San Nicolas: Manila’s Old World Charm

San Nicolas Binondo Lavezares Old House

The San Nicolas-Binondo Heritage Tour

Manila, Philippines – It was a gloomy afternoon when a small group of travel and food bloggers decided to go on a walking tour with a blogger/historian Bernard Arellano III.

Walking Tour - Binondo
Walking Tour – Binondo

In just a short walk from Binondo Church, you will come across fascinating and marvelous vintage houses in this old Manila district.

Art Deco Design Building in San Nicolas
Art Deco Design Building in San Nicolas

Similar to Crosologo Street in Vigan and the City of Silay, this area in Binondo probably has the largest collection of 19th-century houses in Metro Manila or probably in the entire Luzon. According to some historians, San Nicolas is one of the few parts of Manila who survived World War II.

Anonio Luna's House in San Nicolas
Anonio Luna’s House in San Nicolas
San Nicolas Binondo Lavezares Old House
San Nicolas Binondo Lavezares Old House

No wonder, some century-old tiled street signs (eg. corner of Barcelona and Laverzares) are still visible and some houses are still intact like the birthplace of General Antonio Luna along Calle Urbiztondo.

Most of the old houses can be found in the streets of Madrid, Lara, Elcano, Lavezares, Camba, San Nicolas, Barcelona, and Peñarubia. Make sure to pass by Casa Vizantina (corner Madrid and Peñarubia Street), a three-storey Floral style “bahay na bato” (brick made house) which was built in 1890.

Casa Vizantina in Madrid Street
Casa Vizantina in Madrid Street

According to Carlos Celdran’s blog, this house was leased out to Instituto de Manila to hold elementary and high school classes from 1914 to 1919. In 1919, Instituto de Manila moved to its own building located in Sampaloc and expand to become The University of Manila. There are rumors that Casa Manila in Intramuros was patterned from this house. If you ask permission, a lady tenant will take you on a tour and may show you the interiors of Casa Vizantina.

San Nicolas Binondo Lavezares Old House
San Nicolas Binondo Lavezares Old House

Sad to say, most of the Filipino-Chinese owners are not willing to renovate these old houses and prefer to sell or construct new buildings to convert them into warehouses or apartment units. Some of those old houses have already been declared abandoned and are waiting to be demolished while others are already razed by fire.

San Nicolas Binondo Elcano Old House
San Nicolas Binondo Elcano Old House

If you have time, you can visit Binondo for a Food Trip or maybe to go shopping just make sure to visit San Nicolas and don’t forget to bring your camera. Who knows, these magnificent structures might be converted into an urban jungle in the next couple of years.

Old San Nicolas Fire Station
Old San Nicolas Fire Station
San Nicolas High Rise Building
San Nicolas High Rise Building

Make sure to be courteous enough to ask the people in the neighborhood for permission to take photos.

How to Get There:

This Old Manila district is located on the Western side of North Manila, at the edge of the Pasig River surrounded by the districts of Binondo and Tondo. Take a short walk passing a short bridge in front of the Plaza Lorenzo Ruiz and the Binondo Church.

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  2. cecille sunico says

    the first photo on this page is the old Sunico foundry. the foundry was owned by my great, great grandfather Hilario Sunico. the grillworks of the house was made by him. hilario was the country’s most renowned bellcaster during the 1800s. most of the bells that hanged in centuries old churches in the philippines were attributed to him. it in this foundry that these bells were casted.

    1. Leonel Agir says

      Are you a descendant of the Sunico who married the daughter of a certain Mr Taufer way back during Rizal’s time?

      1. Angelina Sevilla Mendoza-Roque says

        I am a descendant of Julio Sunico, brother of Hilario (Julio’s daughter married my great grandfather, Vicente Hizon Sevilla). Valentin Sunico, Hilario’s nephew (Valentin was the son of Teodoro Sunico) married Georgina Taufer, daughter of George Taufer, an American who had worked in Hong Kong. It is said that Mr. Taufer was Jose Rizal’s patient in Dapitan, and that he, George, brought over Josephine Bracken from Hong Kong (as his “adopted” daughter”). Josephine was Geroge’s god-daughter.

  3. Marty @ Mother Of Pearl Bead says

    i really like your photos..i think you have the makes me feel proud to be a Filipino.

  4. […] is a copy of a San Nicolas House that was located in Calle Jaboneros before. J. Ramon L Faustmann was the architect of this […]

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