Progress in the Historic City of San Juan

Thursday, May 09, 2019

I saw a funny, candid and very accommodating Mayor Guia Gomez this morning at the San Juan City Hall. It is one of the most progressive cities in the Philippines and it has lots of rich history, 200+ years worth of it. It is the birthplace of the Philippine Revolution in 1896. This is why they put so much value in the importance of the past and how it has made the City of San Juan a first class city that it is today. I felt her warmth receiving us in her grand space at the city hall.

Mayor Guia signing the coffee table book of San Juan

From slums, to cleaning it up and the new park in front of the Pinaglabanan Shrine

Hand made, hand woven outfits of these dolls, made by San Juan locals

Like a mother, she showed us around her office and took small talk; and made us learn a few things about where the San Juan City Hall stands now. The place was previously inhabited by illegal settlers and served as a dump/incinerator facility. But during JV Ejercito’s time, they got them relocated and made them owners of their own land and built them homes. They spruced up the place, took time to rebuild the grounds and now it stands as a gorgeous backdrop for the Pinaglabanan Shrine, inevitably showcasing the history and rich culture of the city. She also has published a coffee table book which contains historical facts and figures without room for personalities from the local government.

The new San Juan City Hall

Murals at the city hall's center hall depicting its rich history and the beginnings of KKK

Council hall where all local government laws are passed
CEDOC monitors the city center and major thoroughfares around San Juan

At the city hall, we visited the Central Emergency Disaster Operations Center (CEDOC) which monitors all major landmarks, thoroughfares in the city. It makes them fast, responsive, to any crime or emergency situation and can dispatch people within minutes if the need arises. This is important so they could address the safety of people. The previous municipal hall though was vacated and renovated. It is now part of the San Juan Medical Hospital so they could accommodate more patients under their care.

New park with the Pinaglabanan Shrine

Museo El Deposito de Aguas where all water for Manila once was sourced

Fire Hydrant during Spanish period with a lion head spout
They are currently excavating and repairing the water systems, pipelines so they can tell the story of how San Juan was founded. It is also the place where the revolution of 1898 started.
The Katipunan Museum where you can learn about the life of Andres Bonifacio and the KKK organization.
You will get to know the roles of Emilio Jacinto, Andres Bonifacio and various heroes in the Filipino - Spanish uprising.

In 1907, San Juan was just a poblacion, life was simple, buildings mostly comprise of housing for aged priests/friars, convents, churches like Sanctuario De San Jose and San Juan Bautista. We walked at the city grounds and looked at the Pinaglabanan Shrine. Parts of it are still being constructed and neighboring landmarks are building carparks so they were a little busy. We walked a bit further to the Museo de Katipunan and Museo El Deposito (former water deposit during Spanish colonial rule), the need for potable clean water was important and this was where it all started. It was seized by early revolutionists who took control in 1898. The reservoir was cleaned and made into a museum, El Deposito de Aguas. This is why there are fountains in Manila (particularly the one in front of Sta Cruz Church in Manila). They also have a VR facility detailing the Battle of San Juan del Monte where you and your kids could learn more from. It is also FREE to the public so go and visit it when you’re in the area.

We proceeded to the Museo ng Katipunan (right beside it) which is under the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Pinaglabanan was the first place where Katipunan fought Spaniards in 1896, they lost as they were generally laborers, farmers and fisherfolk - but when they came back 1898, it ignited the Philippine revolution. KKK means Kataastaasan Kagalanggalang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan, inside the museum they showed us the history of the organization and the persona of Andres Bonifacio, his family and how he lead the revolution. They also have artifacts, old weapons, paintings and memorabilia. We left and got ourselves a tour of San Juan National High School, Science High School, College centers and other educational institutions, all built during the time of former Joseph Estrada and continued during JV Ejercito. They also have a new Justice Hall beside the city police and fire station, plus the FilOil Flying V Center wherein all major UAAP, Volleyball and Basketball matches happen.

Santuario del Sto. Cristo Church

Interior of the Santuario del Sto. Cristo Church

We also visited the Santuario del Sto. Cristo Church which was put up by Dominican priests. It was where I learned St John the Baptist (who is still their patron saint) was originally housed here. Manila Cathedral had to put a relic of Sto. Cristo here in the past and so they put the St. John the Baptist at the separate Pinaglabanan Church which is a few kilometers away. People have passed on stories of miracles, so for the faithful, I suggest you make this a part of your San Juan experience.

Saw Edu Manzano who is running for Congress in San Juan, he obliged for photos. I think he had a presscon in the same restaurant we were in. There's tons of food in Green hills!

Last, we got ourselves immersed at the shopping mecca of Metro Manila, the Greenhills Shopping Center which is owned and operated by Ortigas and Co. Merchants and shoppers from across the country consider this the best place to get deals and regard it as a technological center for mobile phones and gadgets. There is a saying that “if people can’t fix it, bring it to Greenhills and they would”. Sure enough, I’ve spent quite a fortune buying clothes, shoes, bags and mobile phones here myself. I live nearby and this has been a center for commerce in the city, every tourist should visit the place and see why even locals would want to shop here!

It was so nice to see the city of San Juan in a different light. The Ejercitos (Sen JV and Mayor Guia) have done remarkable improvement and tons of infrastructure to service the people of San Juan and nearby cities. It was just a chance to see how they have cared for their constituents over the years... and still does until today. If I’m going to choose someone, I’d do it for their merits and I’ve seen they’ve done a lot of that in their city.

Honestly, it makes me wanna live there. 


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