Several streets of Manila have been renamed through the years, sometimes without regard to street names as signpost to history. For historian Ambeth Ocampo, old names of the streets of Manila, “in one way reaffirmed and enhanced our culture.”
Former names of some streets in Binondo were mentioned by Jose Rizal in his novels. Calle Sacristia (now Ongpin Street) was the street where Rizal’s leading character Crisostomo Ibarra walked the old Tiniente back to his barracks. The house of rich Indio Don Capitan Tiago de los Santos was located in Calle Anloague (now Juan Luna).
Only a century ago, the surrounding blocks of Malate and Ermita were traverse only by Calle Real (now M.H. del Pilar Street) and Calle Nueva (now A Mabini Street) that followed the curve of the Bay and led to Cavite’s port. Today’s Roxas Boulevard was underwater then. Along the two main roads were houses and rice fields punctuated by the churches of Malate and Ermita and the military installations like Plaza Militar and Fort San Antonio Abad.
After the Filipino-American War, new streets were laid out following the Burnham Plan. In Malate for instance, streets were named after the US states that sent volunteers to crush Aguinaldo’s army. Today, those streets were renamed after Filipinos patriots some became key players in Aguinaldo’s government.
It is fascinating to learn that Manila’s rich heritage is reflected in its streets. Below is a list of current street names and the little history behind it:
Andres Soriano Avenue in Intramuros was formerly called the Aduana, after the Spanish custom house whose ruins stand on the street. The street was renamed after a famous businessman who organized the Soriano y Cia (Cia is not a Spanish surname but an acronym for compania or company). He began his career as an accountant of San Miguel Brewery.
Ongpin formerly called Calle Sacristia after the sacristy of Binondo Church whose entrance is located along the street. It was renamed in 1915 in honor of Roman Ongpin, a Filipino-Chinese philanthropist who also owned an art supply store in the district.
Juan Luna in Binondo was called Calle Anloague, which means “carpenters” whose shops used to abound the place. It was renamed in the 1913 after the great Filipino painter Juan Luna.
Quintin Parades in Binondo is the old Calle Rosario after the district’s patroness the Nuestra Señora del Rosario. The street was renamed after the Filipino statesman and lawyer Quintin Paredes. He represented Abra in Congress and became Speaker of the House.
T. Pinpin in Binondo was formerly known Calle San Jacinto, it was renamed in 1913 after Tomas Pinpin, a native of Bataan who learned printing from serving a apprentice at a Chinese press in Binondo. He was the first Filipino printer, who is credited for printing at least 14 books and authored Librong Pag-aaralan nang mga Tagalog ng Uikang Castilla in 1610.
His monument was first erected at Plaza Cervantes in 1911 marked the third centennial of the introduction of printing in the Philippines. The monument was later transferred to Plaza Calderon dela Barca.
Sabino Padilla is located in Binondo was formerly called Gandara Street, named in 1868 after Governor General Jose se la Gandara who established the telegraph system and Department of Mines in the colony, including the construction of lighthouses. The street was once a residential street of mansions that became famous for its brilliant social gathering during General Despujol’s time. It was renamed in 1995 after Sabino Padilla, Judge of the Court of Appeals and later Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
A.H. Lacson is located in Sampaloc. It was named after a former mayor of Manila, Arsenio H. Lacson, generally considered one of the best mayors the city ever had.
The street was originally called Governor Forbes, in memory of a popular governor, William Cameron Forbes. He was credited with having carved Baguio out of the mountains, a grandson of American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson. Forbes was supposed to be renamed as Alfonso E. Mendoza. It was not implemented because of RA 6215 which approved in the 1971 the renaming of the street to Arsenio Lacson.
The street is still referred to by old folks as, Forbes, pronounced in two syllables as for-bes.
N.S. Amoranto Avenue was formerly known as Retiro, after Jose Rizal’s poem A mi retiro. The street was renamed after the famous politician Norberto S. Amoranto.
G. Tuazon in Sampaloc was known to be Balic-Balic after the medicinal plant. The land was donated by the heirs of Gregorio Tuason of the Son Tua clan. Son Tua was a Chinese immigrant who helped the Spaniards quell the rebellion of the Chinese in the Parian district. As a reward, the Spanish government gave him vast tract of lands stretching from Manila up to what we know as Quezon City.
M. de la Fuente in Sampaloc was formerly called Calle Trabajo. It was named after Manuel de la Fuente, chief of Police and later mayor of Manila. The street is still referred to by its former name.
