Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Once in a great while, a blogger receives unexpected rewards such as this -- a letter/commentary from amazing Mario Silva sent through his daughter, kindred blogger, exskindiver Chesca.

(Read it for the historical highlights and human-interest sidelights about old Manila)

Dear Chesca:

This is an additional comment to Annamanila's blog. Very much delayed but I think she will still like to read it.

I did not know that Gagalangin is in Tondo. I learned this after going over her blog again. She wrote so many interesting things. The woman (Nena), whose story is so touching, a very admirable woman indeed. I am sure many of our dear women, wives and mothers, have gone through so much of this kind of suffering. She wrote about the native delicacies of our home land (chicharong bulaklak, balun-balunan, day-old chicks, penoy/balut, chicharong baboy, burong talangka.etc). She made me re-live again what is good and beautiful about the Philippines.

Her description of Gagalangin - I never realized how many illustrious sons and daughters Gagalangin had produced. Heroes, great men and women of our history, in our literary field, in the theater, in movies. Kaya pala Gagalangin ... it was the cradle of so many of our "talagang ginagalang" na mga mamayan. I recall mentioning long ago her blog to Ayo, and his remark was, "why did I never know about Gagalangin when I have known Manila for so long?" I think it is because during his time, Gagalangin was so out of the way for the youth like you and the rest of the children who grew up on Quezon City.

Going back to her blog again, I realize that I was mistaken. The street where I learned to drive was not Maypajo but Juan Luna Street, and the eatery that served bibingka beside the Pritil bridge was not Aling Nena, but Ferino's. Thanks to those who commented on her blog. But as you know, I must be given some leeway … it was many, many years ago … more than half a century ago. And going back again to Pritil Bridge, it reminds me of the book "Manila, My Manila" by our National Artist, the late Nick Joaquin. He said that Manila took a long time to make and that its ground used to be the sea and that surely explains the presence of so many esteros, one of them being where Pritil bridge is located. And speaking of esteros, the bridge on Escolta, near Sta. Cruz Church, along where Samanillo Building and Regina Building are located crosses an estero. And in Quiapo, there used to be a street called Estero Cegado (I wonder if that street still exists). Some historians, as I recall, also refer to the Estero de Reina Regente and Estero de Binondo.

One of her commentators also mentioned Bangkusay. Our history records a Battle of Bankusay of 1571. In the war of colonization the Spanish Forces had embarked on a search for native warriors who had resisted them. A fierce battle ensued in Bangkusay between the Spanish forces and the native Manilans. The Battle of Bankusay remains a significant event in our history.

More than 400 years later, on a night in May, 1954, another battle would occur in Bankusay. In this site, a gang war erupted between what was known as the Grease Gun Gang and another rival gang. The case (which I understand was made into a movie) resulted in prosecutions for four separate cases for murder and frustrated murder. The victims were in a calesa parked along Bangkusay street, between Kapulong and Inocencio. One of the survivors testified that he was there because his parents "needed pigs for the Gagalangin fiesta..." There were eleven originally accused, of which, one was killed before the trial, another was discharged and used as a state witness, but was killed after he testified, and nine stood trial. Three were acquitted and the rest who were sentenced to various sentences including life, appealed to the Supreme Court. The High Court in its decision modified the lower court's decision and sentenced four to the extreme penalty of death and the remaining two to life imprisonment. The Court also stated in its decision that it was error for the trial court to have acquitted the three but that as the law stands, it was powerless to effect the correction.

The reason why this is of interest to me is not only because of the element of Bangkusay and Gagalangin in the case, but also I was a young lawyer then and I was assigned by the court to defend one of the accused as "counsel de oficio." The judge who assigned me was my former professor at the Ateneo. The trial lasted several months. I recall that one of the trial dates was January 19, 1955, when your kuya Jimmy was born. I represented one of the three acquitted. My services were performed for free, gratis et amore.

