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Guide to History of Makati

makati history

The City of Makati
To most outsiders, the word “Makati” conjures images of gleaming of skyscrapers and stylish malls. However, this does not paint a complete picture of the city. There is more to Makati than the developments of the recent decades.  It is a city with an austere history, vibrant customs, diverse charms, a lively community spirit and a culture rooted in an filipino values. From the current of the river where it all began, Makati will continue to evolve and its people will tell more stories that reveal the flow of its progress into the future. Población may be the city but the surrounding areas have their own rich history! 

For example, Guadalupe was very popular pilgrimage site because of the church and the monastery dedicated, for a time to Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Standing today as Nuestra Señora de Gracia church. It is known because of its architectural style.

Another pilgrimage site was the Ermita de San Nicolas de Tolentino, in Brgy. West Rembo. This origin of the site is rooted in legend: it is said that Non-Christian Chinese Merchant who, for fear of his life, prayed to San Nicolas while being attacked by a caiman crocodile in the Pasig River. Miraculously, the crocodile turned to stone and because his life was spared, the chinese man converted and erected the hermitage. 

history of makati guide

Transfer of Ownership 
King Carlos expels all the Jesuits from all Spanish territories! In 1767, Hacienda San Pedro de Macati was confiscated from the Society of Jesus (along with other Jesuits Territories). For the most 19th century, the land went back and forth between different owners. 

Don Pedro de Galaraga 
El Marques de Villamediana (1795)
Don Jose Col (1807)
Don Manuel Joaquin Gomez (Unknown Date)
Don Simon Bernardino Velez (1836)
Don Jose Bonifacio Roxas (1851)

Don Jose Bonifacio Roxas, son Pedro Pablo Roxas married Carmen Ayala de Roxas. Sounds Familiar? Their descendants pioneered urban development in the city in the 20th century.

museo ng makati poblacion

San Pedro de Macati
Fr. Pedro Montes, S.J. took charge of constructing the church and by 1620, Macati’s Mother parish church was built. Since then, the place became known as San Pedro de Macati in honor of its patron which was fondly shortened by locals to Sampiro. The Jesuits administered the Land and its economy was dependent on cattle, agriculture and even clay pottery. On June 1, 1670, San Pedro de Macati was established as Independent Town.

Don Pedro de Brito and the Society of Jesus
As part of the encomienda system, Capitan Pedro de Brito, a retired aide to the Spanish Army Chief and Alferez General of Manila, purchased a huge tract of land that included Macati in 1589. In 1608, he and his wife Dona Ana de Herrera, donated half of their property to the society of Jesus on the condition that a church and novitiate were to be built on the hill called Buenavista, and that the church be placed under the patronage of San Pedro, the donor’s namesake.

They called us a worthless swampland!!
When Macati fell under the rule of Spanish, it was considered a “worthless swampland” by Legaspi. Largely uncared for, the swampy land was dismissed as simply pasture for carabaos and horses. From 1578 to 1670, it was governed as a visita or district of Santa Ana de Sapa, the first Franciscan mission outside the walls of Intramuros. 

Makati na! Kumakati na!
Hola! Me Llamo Miguel Lopez de Legazpi! In 1571, the Spaniards led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, came upon a small settlement of natives by the riverbanks. When Legazpi asked in Spanish for the name of the place, the people did not understand him. They pointed to the waves of the river, shouting “Makati na, Kumakati na” which meant that the tide was receding, from then on, the area was known as Macati. 

Welcome to the Kingdom of Namayan!
Before Makati was a city, it was once a small village or Barangay of the vast kingdom of Namayan. This kingdom spread from the banks of the Pasig River and stretched from Manila Bay to Laguna de Bay. The great kingdom of Namayan was ruled by Lakan Tagkan and his wife, Bouan, from their capital in Sapa, now known as Santa Ana in Manila.

Macati off-center: Culi-Culi, Tejeros and Olympia
Población was big, but nearly as big was the settlement of Culi-Cul, so named because of the winding streets of the area -- liku-liku in Tagalog.
While it used to be the red light district of the town, Culi-Culi gained prominence as the proud birthplace of Filipino revolutionary hero General Pio del Pilar. Hence, the settlement was renamed in his honor and stands today as Barangay Pio del Pilar. Tejeros and Olympia are communities near the población. Tejeros was the location of Santa Ana Cabaret -  the most popular entertainment spot in Manila in the early 20th century, while Olympia was the site of its namesake brick factory by the Pasig River which employed many of Makati’s men in the early years of the town. 

