Old folks would often use the expression “Nung bata pa si Sabel” when describing something or a practice that has been in existence a long time ago.
Don Luis Araneta used to say that the expression referred to Queen Isabel II of Spain. The queen’s profile appeared in 1860 coins and her bronze matronly statue was first erected near the foot of Puente de Epaña (now Jones Bridge) on what is now Liwasang Bonifacio.
When the Queen Isabel II was deposed during the anti-Bourbon revolution 1868, the Carlist Spanish governor-general, Carlos de la Torre, had the statue removed to a storeroom in the Ayuntamiento in Intramuros. In 1896, the monument was restored in front of the Church of Malate until a typhoon toppled it down in 1970.
The statue was returned close to its original location in the 1970s near Colegio de San Juan de Letran where it stood up this day across Puerta de Isabel II, the gate named after her in time for viewing by her great great-grandson Prince Carlos (later became King Carlos), during his state visit to the Philippines in 1975.
Related link: Story of A Well-Traveled Statue