Makati is the country’s premier city. But unknown to those familiar only with the Makati of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas, Spanish colonial Philippines comes alive at the old town center where a charming dance and music honoring the Virgin dating back to the 19th century is still being practiced in a church built in the 17th century.
The foundation of the old town was on an expansive hacienda donated by a Spanish army officer. The Jesuit built a church and novitiate on top of a hill called Buenavista (good view) overlooking the Pasig River and round this hill sprang the original village, now Barangay Poblacion.
Old folks who were asked why the place was called Makati would answer mysteriously that once upon a time the tides of the sea reached as far as Makati. This seemed nonsense until the discovery of seashells –whereupon would flash through ones mind a picture of the town, hilltop church and all, lying under the sea.
The Church was placed by the Jesuits under the patronage of Saints Peter and Paul. Thus, Makati was also known as San Pedro Makati and later received a nickname as Sampiro.
In November of 1639 some 3,000 revolting Sangley from Calamba attacked Makati, broke into the novitiate, and laid siege to the church, which was strongly built and vaulted. The townspeople had taken refuge in the church and fought back the Chinese with bricks and tiles. The timely arrival of 500 Tagalog and Pampango troops saved the town from annihilation.
In this Battle of Makati (November 22-28, 1639) more than a thousand Sangleys perished and three hundred were captured and sent to the galleys. Quite a baptism of fire and blood for a new town!
With the expulsion of the Jesuits, the Makati hacienda reverted to the government and was auctioned off in 1795 to Don Pedro de Garuga, Marquis of Villa Medina.
Through the next half-century, the property changed hands three times, until, in 1851, it was bought by Don Jose Bonifacio Roxas, who built a family manor on the riverbank. The clan was apparently Tagalog-Chinese but became Creole by marrying into the Ayalas and the Zobels. Its original hacienda extended beyond Makati and included what are now the Manila districts of Singalong and San Andres Bukid.
Nick Joaquin described Makati of the late 19th century was still unspoiled countryside; its riverside became summer-villa realm; but the rest of it (what is not Ayala CBD and posh villages) was rice fields, fodder land and carabao wallow.
During the early American times, the town was chiefly associated with Fort McKinley, the cabarets in Barrio Olympia (they were called salons) and the red-light district in Culi-Culi. According to Joaquin, it was rather awkward then to confess one came from Makati.
Who would have thought that the carabao wallow and honky-tonk would rise, in postwar times such glories as Forbes Park and Ayala Avenue?
Nuestra Señora de la Rosa
Enshrined in the main altar of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul is a one of its kind Marian image in the Philippines, the Nuestra Señora de la Rosa.
Perhaps one will be astonished to find out that the image of Virgen de la Rosa once held a reliquary containing a strand of hair from the Blessed Mother.
This claim was supported by Jesuit historian Fr. Pedro Murillo in his Historia de la Provincia de Filipinas de la Compania de Jesus: “Your most holy image of the Nuestra Señora de la Rosa has on her breast a most precious treasure, greater than those which Tharsis had in is opulence, or Ophir with his most valuable metals can offer. This is the strand of hair of her most holy head, whose authenticity I read with great admiration. In the vast extent of the Indies that I know of, there exists no similar reliquary.”
Unfortunately, the reliquary together with the ivory hands and head of the image were collateral damages of the Revolution of 1899. An oval cavity in the breast remains empty where the reliquary must have been placed while the hand and head have been replaced with wooden replicas.
The Virgen de la Rosa was brought to the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul by the Jesuit Fr. Juan Delgado from Acapulco. The image depicts the Lady holding the infant Jesus in one arm and holding three roses on the other hand.
Lourdes Policarpio explains that the Virgin’s title was derived from the Our Lady as the Mystical Rose or “Rosa Mystica.” In Lucca, Italy, the feast of the Our Lady of the Rose is celebrated on January 30. It is believed that three roses were found in the arms of Our Lady on January.
Bailes de los Arcos
For those who like culture, one can see the dance with flower-hoops that a bevy of Makati girls perform on the two mornings of fiesta known as the Bailes de los Arcos. The ritual is performed by young girls in dainty pink and blue dresses dance and sway to a quaint and charming piece of music.
The Bailes is held every June 29 and 30 to honor and give thanks to Sts. Peter and Paul and the Virgen de la Rosa.
Almanac for Manileños by Nick Joaquin
Nuestra Senora de la Rosa and her Young Dancing Maidens by Lourdes Policarpio
Click Part I – Church of Nuestra Señora de Gratia, Part II – Guadalupe’s San Nicholasi, Part III –Sampiro de Makati, Part IV -Old Makati’s Bailes de los Arcos, Part VI – Nielson Tower, Part VII –The Manila American Cemetery, Part VIII - Reposo Street Makati