Outrageous Trivias About Manila

1. Secret underground tunnels

"Manila’s busiest commercial districts are clear reminders of the city’s modernity. Anyone who frequents these places would always expect to see towering skyscrapers, condominiums, and posh boutiques. But underground tunnels that are older than WWII? Highly unlikely. 

"To the surprise of many, both Makati City and Bonifacio Global City in Taguig actually have secret passageways hiding underneath them. 

"In January 2011, the crew of Manila Water discovered a tunnel during one of their digging operations at the Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA)-Guadalupe area. Although few information has been revealed about the said man-made tunnel, it is reportedly located 3.5 meters below the street level and is wide enough to fit several dump trucks. 

The Fort Bonifacio Tunnel, on the other hand, has a more interesting history to share. Located near Megaworld, the tunnel is about 2.24 km long and 4 meters wide. It is equipped with 32 built-in chambers, a 6-meter-deep well, and 2 exits leading to Brgy. East Rembo and Brgy. Pembo in Makati City. 

"There are four entrances to the tunnel that currently exist: The first is across C5 (near Market! Market!) while the other one is found on East Rembo. The third entrance can be found at Amapola Street, although it has been closed to give way to the construction of a new house. The fourth entrance is open and is found on Morning Glory Street. 

"Although some say that the tunnel was built under the order of General Douglas MacArthur in 1942, historical accounts show that it was constructed much earlier. Retired Brig. Gen. Restituto Aguilar, also the former director of the Philippine Army Museum, said that the construction of the tunnel started in the early 1900s through the efforts of the Igorot miners from the Cordillera.

"The tunnel was initially used as an “underground highway” which helped transport food, medicines, and other military supplies to Fort McKinley (now Fort Bonifacio). It was then expanded in 1936 to serve as Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters and storage room for military supplies. 

"When the WWII broke out, the Japanese destroyed Fort McKinley and renamed it “Sakura Heiei”. The tunnel, on the other hand, served as temporary shelter of high-ranking Japanese military officials, including Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita. 

"After the war, the tunnel was turned over to the Philippine government. Fort McKinley was renamed Fort Andres Bonifacio and became a Central Business District in 1994. The underground tunnel was eventually closed in 1995 and since then, most Filipinos have forgotten that such historical treasure exists. 

"In 2012, Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) disclosed their plans of developing the Fort Bonifacio Tunnel into a historic site to help protect its legacy"
Photo credit: Richard A. Reyes
Photo credit: Richard A. Reyes

2. The height of Quezon Memorial Shrine’s three vertical pylons was based on President Quezon’s age when he died.

"The Quezon Memorial Circle houses the museum, shrine, and the remains of former President Manuel L. Quezon as well as First Lady Aurora Quezon. 

"Modeled after Napoleon Bonaparte’s catafalque in Les Invalides, France, the Quezon Memorial Shrine was the brainchild of Federico Ilustre, an architect who bested other finalists to create the monument’s final design. 

"The monument has three vertical pylons symbolizing Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. They measure 66 meters in height, based on President Quezon’s age when he died on August 1, 1944. There are also three angels holding sampaguita wreaths on top which were created by Italian sculptor Monti. 

"Construction of the Quezon Memorial Shrine started in the 1950s but was only completed in 1978 due to several factors like lack of funds and the difficulty of importing Carrara marble which came in blocks and were carved on site. 

"On August 19, 1979, President Quezon’s remains were transferred from Manila North Cemetery to the Quezon Memorial Circle. In the same year, President Ferdinand Marcos declared the site as a National Shrine."
Photo credit: Jodel Cuasay via Flickr
Photo credit: Jodel Cuasay via Flickr

3. General Douglas MacArthur served as Manila Hotel’s “General Manager”.

"Established on July 4, 1912, the Manila Hotel witnessed several landmark events and became home to some of the most important people in Philippine history–including Gen. Douglas MacArthur. 

"In 1935, MacArthur was commissioned by President Quezon to help build the Philippine army and serve as Military Advisor of the Commonwealth. From 1935 to 1941, MacArthur stayed in the Manila Hotel together with his wife Jean and son Arthur. 

