Historic Places in Manila You Must Visit

Back in college, when I dated a history buff, museums and other historical places are our
favorites. She didn’t like malling on weekends or having fun in amusement parks, she wanted
something relevant to her interest, something closer to her heart. So, museums, street tours
with historical or heritage groups, and abandoned buildings and deserted places became our
weekend routine.

Historic places hold deep cultural meanings. A deeper understanding of the past, not only in the
context of time (when you try to imagine what it was like decades ago), but also in the context of
space, creates a more powerful connection to our history as a people and as a nation.

We’d like to share with you the go-to historical places in Manila, and some of the not-so-
popular-among-travellers historic places we think deserve the attention, too.

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines also has a comprehensive list of historic
places in Manila.

Top Historical Destinations
Rizal Park

Also known as Luneta Park, Rizal Park was named after the Philippines’ national hero, Dr. Jose
P. Rizal. He was executed there on December 30, 1896, which sparked the Philippine
Revolution against the Spanish colonizers. Also, the political rallies of Ferdinand Marcos and
Corazon Aquino took place in Rizal. It is there where dictatorial government of Marcos ended.

Rizal Park is located at the heart of Manila, along Manila Bay, where the historical World War II
took place. Because of its beautiful and garden and grassy lawns, it is a favorite spot for
unwinding and socializing. It is also a bonding place for family picnics on Sundays and holidays.
The bronze and granite Rizal monument is among the most famous cultural landmarks in the
country, and underneath this monument are the remains of our national hero.

Paco Park

Paco Park is located in General Luna Street in Paco, Manila. It was was built by the Dominican
Fathers in 1820 for the purpose of burying the dead of the Spanish elites.
It was once the municipal cemetery of Manila for autocratic families who resided in old Manila or
Intramuros during the Spanish colonial era. Dr. Jose P Rizal was interred there after his
execution and was later exhumed and was buried back to Luneta a.k.a. Bagumbayan, where he
was executed.

It is now a recreational area. Every Friday a recital called “Paco Park Presents” features the
finest musical talents and chorales. Local and guest stars perform for an evening of classical
and traditional Filipino music.

The Malacanang Palace

This is where the current Philippine president during his/her term. The palace is located along
the north bank of the Pasig River in Manila. The name came from a Tagalog phrase, “may lakan
diyan,” which means “a rich man lives there”. But the Spaniards said that the name came from
“mama lakaya”, which can be translated as “the fishermen who laid their catch there”.

Inside the complex of Malacanang Palace, you will find Bonifacio Hall. It is the Premier Guest
house used by President Ferdinand Marcos, which later became the office of President Corazon
Aquino. During the leadership of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, this hall was again used as
his residence. Aside from Bonifacio Hall, other places that you can see in Malacanang are the
Kalayaan Hall, Mabini Hall and the New Executive Building. There’s also a Malacanang Park,
which has a golf course.

Fort Santiago

Here is a citadel built by Spanish conquistador, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, for the newly
established city of Manila. It was named after St. James the Great Santiago, the patron saint of
Spain. Before the Spanish occupation, it was the settlement of Raja Sulayman, a Muslim

Fort Santiago was used as the base of power. Now, it has become a tourist attraction, where
you will see the shrine of Jose Rizal. It is also the place where you will see the museum that
showcases a replica of Jose Rizal’s prison cell.

Intramuros, Manila

Sometimes referred to as “The Walled City”, Intramuros is the oldest district and core of Manila.
It was the seat of the government during the Spanish colonial period. Its name in Latin literally
means “Within the walls.” The city is located along Manila Bay and south of the Pasig River.

Before the Spanish colonization, Intramuros was called Manila itself. It was a large Malayan-
Islamic resettlement named Maynilad (ruled by 3 chieftings – Raja Matanda, Lakan Dula, and
lastly, Raja Sulayman). Its strategic location made it ideal for Tagalog traders to trade with other
Asian civilization such as Chinese and Islamic merchants.

Like the other historical places in Manila, it has turned into a tourist spot, and if you want to have
a tour around Intramuros, you can enjoy a two-wheel battery-operated chariot, a service offered
by White Knight Hotel Intramuros.

Other Historic Places

Church and Monastery of Guadalupe, Makati City
A testament of true “love in the time of cholera,” the church, which was constructed from 1601 to
1629, was the “site of an orphan asylum and trade school administered by the Augustinian
Order for the benefit of the children of the victims of the cholera of 1882.”

This is according to the historical marker on the structure’s edifice. After taking the building’s
Byzantine beauty – which makes it the ideal venue for wedding ceremonies – visitors can take a
jeep to Rockwell for a completely different kind of tour.

Simbahan ng Las Piñas, Las Piñas City.

It is written on the church’s historical marker:

“Ginamit na kampo ng mga bihag noong panahon ng pananakop ng mga Hapon at bilang
pagamutan noong liberasyon. (Used as a prison during the Japanese occupation, as well as a
hospital during the liberation.)”

A structure that took more than 20 years to build, the church was erected from 1797 to 1819.
Housed within is an organ made of 902 bamboo tubes and 129 metal ones.