In 1901, San Pedro de Macati was incorporated in the newly created province of Rizal under the Second Philippine  Commission Act 137. Then in 1914, the Philippine legislature passed Act 2390 which shortened the official name of the Municipality from San Pedro de Makati to Makati. The small town was surrounded by the natural bounties of the Pasig River, the tibagan or adobe quarries of Guadalupe and its forests, and the vasts fields for agriculture and cattle grazing.

Early period of Makati's urban growth
In the early 20th century, the growth of the city population encouraged Makati to create new urban institutions. The San Pedro church continued to serve the spiritual needs of the public with the San Pedro Macati Cemetery (now Plaza Cristo Rey) in front of it. The presidencia was the simple, single-storey government center was built in 1918 and was replaced by a bigger bahay na bato structure. This is now the Museo ng Makati.

Makati Elementary School was the town’s first school. It was established in the early 1920s and was fondly called Bundok because it sits on high ground of the Southern part of Población. 

The hospital Espanol de Santiago was opened in 1929 beside a retirement home for the Spanish in Manila. Century City now occupies the land where the hospital’s imposing building and award-winning gardens used to stand.

Over the centuries, the Makatenos naturally shaped their own culture and identity!

Devotions were born including to those in the 19th century image of Santo Nino de Pasion, widely believed to have come from the Barrio Culi-Culi, and to Makati’s forgotten patroness, Virgen de la Rosa, brought from Cadiz, Spain via Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade in 1718. 

The Baile de los Arcos is a devotional prayer in song and dance in town’s San Pedro, San Pablo and Virgen de la Rosa. This centuries old-ritual is still performed to this day by nine maidens in June 29 and 30. 

Holy week traditions also showcase Makati’s deep faith. Street chapels called kalbaryo are venues for prayer and fidelity and are expressions of Makateno’s creativity.

The Beginning of Modern Makati
In 1902, the Americans established Fort Mckinley in the east of Makati to be the headquarters of the US Army. It was renamed Fort Bonifacio after  the Second World War.

Housing in the Philippine Army was provided in the outskirts of the  Fort. This period saw the rise of the EMBO’s or the Enlisted Men’s Barrios which later became Barangay to Military Personnel and their families. Can you name all four Embo Barangay?

The Roxas-Zobel de Ayala who inherited the vast Hacienda Pedro de Macati from Pedro Pablo Roxas and his wife Carmen Ayala Roxas (remember them?), was instrumental in the development, the master-planned central business  district and affluent residential communities.

In 1937, their holding company, Ayala y Compania leased out 42 hectares of their property to become country’s first commercial airport called Nielson Field. Today, the passenger terminal and air control building still stands as Nielson Tower.

Makati is also proud of its legacy of leadership; for it would not enjoy today’s triumph without the various degrees of successes of its previous leaders.

KALBARYO - Kalbaryo are either permanent or temporary chapels built around the streets of población for Holy week. These are places where the faithful chant the Pasiong Mahal (Pabasa) and reflect on tableaus of Jesus death and passion. This devotion started in the early 20th century has persisted to this day. From the original 5 makeshift chapels built before the Second World War, these Kalbaryo has evolved to almost 50 grand expressions of Makatizens’ creativity, ingenuity, bayanihan and faith. They are now considered cultural attractions apart from the religious character for which they were originally meant.

CARACOL - Unlike other traditional festivals that have begun centuries ago, the Caracol sa Makati was recently conceived. It started as a Fiesta Island program of a Department of Tourism in 1989 until on January 21,1991, when the city government of Makati it as its official city festival. Caracol is a spanish word of a snail whose shell is viewed as a symbol of protection from the harshness of life and adapted the idea for its annual festival. The Caracol festival is held as a tribal competition among hundreds of students and residents from participating Makati Public Schools and Barangays. Since the team is about protecting nature and preserving Mother Earth, participants dress-up as colorful flowers, exotic plants. Insects, aquatic creatures and forest animals. Judging categories include originality of costumes, choreography and overall performance. The main events are the street dancing contest and the best in costume competition.

