Article by Carlos Cucueco III
22 August 2021
When navigating Manila, roads serve as a guide for us to get around the city. Many of these streets became memorable to many like Rizal Avenue, Recto Avenue, España Boulevard, Roxas Boulevard, Escolta, and Quezon Boulevard. However, there is a street in Manila that also deserves notable recognition due to its contribution to the development of the city – Hidalgo Street located in the district of Quiapo.
Serving as a connection to Quiapo’s churches – Quiapo Church and San Sebastian Church, the historic street started as Calle San Sebastian during the Spanish Era although records were scarce regarding the exact year of the street’s creation. The road was probably named to the San Sebastian Church which is currently located at the end of the road.
Until the 1850’s, Quiapo was then an agricultural district. Afterwards, the economy of the district began to prosper due to different factors such as the opening of the Philippines to world trade as an effect of the end of Galleon Trade and the introduction of many innovative technologies such as waterworks, electricity, and telephone. This resulted to the integration of prominent Filipino families such as the Paternos and the Hidalgos to Quiapo. Calle San Sebastian provided a strategic location for these personalities due to its location from Intramuros – the seat of power during the Spanish Period which also served as an enclave for the Spanish ruling class. Another reason why this street was strategic is because of its proximity to two churches. The street was considered as a blessed spot to live, which at that time only the rich and famous can afford.
As prominent Quiapenses established their residences, the street has started to gain its prominence as the most beautiful street due to the rows of arcaded mansions that started from the Estero de Quiapo leading to Plaza del Carmen. Some of these notable houses include the Paterno House, the Enriquez Mansion, the Padilla Mansion, the Zamora House, the Zaragoza-Araneta House, the Ocampo-Santiago House, and many others. From that time, the street was comparable to the exclusive subdivisions today, with its houses of distinctive figures. It was later renamed Calle Hidalgo to commemorate Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo – famous painter who are friends with various Filipino Illustrados such as Jose Rizal and Juan Luna. It is also worthy to note that he also lived along the street named after him.
The decline of Calle Hidalgo started in the 20th century. Majority of the mansions were either destroyed, renovated, or transferred to other places. The street once known as the most beautiful street in the Philippines, has earned the title as one of the dirtiest streets of Manila. Although there are still houses that remains on Calle Hidalgo such as the Paterno House, the Zamora House and the Padilla Art Gallery, these are still under the threat of demolition or translocation. The street itself has also transformed into a place where anything can happen. It is also a place where jeepneys tend either to park or to line up towards their routes.
Calle Hidalgo can reclaim its prominent form from its current dilapidated state. This can start from the preservation of existing heritage houses via adaptive reuse. Providing relevant establishments and services can also support and complement these houses. Hopefully, these kinds of interventions will return the classic beauty of Calle Hidalgo in which future generations can still appreciate and use to their needs.
Dimalanta, R. F., Sapuay, M. J. C., Agarpao, J., Reviving Calle Hidalgo through cultural preservation and adaptive reuse harmonizing the Old and New Manila. 2020
Zialcita, F. N., Quiapo, Heart of Manila. 2006