Torres High School, which was discussed in her blog was named after Florentino Torres, one of the first four Filipino justices of the Supreme Court. The site of the school was originally a Constabulary barracks. As I said in my original comment to her blog, I and my brother and two sons of General Castaneda, Mariano Jr. and Juanito, walked all the way from St. Theresa's College in San Marcelino Sreet in Ermita to Juan Luna Street in Gagalangin, where the Constabulary Barracks was located. General Castaneda was the then commander of the military barracks. Our childhood escapade occurred sometime in 1937.

General Castaneda later figured in a famous incident. In 1947, he saved President Manuel A. Roxas from assassination when he kicked away a hand grenade hurled on the stage in Plaza Miranda, Quiapo, immediately after President Roxas delivered a speech. The grenade rolled over and fell outside the stage, killing an innocent onlooker and wounding others. The would-be assassin, Julio C. Guillen, was arrested, tried, and convicted. He was executed in the electric chair of the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa in 1950.

Before that, General Castaneda, as younger officer, had been assigned to Cavite, where Mommy's dad, your lolo Gregorio, was then assigned as Provincial Treasurer. Your lolo and General Castaneda knew each other well. Mommy told me that she and your Auntie Norma, had always dressed up similarly then they were children and they were often mistaken as twins. In fact, long, long after, General Castaneda happened to meet your Auntie Dollie and had asked her how the twins were.

These are some musings which have come to me since the Gagalangin blog of Annamanila. I hope you can transmit this to her. She writes very well and all her stories are so very interesting.


Letterwriter/guest blogger Mario Silva, in his heydays, as trial lawyer in Manila
(circa 1960)


raqgold said...

what an interesting view of manila. i would love to walk around 'your manila' so you could point out those corners to me. to be frank with you, i am a big fan of the old manila and i love the chaos of the new one, too. nga pala, oma is my mother in law or my kids' lola

Nyl said...

The entry mentioned was your way to reliving Manila's some brief history.

I write so well.keep it up!

Abaniko said...

Aba naman! You've got a big fan there. Hey, I wish you'd also write about the famous Sunken Garden in UP Diliman. I'm curious how it would come out. :D

Anonymous said...

i got this blog link from gibbs cadiz. what a discovery! my mom, a de borja, was also from gagalangin. as kids, we would drive there almost every week to visit my lolo. the home mom grew up in was atypical of manila hispanic homes: stone stairway to the second floor, storage & carport in the first floor, mahogany floors & walls, latticed window grills, marble bl & white dining room& kitchen floors. it was gracefully furnished but minimalist, possible owing to the fact that my lola had died my when my mom was 3. it was surrounded by trees and sat on several acres. i had never seen the entire property, but i heard squatters had settled in the farther end of the land.

during the war, mom said they planted vegetables and maintained a fish pond. grains came from lolo's farmlands in nueva ecija. for a time, the japanese occupied an annex and the officer in charge was kind and respectful of my mom's family. towards the end of the war and the officer in charge changed, the japs would sometimes
forcibly take foodstuff.

mom's brood went to torres high school and ue/ust for university. i recall she grew up with pitoy moreno cora de la paz and manotoks, who are friends to this day.

while i was afraid of my lolo, a patrician-spanish speaking lawyer, i was enchanted with the house and his library stocked with latin & spanish law books. but i looked forward to eating treats during visits as my favorite aunt & uncle, living in the annex house, would prepare favorite meals & kakanins from the area. i don't recall the street it was on, perhaps abad santos, but i recall the bombero's were nearby.

most of mom's family were doctors and had settled in baltimore where there is a thriving and prosperous de borja clan. and after my lolo died, we stopped going to that part of manila. i think my mom sold the property years ago.

your gagalangin blog stirred some memorable childhood memories.


Anonymous said...

p.s. i think the street was J luna not abad santos

Annamanila said...


I guessed Oma was Lola but hesitated to assume. I am sorry for your loss.

Manila -- old and new -- will always be a great city.

Annamanila said...