PANATANG SAYAW-  A unique devotional songs and dance routine that was created by the locals of San Pedro Macati in honor of the town patrons, St. Peter and the Virgen de la Rosa whose image arrived in the town  from Cadiz, Spain through Acapulco, Mexico in 1718. Nine maidens are chosen from the community to perform exclusively during the town fiesta on June 29 and 30. This dance came to be known as Baile de los Arcos because of the flower arches that the dancers used during the dance. This ritual is still performed today since it was began probably during the 19th century. 

STEGODON - it is believed that certain species of stegodon roamed the land of Southern Luzon. Some fossils of this mammal related to the elephant were found in certain areas of Makati

NUESTRA SEÑORA DE GRACIA - In 1601, the Augustinians established a make-shift monastery in the hilly area overlooking the Población and Pasig River under the advocacy of Our Lady of Grace. In 1603, the patroness was changed to Our Lady of Guadalupe at the request of many devotees. In 1605, work began on the construction of stone church and was finished by 1630. It was a popular pilgrimage area. 

POTTERY - During the spanish colonial period, pottery became one of the leading industries of San Pedro Macati. Its clay was found to be ideal for the purpose. Filipino National Hero Jose Rizal allegedly went to Makati to collect clay to his pottery projects. 

GEN. PIO DEL PILAR - Pio del Pilar (July 11, 1860 - June 21,1931) was a revolutionary general of the Philippines. He was born as Pedro Isidro y Castaneda. To safeguard his family and prevent them from harassment, he changed his surname to del Pilar. He was born in Barrio Culi-Culi (now Pio del Pilar), San Pedro Macati on 11 July of 1860. In May 1896, he joined the Katipunan and formed a chapter called Matagumpay (Triumphant), taking the symbolic name Pang-una (Leader). He was however, arrested by the Spanish authorities who tried to force him to reveal the roster of the Katipunan. He led the group of rebels in the battle of Binakayan on November 9, 1896, capturing the town from Spanish authorities. His last battle was with the Americans, in the town of Morong. He fought bravely but he and his men were defeated and captured. He died on 21 of June 1931 at the age of 70 due to lingering Illness. 

KATIPUNEROS - Makatinos joined the call for revolution against the Spanish colonial government. Led by Gen. Pio del Pilar, they also fought the American forces. The Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe Church was a site of one of their battles.

MIGUEL LOPEZ DE LEGAZPI - In 1571, the Spanish General Miguel Lopez de Legazpi discovered for the spanish crown the small settlement by the river in one of his fluvial expeditions from Manila. When he asked the locals what the name of the place was in his native Spanish, the native who did not understand him pointed the river and replied “Makati na, Kumakati na!” referring to the ebbing tide. He then recorded the name of the place as “MACATI” then dismissed it as a worthless swampland.

history of makati blog

Mayors of Makati
MArcelino Magsaysay (1901-1903)
Eusebio Arpilleda (1903-1908)
Hermogenes Santos (1908-1911)
Urbano Navarro (1911-1913)
Jose Magsaysay (1913-1916)
Pedro Domingo (1917-1919)
Ricardo Arpilleda (1919-1920)
Igmidio Flores (1920-1922)
Nicanor Garcia (1922-1934)
Jose Villena (1935-1941; 1948-1954)
Pablo Cortez (1945-1947)
Ignacio Babasa (1954)
Bernardo Umali (1954)
Maximo Estrella (1956-1969)
Jose Luciano (1966-1979)
Cesar Alzona (1971)
Nemisio Yabut (1972-1986)
Jejomar C. Binay (1986-1998; 2001-2010)
Elenita S. Binay (1998-2001)
Jejomar Erwin S. Binay (2010-2015)
Romulo V. Pena Jr. (2015-2016)
Mar-Len Abigail S. Binay (2016-Present)

The information regarding the history of Makati was based from the exhibit of AGOS in Museo ng Makati. From the pre-colonial kingdom of Namayan to the Modern of Metropolis of Makati, our city features a rich and exciting history.  Got more time to read? You can click HERE to read my Poblacion heritage, food, and bar tour in Makati.

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