Unang Pagawaan ng Sapatos sa Marikina, Marikina City

Fondly called “Kapitan Moy” by locals, this home-turned-shoe-factory-turned-events-venue
(among others) is the birthplace of Laureano Guevara, nicknamed Kapitan Moy. He was the
leading shoemaker in the city known for this craft.

He began learning his trade in 1887. Says the historical marker, it was here where “nakatuklas
sila ng mga wastong pamamaraan sa paggawa ng sapatos (they discovered the correct
methods in shoemaking).” A short stroll will take tourists to the Shoe Museum, where some 600
of Imelda Marcos’ famous footwear are on display.

Libingan ng mga Bayani, Taguig City

Neat rows of white crosses dot the grassy expanse of this national shrine. Visitors are greeted
with a quote attributed to General Douglas MacArthur: “I do not know the dignity of his birth but I
do know the glory of his death.” He is supposed to have said this when he visited the Philippines
in the 1960s to pay tribute to his comrades who died in World War II.

Guests can view the final resting places of former Philippine Presidents, National Artists, and
military men, among others. And if the weary travelers get hungry, they can always grab a bite
at any of the restaurants in McKinley Hill.

Mira-Nila Heritage House, Quezon City

Built in 1929 by Conrado and Francisca Tirona Benitez, this ancestral home is a “grand Filipino
house with [an] Italianate façade, meticulously preserved interiors and graceful lawns and
gardens,” according to its official website, www.miranila.org.

Overlooking Manila, it bears the name Mira-Nila because it “prompts the viewer in Spanish ‘to
look at Manila.’” It is a beautifully landscaped and furnished home, “one of the few surviving
examples of what life used to be in pre-war Philippines,” according to the same site.

First Shot in Filipino-American War, San Juan City

Yes, one of the default “tourist spots” Pinoys like to bring their foreign visitors to is Greenhills, as
well as other similar bazaars where one can score a bargain or ten. While on the way to shop,
how about a little detour?

At the San Juan Bridge are two markers, one in English, the other in Filipino. The former reads,
“Here, at 9:00 o’clock in the evening of February 4th, 1899, Private William Grayson of the First
Nebraska Volunteers fired the shot that started the Filipino-American War.”
The three-year conflict left “4,200 Americans and over 20,000 Filipino combatants” dead,
according to the US Department of State Office of the Historian

(http://history.state.gov/milestones/1899-1913/War). Interestingly, the online account makes no
mention of the tiny bit of trivia involving the American Grayson.

Ang Bahay ng mga Nakpil at Bautista, Quiapo, Manila

Built in 1914, this historical structure was the home of Petrona Nakpil and husband Dr. Ariston
Bautista Lin, who formulated medicine to fight cholera. Also among its residents were Julio
Nakpil, a revolutionary and composer of songs for the Katipunan, and his wife Gregoria de
Jesus, “Lakambini” of Katipunan and widow of Andres Bonifacio.

Two renowned architects stayed in the home that also served as a jewelry shop: Julio and
Gregoria’s son Juan, and his cousin Angel.

According to the Bahay Nakpil-Bautista Foundation, Inc., the house is a museum of sorts for the
Katipunan, containing, among others, furniture used by some Philippine national heroes.

Lichauco House, Sta. Ana, Manila

The Lichauco House was originally the “O’brien House,” built by the latter’s family “during the
early American period,” according to the NHCP. When they transferred to another home during
the Japanese occupation, it became a “refuge for many civilians.”
Marcial Lichauco, who was ambassador under former President Diosdado Macapagal, then
bought it from the O’briens at the end of World War II, and turned it into his family home with his
wife, Jessie.

The second heritage tree in the city of Manila, a century-old balete, can be found in the
compound, as well. The first is found in Malacañang.
NHCP said the house was a living “example of structures built during the American colonial era
and a… witness to the development of the historic district of Santa Ana.”

Old Legislative Building, now National Museum, Ermita, Manila

Here’s a place that deserves a day at least of exploring. The former legislative building was
designed in 1918 by American architect Daniel Burnham, who was known for his classical style,
patterned after the structures of Greece and Rome.

This building now houses the National Museum, with exhibits in the “arts and natural sciences,”
among others, according to the museum’s website (http://philmuseum.tripod.com/index#).
Works of National Artists can be found here. Adjacent to the structure is the National Museum of
the Filipino People, which contains the country’s anthropological and archaeological treasures.

Presidential Museum and Library, Malacañan Palace, Manila

Yes, Malacañan—without a ‘g’ at the end, referring to the palace—is open to visitors. Located in
Kalayaan Hall, the Presidential Museum and Library is filled not just with objects from the lives
of Philippine presidents and heroes, but stories, too.

Which President enjoyed chess so much, he continued to visit his chess set even from the
grave? Which war-time flag on display was bought off eBay from an American who had no idea
what to make of it? Which painting is so valuable, selling it would fund the entire reconstruction
of Malacañan, should the latter fall?

Visits should be set at least seven working days prior by contacting the Tours and Visitor
Relations office.

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