A History of Prominence: The Heritage Houses of New Manila
Before Forbes Park, there was New Manila. It was where Manila’s elite lived.
In the '30s and '40s, many of Manila’s prominent families clamored to buy block-sized properties in the enclave developed by Doña Magdalena de Hemady. They included the Cojuangcos, the Madrigals, the Ysmaels, and the Delgados. Since new Manila pre-dated Forbes Park, the same rich families did not bother to join the first wave of buyers of lots in the exclusive Makati subdivision. They had no need to. They already had larger estates with grand mansions complete with fireplaces (the Alcuazes and Aranetas) in their nooks in Quezon City.
More interesting than the houses built there were the people who owned and lived in these grand structures. The Gaudencio Antoninos had a whole block in New Manila. Other prominent figures included Lorenzo Tañada, Emmanuel Pelaez, Dona Angela Butte, and some of the Papas, Cu-unjiengs, and the de Leons. The Chinese new rich also bought their estates in the area.
To the southwest of New Manila is Rolling Hills subdivision where Amalia Fuentes originally lived. The nearby Horseshoe Drive subdivision was where Nestor de Villa resided. On N. Domingo, between Gilmore and Dona Hemady, the Camposes had their storefront. And across lived Doña Ubaldo.
It was in the '80s when the heirs of the original families started moving to Makati and Alabang. Some of them sold their properties, which were then converted to condominiums and townhouses. Fortunately, some of the houses have been preserved, giving us a glimpse of New Manila’s former glory.
Doña Sisang House a.k.a. Lola Nidora’s House
Doña Narcisa “Sisang” de Leon was an executive of LVN Pictures. More than being a stalwart in the entertainment industry, she was also influential in the political arena. Her house along Broadway Avenue was designed by no less than National Artist for Architecture Pablo S. Antonio in 1935.
Her house hosted parties for the several presidents, including Manuel Quezon, Elpidio Quirino, and Ramon Magsaysay. Because of her connection to the entertainment industry, it was also used as a location for LVN films, including the 1953 classic Dagohoy. One of its most recent appearances on TV was on Eat Bulaga’s "Kalyeserye." It was used as the house of a character in the show called Lola Nidora.
36 Valencia Street
Gloria Romero, Susan Roces, Amalia Fuentes, and Gina Pareño were just some of Sampaguita Pictures’ famed talents during the Golden Age of Philippine Cinema. Sampaguita's studio compound was located in New Manila, and it included the house of the Vera-Perez Family, the same family that founded Sampaguita Pictures in 1937.
During World War II, the place was converted into a Japanese garrison, and all production activities were limited to inside the house. It's now known as Sampaguita Gardens, an events place for weddings, debuts, and parties.
Dr. Domingo Lerma was a bachelor and one of the earliest antique collectors in pre-war Manila. His attitude matched the eclectic, Mediterranean-style of his residence on 11th Street.
The mansion was later acquired by the Gallego-Ongsiako family. It was renamed Villa Caridad after Caridad Ongsiako-Gallego, the aunt of socialites Pacita Ongsiako de los Reyes-Phillips and Imelda de la Paz Ongsiako-Cojuangco. The house was designed by Alejandro Caudal, the architect responsible for installing the decorations of the state receptions of the Malacañang Palace until the early 1950s.
Felix Manalo House
42 Broadway Avenue
As its name suggests, the Felix Manalo house was the residence of the founder of Iglesia ni Cristo. It also served as the formal central office of the church and its members during Iglesia's early days. In 1939, the church founded its publication, Pasugo: God’s Message Magazine, in the very same place. Most recently, the house was depicted in the biopic Felix Manalo starring Dennis Trillo.
Pacific and 11th Streets
The house of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Klar was constructed in 1948. It was also designed by architect Antonio and is included in Sylvia Montilla’s book, The Architectural Legacy of Pablo S. Antonio.
Antonio was also involved in the finishing and landscaping of the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Felipe Ysmael Jr. The family was connected to Doña Magdalena Hashim Ysmael-Hemady. One of its most famous members, Johnny, Manila 400’s bad boy, was said to race not cars, but horses around New Manila. The Ysmael House was constructed in 1960 and is also listed in The Architectural Legacy of Pablo S. Antonio.
Heritage Homes That Were Moved
Quezon Heritage House
45 Gilmore Street
Former President Manuel Quezon’s house was situated on 45 Gilmore Street in New Manila since 1927. It was a two-storey house of beige and white, done in the neo-classical American style. Aside from being the birth place of the Philippine Red Cross (Dona Aurora used to preside its meeting), it was also the vacation house of the Quezon family. In the last decade, the house was reconstructed, restored, and transferred to Quezon Memorial Circle, where it now serves as a museum.
The house on Rosal Street served as headquarters of BAYAN during the Martial Law era. This was where the activists planned and recouped. It was also where street performers, some of them PETA members, rehearsed for rally performances. Lean Alejandro, a student leader from UP, was shot here while he was pulling up the driveway.