Colonial Makati


Religious orders were first in detecting Makati’s potential. When Bishop Domingo Salazar OP sought to build Manila a stone cathedral in 1581, friars found volcanic tuff up Pasig River in Makati. The rock, which they called adobe, was quarried to fortify Legaspi’s original wooden fort and turn into a marvelous city of stone mansions. 




In fact, Makati may have taken its name from lamangkati, which in ancient Tagalog means “contents of the earth”. Another story claims Makati could mean “a large land left bare by the ebb of the sea”. According to tradition, when Legaspi asked residents the name of their community, they instead pointed to the swiftly receding tide and called out: “Makati na, kumakati na!



Nuestra Señora de Gratia


Later in 1610, Augustinian missionaries laid foundation for the archipelago’s first sanctuary. Pilgrims, especially galleon-riders and Chinese settlers, climbed 200 steps from the riverbank to Nuestra Señora de Gratia, which had a most picturesque panorama of Manila and its bay. 



War gutted the strategically located church on Bernardino Street beside San Carlos Seminary. The antique stone façade and interior carved with leaves, arabesques, and columns in a Neo-Romanesque-Gothic style makes the place popular for weddings.



Ermita de San Nicholas de Tolentino


The romance of Spain’s colonial excursion also resurrects at the abandoned ruins recently restored Ermita de San Nicholas de Tolentino in West Rembo barrio on the Guadalupe-Pateros Road. It tiny shell recalls a nearby landmark buried in cement during the a 1970’s beautification movement: Buayang Bato, the Crocodile of Stone.  



At the very spot where a Chinese settler called to his patron, the attacking caiman supposedly was petrified. For centuries henceforth, his co-immigrants lit embankments with large red tapers and sailed a giant pagoda during the saint’s feast day, September 10. The date occurs during the Moon Festival season, and fiesta authority Alejandro Roces conjectures it could have been a cover for persisting with pagan traditions.



Sampiro de Makati





Sampiro de Makati Church is another glimpse into Asia’s early Christianization. Sampiro is local nickname for San Pedro. Apostles Peter and Paul share billing as titulars in a charmingly reconstructed church on Burgos Street that is venue for Bailes de los Arcos –a quadrille to the Nuestra Señora de la Rosa, performed annually on the Virgin’s Day as typhoon season starts.



Each dainty step, click of the castanet, or wave of the floral arches, must be mastered according to colonial choreography and performed with piety. Elder’s insist marring rain means the year’s lead dancer is longer chaste.


Related series:

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 – Nielsen Tower, Part VII –The Manila American Cemetery, Part VIII Reposo Street Makati



Guadalupe’s San Nicholasi


The Pasig River has three legendary landmarks: the malapad na bato (broad stone), the cave of Doña Jeronima and the Buayang Bato (petrified crocodile), a natural rock formation that lay on the bank of what is now Mandaluyong.



This legend of Buayang Bato was related by Padre Salvi, a character in Jose Rizal’s novel El Filibusterismo: “the river as well as the lake, was infested with caimans, so huge and voracious that they attacked bancas and upset them with a slap of the tail. Our chronicles relate that one day a Chinaman, who up to that time had refused to be converted, was passing in front of the church, when suddenly the devil presented himself to him in form of a caiman and upset the banca, in order to devour him a carry him off to hell. Inspired by God, the Chinaman at that moment cried out San Nicholasi! San Nicholasi! And instantly the caiman was turned into a stone.”


As the sequel to the legend goes, the heathen Chinese becomes a convert. Near the petrified crocodile, a chapel (ermita) and parsonage was built on the riverbank of Guadalupe to honor San Nicholas’ miracle. 



French traveler Jean Paul Gironiere described in his memoirs that pagodas (palaces of several stories high) were constructed on cascos in the Chinese district of Manila (Binondo) then towed up the Pasig to the shrine of San Nicholas during the spectacular fluvial festivities. Augustinian historian Joaquin Martinez de Zuñiga noted that more than a thousand kilos of candles were offered during these devotions. 



However, fiesta expert Alejandro Roces revealed that the festivities thought to be dedicated for San Nicholas were just a cover-up for the Chinese Mid-Autumn celebrations so frowned upon by the Spanish friars that the Chinese had to invent the preposterous story of the stone crocodile and use the September 10 feast of San Nicholas.


Fr. de Zuñiga recorded that the archbishop ordered the demolition of Ermita de San Nicholas de Tolentino and the transfer of its image to the Augustinian Sanctuary in Guadalupe. The newly-restored 300-year old hermitage of San Nicholas de Tolentino is located on what was known as the Estancia de Meysapang along the Pasig River.


Today, hardly anything remains of the San Nicholas cult. The stone crocodile, the oldest historical landmark in Mandaluyong (formerly known as San Felipe Neri) was cemented over during the Pasig Beautification Project and the restored Ermita de San Nicholas de Tolentino is close for viewing most of the time.

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