Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Ermita was founded in the late 16th century. The name was taken from the Spanish word for "hermitage", after the fact that on this site was built a hermitage housing an image of the Virgin Mary known as the Nuestra SeƱora de Guia (Our Lady of Guidance). The hermitage has since evolved into Ermita Church, which has been rebuilt several times since the early 17th century.

Ermita gained renewed prominence during the American colonial period. It became known as the university district, containing the campuses of the University of the Philippines, the Ateneo de Manila, the Assumption College and the St. Paul College for girls. Dormitories for students also flourished in the area. The residential portion of Ermita was populated by American residents, who set up such establishments as the Army and Navy Club, and the University Club.

I vividly remember a book I read back in college, written by a favorite author, F. Sionil Jose called Ermita. The heroine Ermita Rojo, used to study in Assumption college. They used to have a house with durable blue tiles. And when Malate became a bohemian town in the 90's, I used to search for Ermita's mansion.

Wonder why Old Manila's "Forbes Park" became a seedy sex tourist spot that it is now? 

 During the 1945 Battle of Manila, Ermita was the scene of some of the most horrific massacres that occurred during the month of February, 1945. The wife and four children of future President Elpidio Quirino were murdered in Ermita, as was Supreme Court Associate Justice Anacleto Diaz. Between 68% to 85% of Ermita was destroyed during the Battle of Manila, with an estimated total of 100,000 Filipino civilians killed in the city itself. 

 And since then, affluent Pinoys left Ermita in shambles. Some chose to stay, while others fleed to Makati...a burgeoning business and affluent center. 

What happened to Ermita, is a microcosm of history. Time flies and some places get destroyed while new places are being built. 

(some photos from

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