Historical names, their beauty and richness

12:45 AM May 19, 2015

RECENTLY, Ambeth Ocampo wrote about Makati and the origin of the city’s name (Opinion, “Miracle in Makati,” 4/8/15).

I always find his columns enlightening and interesting. This time I felt some nostalgia.


I grew up in Makati in the 1950s. It was gratifying to learn how the name “Makati” came about. But when did Makati start to be referred to as “Guadalupe Viejo” with the corresponding “Guadalupe Nuevo” on the other side of Edsa? We knew the old Makati as “poblacion”—which, I suppose, was how most of the parts of our towns and cities were referred to during the Spanish occupation.

Just as we all had a “Calle Real” (“Main Street” in the United States), which had nothing to do with reality. I guess this came from the word “royal”—referring to the street where the king or his representative would pass on the way to the seat of power.


What was Highway 54 called before it became Edsa? I just remember a quaint two-lane road that took a mere 30 minutes to travel from Guadalupe, Makati, to Balintawak, Caloocan. And I wonder if Wack-Wack in Mandaluyong had something to do with “witches.”

Some places were named after the plants that abounded in the area: Maynila after “nilad”; Paco in Manila after “pako,” an edible fern; Masambong in Quezon City after


Or by their geographical location or circumstance: For example, San Andres Bukid obviously was in the outskirts of Intramuros, itself called thus because it was enclosed by walls (“muros” in Spanish); and Ermita (hermitage in English), as a kind of solitary place.

There is the term “ilaya” used in Mandaluyong to refer to a certain area. The word means “upper” in English. Its antonym is “ilawud.” Both terms are used as well in many other places, albeit in their respective dialectal variations. San Francisco del Monte and San Juan del Monte stand on elevated grounds.

Retiro (“retreat” in English, later changed to Amoranto), in Talayan in Quezon City, led to the place for solitude that San Francisco del Monte was to the early friars.

Other places were named after an area’s main livelihood or to something related thereto—Baclaran or a place where they dry the nets, after “baclad,” fish nets in English; Pateros which is known for “balut” (boiled duck egg), a popular Filipino street food, after “pato” or duck; and Paete, a town known for woodcarving, after “paet” or chisel.


Sta. Ana de Sapa, Manila, sits on the bank of Pasig River, and Lambingan Bridge is called thus, probably because lovers would go there for trysts. I remember crossing the old wooden bridge on a “caretela”! What was the district called before it became Sta. Ana? Established in 1578, it is believed to be the first Christian village outside of Intramuros. It hosted the “main church” when Makati(?), Mandaluyong and Pandacan were mere “visitas.”

The Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados (Our Lady of the Abandoned) used to be a popular pilgrim destination in the 1700s. It is interesting to note how, indeed, we are a “Pueblo amante de Maria” (a nation of Marian devotees). This is why many of our early churches are dedicated to Mary, and the Immaculate Conception is the patroness of Intramuros and the country. Aside from Our Lady of the Abandoned in Sta. Ana, we have Our Lady of the Rose and Our Lady of Grace in old Makati, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia, Nuestra Señora de Remedios, and so on.

It’s a pity we changed the quaint names of many of our streets into those of our heroes. Before we know it, they will have the names of prominent personalities, politicians and religious leaders. It won’t be long before we will have an “Apo Hiking Boulevard” or a “Jose Mari Chan Avenue” or a “Coco Martin Road.”

There’s nothing wrong about naming new structures after show-biz figures, but replacing the old, historical, or original names of streets and places with new names should not be allowed—ever again. If we want something named after a person, let him first discover a planet or a plant, or an animal long-thought to be extinct, or a new food, or a clothing design.

Fr. Antonio-Maria Rosales, OFM, doctor of theology, ecclesiastical assistant and attaché at the Philippine Embassy in the Vatican (1983-1989), parish priest of Santuario de San Antonio, Forbes Park (1997-2007), and author of eight books, says he loves history as a side hobby.

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