Legarda in Sampaloc was called as Calle Alix, after Jose Maria Alix, an 1862 magistrate of Manila. Not to many people recall that located at the No. 9 Calle Alix was the original Club Filipino Independiente (later Club Filipino International) was founded.
The street was renamed in honor of Benito Legarda, a member of the Mololos Congress and one of the first commissioners of the Philippines to the United States.
J. Figueras in Sampaloc was formerly Bustillos after the tragic Governor General Fernando Manuel de Bustillos Bustamante y Rueda. Bustamante’s sternness of character and severity of measures led to his murder by an irate mob of clerics. The street was renamed after Jose Figueras who was secretary of labor during the term of President Elpidio Quirino.
S.H. Loyola in Sampaloc was formerly called Lepanto, after the famous naval battle of the Lepanto in the Gulf of Greece where Christian forces defeated the Turks in 1571. The street was renamed on March 8, 1973 after Sergio H. Loyola, a Manila councilor and representative of the 3rd district.
Gen. Geronimo in Sampaloc was formerly known as Gardenia, after the fragrant white flower known in Filipino as Rosal. It was also once known as Palomar, Spanish pigeon house after in became notorious for being the red light district of Old Manila. The mayor of Manila Justo Lukban deported prostitutes to Davao and renamed the street after General Licerio Geronimo, commander of the famous Filipino force called “tiradores” that killed Major General Henry Lawton on the Battle of San Mateo, Rizal in 1899.
Dos Castillas in Sampaloc, where one end of the street leads to the Dangwa Flower Market was formerly known as Yeyeng. It was renamed to memorialize the unification in 1469 of the two kingdoms in the Castille region of Spain, Leon and Aragon, with the marriage of Leon’s Princess Isabel to Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Aragon. The union marked the emergence of modern Spain.
R. Hidalgo in Quiapo was at one time lined with exquisite ancestral houses of the old rich. It was formerly called Calle San Sebastian. It was renamed in 1913 after the famous painter Felix Resurreccion-Hidalgo. The street is erroneously marked as Ramon Hildago.
Carlos Palanca Sr. in Quiapo was formerly Calle Echague, after a Spanish Governor General. The street was renamed after the late Carlos Palanca Sr. (Tan Quien Sien by birth) who was the First Chinese Consul to the Philippines. He is credited for building the first Chinese school and hospital in Manila. The prestigious Palanca Awards given annually to talented writers is in his honor.
J. Nepomoceno in Quiapo is known then as Tanduay, derived from the alcoholic drink’s manufacturing plant in the area. The street was renamed in honor of Jose Nepomoceno who pioneered the moving picture business and established the Malayan Movies in 1917.
G. Puyat in Quiapo was formerly Raon after Spanish Governor Jose Raon. Raon was instrumental in the expulsion of the Jesuits from the country. The street was renamed after Gonzalo Puyat, the furniture maker who was once president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce.
Paterno in Quiapo was formerly known as Noria, the old name was derived from the Arabian word meaning, “wheel for irrigation” or for “drawing water from the well.” It was renamed after Pedro Paterno who served as negotiator in the signing of the peace treaty between Filipinos revolutionaries and the Spanish Army in Biak-na-Bato in December 1897, which resulted to the voluntary exile of Filipino revolutionary leaders to Hong Kong.
Paterno became president of the Malolos Congress, succeeding Mabini as premier. He founded the Federalista Party during the American era.
Arlegui Street in San Miguel was known as Calle San Geronimo. It was renamed after the Filipino property owners in the area, where the first known Colegio Filipino and later called National University, opened in 1902.
Martin Ocampo in San Miguel was known as El Dorado. The old name was in reference to the city of gold in the Americas. The street was named after Martin Ocampo, publisher of El Renacimiento and La Vanguardia. Ocampo became councilor and board member of the Manila Municipal Board.
Claro M. Recto Avenue stretches from North Port District in Tondo towards Sampaloc. It was formerly called Calle Azcarraga, after Marcelo Azcarraga who served as Minister of War and twice prime minister of Spain. It was renamed after poet-writer, lawyer, and senator Claro M. Recto.
Rizal Avenue located, Sta. Cruz district’s main thoroughfare and Manila’s longest street (running from Carriedo in Quiapo to Monumento in Caloocan) is popularly known as Avenida Rizal named after the Filipino national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. It was formerly known as Calle Dulumbayan, which meant “edge of the town” or end of civilized territory.
Evangelista Street in Sta. Cruz was formerly called San Pedro in honor of St. Peter. The street was renamed after Edilberto Evangelista, Filipino engineer who figured in the Battle of Zapote Bridge in 1897. He engineered fortified trenches used by the Revolutionary Army against Spanish attacks.
