and sister graduated from Ramon Magsaysay High School in Cubao. My younger siblings and I finished our secondary education in Juan Sumulong High School in Murphy . I was one of the pioneer graduates of JSHS Class 1965.
    It is worth mentioning that one of the iconic landmarks in Murphy is the huge old cylindrical
    water tank about 100 meters high, located in the corner of 15th Avenue and Santolan Road which still exists and well maintained up to this present time.
    The Murphy Market in 15th Avenue has helped so many residents with their means of livelihood, including our family.


  10. Thank you for writing such detailed article about Cubao. Cubao was haven for me in the ‘70s. It was there I learned to lakwatsa. Movie houses left and right, imported goods stores at Farmers and good places to eat. The best pancit at Hong Ning, halo-halo at Little Quiapo, Tropical Hut (next to Syvels) has the best humberger then and inside Rustans they have a restaurant that served the best arroz caldo. Next to New Frontier theater was Dairy Queen for chocolate dipped vanilla ice cream, corn dogs and waffle dogs from the food stands around Araneta Coliseum but the best are the food stalls inside the Farmers wet Market after shopping at Cinderellas boutique store. By the way, my family used to have a food stall inside sa palengke ng Murphy in the ‘60s. We lived in P4 and would walked with my father from our house to Murphy palengke taking a short cut from I think Evangelista St to P. Tuazon to some back streets leading to the market. Memories…


    1. There were Assanda’s Department Store, Rempson Shoe Store and of course, Ma Mon Luk where you can have the best mami and siopao.


  11. Central Avenue was renamed P. Tuazon..

    There used to be a tibagan ( adobe quarry ) there between 15th and 20th Avenues where we used as “swimming pool” during rainy seasons when we were kids.


  12. This is a great work. Thanks for coming up with such an excellent piece.

    It brought back memories of my childhood. Our family lived in Cubao too, along Virginia Street (now Sgt. Juan Catolos.) adjacent to corner of Arizona Street. We stayed there for about 10 years. I went to Cubao Elementary School. My father was a barber in Tops and later in P&Z in Fiesta Carnival.

    I remember wondering why our residence was the only wood & tin house in the area. Our neighbors included the Rances, Palafox, Pascual and Dumlao families. It turns out we were only allowed to build a temporary shelter by mother’s former amo. She was their household help. We were then considered squatters and I recall being teased by classmates as being from a rich family.

    Nevertheless, it was a great place where I developed some street smarts with stints as jeepney barker, juicy fruit & cigarette vendor, shoe shine boy and bote-dyaryo mangangalakal.

    Thanks again, sir and thanks, too, Cubao.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. magkapit bahay pala tayo kami sa catolos st likod ng edsa unahan ng aurora at e rodriguez. cubao elem din ako dyan ako lumaki since 1930 pa bahay namin likod ng everest lumber kalye namin.


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