Caloocan, meaning “nasa sulok” or interior, referring to her location, is divided into 2, the urban area, Caloocan 1, bounded by Malabon, Quezon City, and Navotas, and the rural area, Caloocan 2, bounded by San Jose del Monte and northern Manila. Long ago, the city extended as far as foothills of Marikina, Tanza and Tala rivers, as a town in the early 1800’s, after she separated from Tondo. Caloocan 1 is mainly the southern reclaimed area of Dagat-dagatan, the lowest land to sea level, while Caloocan 2, the hilly portion, is 100 meters above the sea. The first revolt led by Andres Bonifacio, whose monument is the main landmark of the city, inspired similar revolts across the country, and hastened surrender of Spain to Americans in 1898. The heroic defense of the town reduced her to rubble. Reconstruction followed, as Caloocan became part home station of the British-owned old Manila-Dagupan railways to the north.
Grace Park, the center of the city, where the Bonifacio monument with the Katipunan tableau stands on a circular park with a rotunda road, used to be lush greenery during the pre-war years, where the American depot station # 5 was located. Many main roads of the capital region start here. Old Highway 54, now modern EDSA, begins from the east of the rotunda towards Quezon City and Pasay. South and in front of the rotunda, Avenida Rizal heads to Quiapo and Sta. Cruz. North and at the back of the rotunda, old MacArthur highway starts here, enroute to central and northern Luzon. West and right of the circle, Samson road, a narrow 2-lane highway to Sangandaan, crossroad to Malabon, Navotas, begins and connects all the way to Roxas blvd. T stores, and fastfoods that replaced the lush greenery. LRT trains, on elevated stations and tracks, built in late 70’s during Pres. Marcos term, starts near the rotunda, and quietly glides with speed atop Rizal and Taft Aves. to Pasay, through the heart of the region. From elevated trains, riders and tourists may see a new face of the city, moving images of new and old buildings, rusty and colored rooftops, shanties, old houses and stores that front the avenues above traffic of jeepneys, cars, buses, at times snarled in traffic at many points. Plans are afoot to connect the LRT North EDSA route to Caloocan, the coming year. Caloocan has long been a crossroad of the north and the south. The Gotesco Grand Central is a huge shopping mall at Rizal Ave. Manila Central Univ., a landmark in Caloocan, has both a school and a hospital on a wide, sprawling campus. The Univ. of the East’s Buena Sports complex, features a swimming pool, pelota, tennis and basketball courts, with fine diners serving Filipino cuisine. The Gubat and Luzviminda resorts, are idyllic places inside the city that feature swimming pools with water slides, cottages, cozy restaurant, and where dart game competition is held. Tala Leprosarium, where lepers are isolated and cared for, is the oldest in Asia.
Malabon, a coastal town along Malabon-Navotas river, is bounded by Valenzuela, Navotas, and Caloocan City. In the past, she was a “visita” and a part of Tondo province until the late 1600’s. For a time, she was one with Navotas under new province of Rizal, for 70 years until 1975, when she became a part of the national capital region. While fishing and factories for spice by-products, as Rufina patis, are major industries, the city has emerged as a busy trading town with ample facilities as transport, many banks, stores, shops, modern buildings, essential to trade and commerce. The Rizal Shrine on E. Rodriguez plaza, Sanciangco marker at barangay Tonsuya, and Asilo de Herzamos, where orphans are housed and cared for, and where once documents of the revolution were printed, are among her historical and cultural landmarks. Malabon zoo and aquarium, where native, exotic animals and rare varieties of fishes are reared and displayed on a hectare of tropical rainforest, is a model preserve. The zoo allows visitors, young and old, to pet wild animals that normally avoid human contact, while nature lovers, leave the place, enriched with knowledge of forest and wildlife. Old Spanish San Bartolome Church in Barangay San Agustin, built in the 1600’s, and the more recent Immaculate Conception parish, are both crowded with folks, dressed-up for Sunday services. An old Chinese temple, a pagoda, adds oriental mystique to University hills. Every Dec. 8, Catholic and Aglipay churches jointly celebrate Feast of Our Lady, featuring colorful grand fluvial procession and merry costumed street dancers, along the Malabon-Navotas river. Public transport is easily available with pedicabs, jeepneys, few buses, oftentimes boxed in traffic on her busy narrow roads. The public market teems with fresh vegetables, fruits, fish and assorted goods arrayed in makeshift tables and stalls. In Caloocan 2, there are many nice, newer subdivisions, factories, warehouses and heavy industries sprouting west of the North Expressway. Araneta Univ., an old agricultural school, has modern buildings and facilities easing on a large campus.
Navotas, a small fishing town with narrow streets like old Bulacan, is an island about 4.5 kms. long and is at the end point of the northern extension of Roxas blvd. across Del Pan Bridge passing by Smokey Mountain, the North Harbor, where interisland ships berth, and bayside Tondo. Wide, new roads were concreted and rows of low-cost public housing, to replace shanties, were built during the terms of Pres. Aquino and Ramos. Fishing boats, barges and trawlers land at her shores at dawn of each day, while restaurant, grocery owners, wholesale buyers and concessionaires wait for the harvest to arrive at the Navotas Fishery Port, turning night into day with feverish hauling, buy-and-sell, and bargaining at the fishport. Navotas is a busy trading town, and slides to neighboring cities of Caloocan and Manila with boundaries, obliterated by crowded rows of houses, traffic, and busy people on the go. Many believe, long ago, that the town was not entirely surrounded by water as it is now. The constant flow and battering by turbulent bay waves to a low level strip of land, carved out water pathways, as inland water ebbed in and out to the open sea, forming Navotas river, for which people called the place “nabutas” meaning “breached or pierced through”. Navotas shares common border with Obando along Sukol creek, Binuagan, and Daang Cawayan rivers, Bangculasi, and Malabon channels, and Estero de Maypajo. Manila bay washes on shores of Navotas, bringing bounty of fish and marine wealth. Navotas is home to small and big-time trawlers, fishermen, stevedores, traders, workers and laborers, who earn their income from more sophisticated deep-sea fishing boats. Like Malabon and Caloocan l, perennial severe flooding, waist deep during typhoon and rainy seasons, hamper her more aggressive progress, as do the heavy traffic on narrow roads.
Caloocan, Malabon and Navotas, old cities near the bay, laden with traffic, trade, and lives of folks at work and on the go, add a unique and broad expanse to our nation’s beautiful and charming Capital Region, truly gifted by the Lord with blend of places and people.
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