"Before they arrived in the Philippines, President Quezon hired architect Andres Luna de San Pedro, son of famous painter Juan Luna, to build a seven-room penthouse in Manila Hotel. MacArthur lived a life of luxury and fully enjoyed his favorite food at the hotel: Native lapu-lapu wrapped in banana leaves. 

"The cost of MacArthur’s suite eventually drained the hotel’s budget and Quezon, upon receiving the bill, called Mayor Jorge Vargas to settle the problem. To handle the cost, it was decided to give MacArthur the honorary title of “General Manager”. Although he was considered a figurehead, MacArthur ignored his status and still took charge of hotel management."

4. Harrison Plaza and other areas in Manila used to be cemeteries.

"Thanks to modernization, some sacred burial grounds had to be wiped out to be replaced by commercial buildings. Such is the case with an old cemetery located south west of an area once known as Fort San Antonio Abad in Malate, Manila. The area is now occupied by the Harrison Plaza, also known as the country’s first modern mall. 

"But Harrison Plaza is not the only one that lies above former burial grounds. Another area in Malate, the Remedios Circle, was actually one of Manila’s earliest cemeteries. However, it closed down after WWII, and all the remains were transferred to the South Cemetery. The incident happened after the Catholic Church agreed to surrender the cemetery to the government in exchange of a road leading to a new church across the Manila Zoo. 

"Another former cemetery is the Espiritu Santo Parish Church in Sta. Cruz, Manila. It is known as the first church in the country dedicated to the Holy Spirit. It used to be a simple place of worship in the middle of Sta. Cruz Cemetery. The area around the cemetery was eventually converted into the Parish of Espiritu Santo by the La Liga del Espiritu Santo led by Florentino Torres, Supreme Court’s first associate justice. The small chapel within the cemetery, on the other hand, was built into a bigger church in 1926."
1899: Monument of a cemetery located at the south west of Fort San Antonio Abad. The area is where the present-day Harrison Plaza now stands. Photo credit: John Tewell via Flickr.
1899: Monument of a cemetery located at the south west of Fort San Antonio Abad. The area is where the present-day Harrison Plaza now stands. Photo credit: John Tewell via Flickr.

5. Tomas Claudio Boulevard in Malate was named after the ONLY Filipino casualty of the First World War.

"Born on May 7, 1892, Tomas Mateo Claudio was originally from Morong Rizal. He was hired by the Bureau of Prisons as a guard, but was fired shortly after he was caught sleeping during working hours. He then moved to the US where he got a job at a sugar plantation in Hawaii, and later as a salmon canner at Alaska. Eventually, he got a chance to study commerce at a college in Nevada. After graduation, Claudio worked at a local Post Office as a clerk. 

"Claudio, already a Filipino-American, then decided to enlist himself in the U.S. army. He was one of the members of the American Expeditionary Force to France who were sent to fight against the Germans during World War I. Unfortunately, he died in the battle on June 29, 1918, making him the first Fil-Am war hero and also the only Filipino casualty of WWI. 

"To honor his bravery, the Pvt. Tomas Claudio Post 1063 Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. was established in 1923 by a group of Fil-Am veterans of WWI. A college, a street, and a bridge in the Philippines were also named after him to honor his contributions."
Tomas Claudio. Photo credit: Tomas Claudio Memorial College
Tomas Claudio. Photo credit: Tomas Claudio Memorial College

6. In 16th century Manila, the Muslims were the ruling class while the Tagalogs were considered inferior.

"During the 16th century, Manila, known then as Kota Salurong (or Seludong), was under Muslim control. It all started when Sultan Bulkeaiah (Nakhoda Ragam) of Brunei conquered the Kingdom of Tondo and established Kota Salurong as an outpost of his sultanate. Soon, the Muslims became the ruling class and fully controlled the wealth, trade, and the seat of government in the old Manila.

"The Tagalogs, on the other hand, were considered second-class citizens who wore long hairs, carried weapons such as daggers, and rarely travelled by land. Under the Muslim rule, the Tagalog learned to adopt the culture of their conquerors. They started to use Muslim names, wore turbans, read the Quran, and even refused to eat pork."