I am from there and I had a great time reminiscing and writing about the Gagalangin of my affections. Atty. Mauro Silva read these nostalgia pieces and shared some of his own. Aren't his musings great!

Annamanila said...


Oo nga. Ang sarap basahin ang comments ni Atty. Silva. Very interesting and informative, not to mention nakakataba ng puso.

Sunken Garden nostalgia piece? Hmmm. Maybe I can interview you?

Annamanila said...


Tell me quick -- is one of your uncles (or your father if luck is with me) Carlos de Borja? He was my classmate in highschool. And he lived in this mansion -- one of the few found in Gagalangin -- in a wooded compound near Torres High School Ismar Annex on Juan Luna Street. If you are related to Carlos, let me have your address. I have a message to give Carlos as we are about to celebrate our highschool jubilee year.

The blog piece you read was contributed by a reader like you, Mr. Mauro Silva, who had an affinity with Gagalangin.

I also wrote other pieces on Gagalangin. I will give you a link to them, if you're interested.

I hope you can reply soon.

Thanks a million.

P.S.I wish I was able to enter through the gates of the house you have so vividly described. Unfortunately I was only able to gawk at it in awe.

Annamanila said...


Please write me at my email address: I am almost certain the house you described was where Carlos de Borja lived.

exskindiver said...

I just love how you've tickled my father's writing bone.
and I love sharing him with you.

Annamanila said...

Chesca exskindiver!

There's a lot of Mario Silva to share. And he can share more widely if he blogs.

Thanks for linking me to someone as interesting and as rich (if not in money then in spirit) as your Dad.

Anonymous said...

yes that was my mom's home. tito carlos was the son of tito peping & tita esther who lived in later years in the annex house. incredible that you know them. tito carlos is in maryland too. will try to get contact info. this is incredible!


Anonymous said...

P.S. just found out that the property isn't sold yet. the memories of that home survives, as the antique furniture & fixtures are in the homes of my parents, brothers & a sister in manila.

i recall mom brought us to a torres HS reunion once where lea navarro sang at/emceed the program. and i have read your more personal posts of gagalangin. will email you carlos de borja's contact info soon as i receive it...mikel

Annamanila said...


Happiness! We will soon be able to connect with Carlos!

Just as soon as I read "de borja" "hispanic home," "surrounded by trees," "sat on several acres" --something clicked in me. And the "bombero nearby" clinched it.

I am glad the property has not been sold. But the furniture and furnishings are no longer intact? :(

Maybe I can cajole Carlos -- if ever he will be persuaded to come home next year for our grand reunion -- to open the house for us just for a look-see. I am sure there are a lot of classmates intrigued by that big house every time they passed it to and from school. I can just see a scene now --in my mind's eye: a small boy, quiet and brooding and cute -- entering through its big gates,his school stuff in a backpack.

I hope Carlos emails but otherwise a telephone number will be fine.

Are you also in Baltimore, Mikel? Do you blog?

Anonymous said...

hi again. been living in paris for some years now, having moved from california. but spent summers as a kid, and visited a few times since, with cousins in baltimore. mom visits there each year.

the furnishings of the house survives, scattered among the family homes.

no, i don't blog but am content keeping up with home via the WWW and commenting on blogs like yours. finally making it home this dec. after a decade soon.


Annamanila said...

Hi Mikel!

Duh me. I should have known .. Mikelinparis, you first called yourself.

If you'd give me your private email, I will send you a link to our highschool website with a hundred first person stories of our classmates plus pictures already posted. I hope your Tito Carlos can be included there. We are now in the final stages of editing the material for printing into a coffeetable book with a (Romi) Mananquil (a celebrated painter, also a batchmate) cover jacket.

Anonymous said...

bonjour..just spoke to tito carlos and sent you info via email. i haven't spoken to him in ages but he remembers you...mikel

Leah said...

A very positive review of your stories AM and more recounts of the famed Gagalangin. And its good to get in touch of one of your classmates too. Isnt it great to have a blog?

ysrael said...

It was all great!

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