Doroteo Jose Street in Sta. Cruz was formerly Melba Street. The old name commemorates the visit of Nellie Melba, Australian opera singer of that time. In August 6, 1914, the street was renamed in honor of Doroteo Jose, a patriot who suffered persecution for his convictions. He led a group of Filipinos in petitioning the expulsion of Archbishop Payo, predecessor of Nozaleda.
Tomas Mapua Street in district of Sta. Cruz is formerly known as Misericordia. Tomas Mapua is the founder and first president of the Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT) and first registered architect in the Philippines after graduating BS Architecture from Cornell University.
Misericordia was taken from the Confraternidad de la Santa Misericordia (Fraternity of Holy Piety) that was founded for charitable purposes in 1594 by Governor Luis Peres Dasmariñas.
Kusang Loob in Sta. Cruz was formerly called Negros, it was renamed after the Tagalog expression meaning, “of one’s own accord.” A wealthy resident donated a piece of his land for government use. In gratitude, the local government decided to name the street Kusang Loob for the generous deed.
M. Natividad in Santa Cruz was known as Evangelista where the famous Teatro Zorilla stood. The street was renamed after Mamerto Natividad, one of the youngest general during the revolution.
Tayuman which stretches from Tondo to Sta. Cruz was formerly known as Morga, it was renamed after the indigo plant called Tayum (indigofera hirsute), commonly found in the area.
Carmen Planas was formerly Folgueras, after Mariano Fernandez de Folgueras, twice governor-general of the Philippines. The Basi Revolt marred his term. The street was renamed after the first woman city councilor, dubbed as Manila’s Sweethear.”
Magasaysay Street in Tondo was named after President Ramon Magsaysay. It was formerly called Santa Mesa or holy table. The land was originally owned by the La Hermanidad de la Santa Misericordia (Brotherhood of Holy Piety) whose board of directors was known as La Santa Mesa. The street was known earlier as Camatchilehan, after the Kamatsile tree that once shaded its length.
United Nations Avenue in Ermita was formerly known as Isaac Peral, in memory of the Spaniard who successfully experimented on a submarine in the post of Cadiz in 1889. The street was renamed United Nations Avenue in 1962 to marked the 17th anniversary of the United Nations.
A. Villegas Street is located in Ermita. A portion of Arroceros is renamed after Antonio Villegas, who assumed office after the death of Mayor Lacson. Calle Arroceros was a derivation of the Spanish word arroz or rice, referring to the cargo being docked in the vicinity by cascos from Laguna.
Padre Faura in Ermita was formerly called Observatorio, it was renamed after the Jesuit Fr. Federico Faura, who conducted meteorological studies leading to the invention of the Faura barometer which indicated the proximity and intensity of typhoons. The invention won him international fame. He played a major role in establishing the Manila Observatory and the Philippine Weather Bureau.
T.M. Kalaw Avenue located in Ermita was formerly known as San Luis. The street was renamed after Teodoro M. Kalaw Sr., the editor of the El Renacimiento and director of the National Library which also stands along the street.
Engracia Reyes Street in Ermita was formerly called Arkansas. It honor Engracia Reyes founder of the Aristocrat chain of restaurants.
Dr. A. Vasquez in Ermita was formerly Wright Street. It honor Dr. Antonio Vasquez, physician and surgeon. He served the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.
General Luna in Ermita was formerly known as Nozaleda, it was renamed after the Filipino general Antonio Luna. The street runs through Rizal Park (of which a part if formerly known as Nozaleda Park) to Intramuros.
Pedro Gil Avenue which branches from Roxas Boulevard in Ermita to President Quirino in San Andres was formerly known as Herran Street, after Jose dela Herran, a captain in the Spanish Navy during the 1898 Battle of Manila Bay.
Pedro Gil was a member of the 1930 independence mission to the United States together with Osmeña, Roxas, Montinola and Tirona. Gil was later elected to the first National Assembly and became chairman of the committee on city government.
Roxas Boulevard that stretches from Ermita towards Pasay City was known as Harrison Boulevard until 1915, when it was renamed as Dewey Boulevard, after the American Commodore who destroyed the Spanish Navy during the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898. After World War II, the long road was given its present name in memory of the first president of the post-war republic, Manuel Roxas.
Taft Avenue was formerly Columbia Avenue, it was renamed after the first American civil governor of the Philippines, William Howard Taft. Taft later became the President of the United States and Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court.
Information source: Daluyan: a Historical Dictionary of the Streets of Manila