The railway station-turned-mall in Divisoria

December 21, 2017

Divisoria of course is famed among shoppers for the low prices offered in its many stalls, although counterfeit goods and those of questionable quality are also openly traded here. When the Spaniards arrived at Rajah Soliman's palisaded Maynila, which constitutes the boundaries occupied by present-day Intramuros, they found a bustling community almost dominated by Chinese artisans. And because the conquistadors were vastly outnumbered, and also fearing a Chinese rebellion, they drove the traders outside and into the arrabales (suburbs), where the new communities were called parian. One of the sites of these parians is now occupied by the neoclassical Manila Post Office, located at Liwasang Bonifacio. However, due to the limited space, many of these traders eventually settled in Binondoc, which is intersected by numerous tributaries; the present-day name of course is Binondo, site of the world's oldest Chinatown. 


Divisoria (which means 'divide' in Spanish), without a clearly defined boundary, of course is practically connected to Binondo, and such was the economic importance of the area that on June 26, 1875, a Royal Decree commissioned the establishment of a railroad system. The overall plan was undertaken by Don Eduardo Lopez Navarro,which was approved on May 11, 1883. The concession was awarded to Don Edmundo Sykes on January 21, 1887, but was then transferred to the Manila Railroad Company Ltd. of London. The entire length of the railway system, from Manila to Dagupan in Pangasinan, is 195 kilometers long. Inauguration date: November 24, 1892. 


In late June 1892, Jose Rizal boarded a train here to visit friends in Central Luzon. A few days later he was arrested on charges of smuggling into the colony copies of Pobres Frailes, a biting work aimed at ridiculing the friars. It is worth noting that Englishman Charles Henry Porter Kipping was among those who laid the groundwork of the train station, under the supervision of Engr. Crisostomo Villamil; he married the reluctant and heartbroken Leonor Rivera, Jose Rizal's long-suffering girlfriend, in June 17, 1890. 


Few people realize that this structure once was the site of the Manila-Dagupan Railway Station; for many it is just a mall with an artsy-fartsy façade. 


 The photos below, included to give my readers a glimpse of how this part of Divisoria appeared many decades ago, were graciously contributed by Eduardo de Leon, through his Flickr account:

 This postcard shows a Tranvia, which went defunct after the Second World War, to be replaced by jeepneys. I think I would prefer a tram anytime in lieu of jeepneys. At any rate, marvel at that sprawling complex- today's Divisoria is hands down a far cry from it:

 When I was growing up I often wondered why this part of Divisoria was called 'Dagupan', when I knew then that Dagupan is in Pangasinan. Well, it is most likely because the Manila-Dagupan station was situated here, and it would be rather be at the height of arbitrariness if someone calls this 'Manila', when Divisoria is already a part of Manila.

Below is a colorized photo of the structure; the building on the right of course was not among those renovated.

 Well, I hope more people become aware that Tutuban Mall is more than a mall. Maybe then they will begin to look at it more differently. As Carlos Celdran once remarked, "You cannot change the way Manila looks. But you can change the way you look at Manila."






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