If old spanish houses designed with capiz (mother-of-pearl) windows, floral arches and huge doorways facinates you, then you should visit San Nicolas – Binondo’s largest district.
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. In just a short walk from Binondo Church, you will come accross facinating and marvelous vintage houses in this old Manila district.
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 historian, San Nicolas is one of the few parts of Manila who survived the World War II.
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.
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.
Sad to Say, most of the chinese owners are not willing to renovate these old houses and prefer to sell or construct new buildings to convert it 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.
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 dont forget to bring your camera. Who knows, these magnificent structures might be converted into an urban jungle in the next couple of years.
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 in 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.