Baclaran as Summer Getaway

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On April 7th 1939 of the Chronicles of the Baclaran Community we read:

“Today was a terribly hot day, this afternoon the Archbishop came to enjoy the cool breeze from the bay.”

Can you believe that Baclaran was once a refuge from the heat of Manila?  When the Redemptorists first gave up Malate Parish and began their new Mission house in Baclaran, the Columbans, who took over Malate often walked around the bay to visit the Redemptorists and swim in the clear waters of Baclaran.

In the 60s and early 70s Redemptorists from Iloilo who were teaching in the Juvenate in Iloilo often spent part of their summer break in Baclaran and sat each afternoon on the top verandah of the convento enjoying the cool breeze and watching the sun set. Bro. Charles O’ Brien who lived for many years in Baclaran could be seen at two o’clock in the afternoon in his shorts having a siesta on the rocks just across the Boulevard from the Monastery. He would then dive into the crystal clear water for a swim before returning to the Convento, for merienda and the afternoon’s work.

In 1968 when a strong typhoon swept through Manila it took hours to clear the shells from the second story verandah of the Convento. The shells were picked up from the beach by the breeze of the typhoon and dumped on the second floor. Large “bankas” used to come across from Bataan on calm Wednesdays to bring the people to the Novena and wait on the other side of the Boulevard, just opposite the front gate, to take the people home again.

If you are a teenager or under twenty five years of age you may find these things hard to believe, but all these things happened, during the life of your parents and grandparents. Now it may be difficult to live without an air conditioner in Baclaran. You may think of the reclamation area as a place for fast food or the Mall of Asia as a necessity of life, but once they were under the sea and Baclaran was a place to go to find the cool breezes and buy cheap seafood.

John Maguire, CSsR

(This article is an excerpt from the book National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Tips, Trivia and Tribute by John Maguire, Joey Echano, et. al., soon to be published)

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When Manila Bay was in Front of the Baclaran Church

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Before World War II, the waters of Manila Bay used to come up to the refectory of the Redemptorist convent in Baclaran during high tide.  After the war it used to lap the shore along Roxas Boulevard. Now the sea is more than a kilometer away from the Church.

The name Baclaran originated from the word “baclad,” which means fishtrap. Baclad is made of rattan used to segregate fingerlings from the bigger fishes during the time when the Baclaran River and the Manila Bay were still used to breed fish. In the early years of the last century, this village was popularly known as “the place of the fishtraps”, thus, people started calling it the “bacladan”, which later became to be known, “Baclaran.” When the Redemptorists settled at Baclaran, the sea was just right at the fence of the compound which today is Roxas Boulevard. In those days, one could still see many fishing boats anchored near the seashore.  After the mass, the Fathers would usually take a dip into the clean water of Manila Bay.[1]

The Redemptorists first came to Manila in 1906. They proceeded, however, to the island of Opon near Cebu where they first settled and began their mission in the Visayas islands. In 1913, they returned to Manila and was entrusted the care of the parish of Malate. In 1931, they transferred to Baclaran. The parish of Malate was turned over to the Columban fathers.

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Fr. John Maguire, CSsR recalls how, in olden days, the Redemptorist and the Columbans used to walk along the shore of Manila Bay to visit each other’s convent in Baclaran and Malate. The Parish of Malate was centered around the present Malate Church which was then fronting the beach. When the Redemptorists transferred to Baclaran they were also fronting the beach. Often on cool afternoons they would take a walk to Malate along the beach, have a swim, visit the Columban Fathers who had taken over in Malate, join them for merienda and then walk home. On other days the Columbans would do the same, in reverse order of course. The result was that the two communities became close to each other and until recently were still inviting each other to celebrations in their respective areas.

The enjoyable walk along the beach, however, has now become a health hazard. The beach is a road full of crazy drivers. The sidewalk is the kingdom of street children, beggars, pickpockets, snatchers and the whole thing is wrapped in a blanket of smog and pollution. The beach is more than a kilometer away.

So much for the good old days. They call it progress.

 

 


 

[1] Fr. Sam Boland, CSsR, Redemptorists in Luzon, 19.