Finding 963 Hidalgo

New assignment- find the original location of the first UP Conservatory of Music in Quiapo! Original location with most street names already altered….Quiapo? For someone who doesn’t live in Manila, the thought of Quiapo might be a little scary. We’ve heard various stories from there and how unsafe it was. But Quiapo holds a beautiful history and once was a home of the most beautiful and fashionable street in 19th-century Manila. Have you seen the baroque Quiapo church? Isn’t that an evidence enough? Growing up in the streets of Sta. Mesa and college days in Quezon City, I’m kind of well-versed around the metro. But for some reasons, besides Tondo, Quiapo is something I’ve left untouched. Other than that time when I went there with my team for the Muslim costumes, I haven’t ever gone around Quiapo, yet.

hidalgo street

Few days before the assignment, I encountered an article that says something like, “Hidalgo was the most beautiful street in its time.” I then assumed it could be what I’m looking for. I got two different tips: one was to check on the books in the library, while the other one says scan through the internet instead. I’m sure I’ve encountered an old picture of the college, I need to check in the library, though. Unfortunately, for some reasons, the library is inaccessible. Internet seems the easiest, but unfortunately it can’t show any picture of the old conservatory. I’m only sure of one thing, it’s in Hidalgo between Sebastian church and Quiapo church. Nevertheless, I embarked on my first try, armed only with my basic phone, notebook, sun gear and the ever reliable Google map.

It was a Sunday afternoon. You’ll hear the Mosque’s prayers around while the Roman Catholics filled the Quiapo church.The streets are not busy as it is on a regular day. It wasn’t long before I found Hidalgo street, but it was hard to find an approachable old person who I can ask neither find two people who’ll give me the same answer.

Hidalgo has worn old through the ages. There is chaos and camaraderie at the start of the street, crowded by vendors. Litters of papers and plastics are everywhere. Most, if not all, of the old buildings were left dilapidated, totally uncared for. One of them is the rundown Spanish neoclassical Zamora building which originally belong to a doctor, but now has become a home to informal settlers while two other similar-looking buildings have become dormitories or dumitories. There are too many filth around, I had a hard time  ‘observing.’ I’ve been too preoccupied making sure I don’t step on ‘something’ on the streets.

paterno bldg
Zamora House, home of Manuel Zamora who invented the “tiki-tiki”.

A little walk further in the middle of the road, you’ll find schools standing in place of old buildings. The biggest of them is Manuel L. Quezon University who bought most the lots together with San Jose builders.

oldest building
Oldest building found in Hidalgo street.

The oldest building I found is the small two-floor convent by the middle of the street. A clinic stands in front of it. It used to be the home of the Mother Superior of the Parish of the Holy Face of Jesus. The people claim it to have stood as early as the 1800s. One old man claimed it to have stood from 1811. It was there long before the parish was built. The building’s second floor was made of wood, and the first floor was all in bricks, an old typical Spanish architecture.The bars and the details are still good. Unfortunately, it burned on June 30 last year. No one can tell me how it burned, though. People say it will eventually put down anytime soon.

It was pretty challenging to be finding an old building without strong references, but I strongly feel that the pink men’s dormitory across MLQU was the old conservatory I’m looking for. I found it in a sad state. Though the parts are still intact, you’ll see evidences that it was taken for granted.

I need a proof that it was the house I’m looking for. I visited a Nakpil museum who stands right off Hidalgo at N. Bautista street. Pictures of old buildings who used to stand in Hidalgo are found on the wall. There’s a photo of the first University of the Philippines Fine Arts building who looks closely similar to that pink men’s dormitory. I asked the lady in charge to clarify my findings, but she claims that the first music conservatory was bought by an Architect Acuzar who brought the builing to Bataan together with other members of his heritage building collection.

I was startled. What if I have to go to Bataan to check it out? The idea, however, sounded like a good thing for I can take advantage of the chance to be able the famous Las Casa Filipinas de Acuzar, a home to heritage buildings bought by the architect. That’s not practical, though. The next day, I checked on the library instead. To my gratitude, I found an old picture of the conservatory in the reserved archives. Why didn’t I make it sure to check on it in the first place? It would have only taken me less than 15 minutes to find the old building if I checked the archives first. The pink men’s dormitory was the conservatory I’m looking for, and the one brought in Bataan was the old Fine Arts building.

conservatory of music quiapo
Home of Francisco Santiago, presently known as Ocampo Mansion, which later became the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music.

The first building of UP’s Conservatory of Music was originally the house of Francisco Santiago, remembered as the Father of Kundiman. I’m glad to have found it still standing where it was. The windows are windows and other details are still intact, but it was unfortunate to have seen it in its worn-out state. I wished to have seen how it was inside. Apparently, it wouldn’t be safe for me to go in alone.

Observing it from the outside, I can imagine how musical it used to be. The building is filled of beautiful memories who used to be a place where great musicians are trained. Historical buildings like this music conservatory behold stories from our past. They not only hold memories, but also connect us to old times we’ll never see physically. History will always be part of us, it should not be taken for granted. We’ve come better today through the lessons learned from the old. These buildings not only represent our history or heritage, but also bring us back to lessons from the past. If only the owners would realize how glorious these have been in the old days, they would have taken care of it.

Like the elders we have in our society, historical treasures like these architecture in Hidalgo street should be respected and maintained.



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