First of three parts
LONG ago, Pasay City was regarded as the “Boracay” of the metropolis because of its white beaches and beautiful sceneries of the majestic Manila Bay.
With the passing of time, this image was ruined not only by war but also by massive development and commercialization.
Local historian, Benjamin Bal’orom, a long-time city resident, said that Pasay originated from the reign of Rajah Soliman, then the head of Manila, who was ordered by the Sultan of Sumatra to fight the Sultan of Borneo, a feared wicked ruler.
The Sultan of Sumatra promised that anybody who could bring him the head of the Sultan of Borneo would be allowed to marry his daughter.
Soliman succeeded in defeating the Sultan of Borneo and as agreed upon, he married a Sumatran princess and bore two heirs, namely Princess Pasay and Prince Sowaboy.
Before his death, Soliman divided his realm between his two children.
Princess Pasay was named after Princess Dayang-dayang Pasay of the Namayan Kingdom. Princess Pasay inherited lands from her father now comprising modern-day Makati, Pasay and Baclaran, hence the name Pasay.
In 1727, Pasay was formerly attached to Santa Ana and annexed to Malate in Manila.
Before Pasay became independent, criminality and violence had become rampant, caused by lawless elements from nearby areas. Because of this, residents and leaders of Pasay sought help from those who could address the problem.
A Spanish horticulturist named Don Cornelio Pineda, from Singalong, Manila responded to the call and requested for guardias civiles for protection from indigenous rebellion.
In honor of Pineda, the ancient pre- colonial name of the Pasay settlement was changed to Pineda a name that was retained until the early 20th century.
But in 1863, prominent people of Pasay petitioned civil and ecclesiastical authorities that they be granted autonomy and the petition was granted through the recommendation of Archibishop Gregorio Meliton, thus making Pasay independent from Manila.
On August 4, 1901, a resolution was approved by the municipal council headed by Pascual Villanueva calling for the return of the city’s name to Pasay.
Bal’oro said the city then was the favorite destination of foreign traders like the Chinese, Muslims and Spaniards engaged in barter trading with the locals because of its being a strategic location.
During the Spanish colonization, the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade even made a stopover in Pasay heading towards Manila from Ternate, Cavite making the city more attractive to traders.
The Manila-Acapulco galleon trade also boosted economic activity in the city.
“The style of trading during that time was secret bidding. Buyers whisper their bid prices to the sellers to prevent misunderstanding,” Bal’oro said.
During the Spanish rule, Bal’oro said there was a long road built by the sea, called Callejo Real that connected Puerto San Antonio de Abad (presently Vito Cruz) to La Huerta in Parañaque.
The long road, he added, was further improved during the American occupation where they reclaimed a portion of the bay calling it Dewey Boulevard, a long thoroughfare along Manila Bay, stretching from the T.M. Kalaw Avenue to Pasay City.
It was named in honor of American Admiral George Dewey who defeated the Spanish navy in the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898.
In the sixties, the streets names were changed to Roxas Boulevard, to honor President Manuel Roxas, the country’s fifth President.
He said the road served as the “Baywalk” of the city as this was the favorite hangout of sweethearts. “The dike was a favorite spot for lovers, there was romance by the sea,” he added.
Because of its stunning sceneries, Pasay City became more attractive to those living from the Southern part of Metro Manila like Batangas, Laguna, Quezon and Cavite.
Bal’oro said the city also became the converging points of people from all parts of Luzon for competitions and events. “Pasay became the center of competitions like the gorions or big kites, they all gathered here for the event,” he added.
Because of its proximity to Manila, Pasay quickly became an urban town during the American Occupation.
Besides, Pasay had also its first commercial hub in Libertad with big pavilion serving as the center for live band competitions and balagtasan.
But all of these were destroyed during World War II when Japanese forces bombarded American installations and the Americans fought liberated the country from the Japanese invaders. “During the war, Pasay was leveled to the ground. It was heavily bombarded,” he said.
On June 21, 1947, President Manuel Roxas signed Republic Act 183 elevating Pasay into a city, the only city in the entire Rizal province.
The late Councilor Eulogio Rodriguez filed a resolution before the Municipal Council seeking Pasay’s independence from Rizal. The resolution was approved and later signed by President Elpidio Quirino on June 7, 1950.
Crippled during the war, Pasay officials were determined to rehabilitate and develop the city. After the war, the development in Pasay was unstoppable especially during the Marcos regime when the late Mayor Pablo Cuneta ruled the city.
Bal’oro said Cuneta, who ruled Pasay for 40 years, was a close friend of the Marcoses which he took advantage as he was given support for the city’s development.
Cuneta’s friendship with the Marcoses bore fruit as the national government chose Pasay to be the location of some of its vital infrastructure projects such as the Manila International Airport, Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex, including Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Tanghalang Francisco Balagtas (formerly Folk Arts Theater), Manila Film Center and Coconut Palace.
During Cuneta’s term Pasay was known as the country’s ‘sin city’ because of the proliferation of prostitution dens masquerading as nightclubs and bars.
High criminality rate was also recorded during that time which changed the image of Pasay from a history-rich city to notoriety.
(To be continued)