Elevated pedicabs dominating the streets of Malabon were designed to adapt to the perpetual flooding in this low-lying city north of Manila. The Artex compound in Brgy. Panghulo is dubbed as “The Venice of Malabon” because it is permanently submerged in water. It has somehow become a tourist spot for photography enthusiasts because of its boat-paddling lifestyle.
At first glance, Malabon looks mundane, not exactly the type for leisurely walk. Many people find the depressed area along the stinking river and canals welcoming visitors utterly disheartening. But for heritage conservation advocates, photography hobbyist, art lovers and food enthusiasts, Malabon is a treasure trove of old colonial houses, arts and native delicacies.
Barangay Concepcion and Baritan as well as the streets of General Luna are dappled with surviving ancestral houses. The oldest is the 1861 Raymundo house well-known for its carved Hapsburg Eagle on its adobe gateway. Some well-maintained old colonial houses are: the 1881 Lapuz House, the Gonzalez house or Paez House built in 1877, the 1910 Jose Luna house now owned by the Teodoro’s, Mario Luna House constructed in 1890 and the 1923 Rojas-Borja house fronting the Concepcion Church.
The Immaculate Concepcion Church of Malabon built in 1886 was taken into possession by the Aglipayans sometime in 1904 but was eventually returned to the Roman Catholics. There’s also an Aglipayan Church (La Indepencia Filipina Church) a few blocks away from it. Another old church, the massive San Bartolome Parish de Malabon houses the Patron saint of Malabon – the Apostle Saint Bartholomew. The façade has Ionic columns inspired by Greco-Roman temple but its walls have been renovated. The splendid dome's ceiling is dotted with paintings of Saints and biblical scenes. The parish is currently under renovation in preparation for its 400 years anniversary.
The old Rufina Patis factory is usually included in the itinerary of tourists visiting Malabon. The late Rufina Salao –Lucas discovered patis (fish sauce) during the 19th century. Another landmark is Tropicana Studio by the late legendary Malabon photographer Dominador “Ador” Cruz.
The iconic studio serves as gallery of photos of prominent Filipino actresses and actors back in the 1940’s. Other prominent art galleries in Malabon which I failed to visit are the house of the artist Arnel Cacnio filled with his paintings and sculptures and Bahay Parokyano that showcases artworks of Malabon’s budding artists.
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Lastly, do not leave Malabon without trying its native delicacies which like the unique sapin-sapin served at Dolor’s Kakanin, Rosy’s pancit Malabon, Lugaw ni Onoy, the delicious broas at Betty’s Cake, Aling Upeng’s Special Kikiam, Tessie’s turon, pianono rolls of R.B Gergorio Bread House, La Ilustre Breadhouse, and Judy Anne’s Crispy Pata.
How to commute to Malabon:
Ride the LRT Line 1 and get off at Monumento station. Walk until you reach the iconic monument of Andres Bonifacio. Turn left towards the overpass fronting the green building of Pure Gold and cross there. Take a jeep bound to Malabon poblacion. Suggested first stop is the church of San Bartolome adjacent to the towering Municipal Building of Malabon. To get to the heritage houses in Brgy. Concepcion and General Luna take a pedicab or a jeep bound to Gasak which will pass by the area.
Gael Hilotin is the author of The Pinay Solo Backpacker.