the world as I see it

Then and Now – Plaza de España

Posted by BCS on October 26, 2008


Plaza de Espana in 1945 - Photo courtesy of the United States National Archives (http://www.archives.gov/)

Plaza de España in Intramuros... is this the same place? (Photo taken on September 27, 2008)

Plaza de España in Intramuros... is this the same place? (Photo taken on September 27, 2008)

I’ve spent quite an amount of time figuring out how the 1945 photo was taken even with all the clues seen on it and the maps I have as my references. And, still, I’m not 100% sure.

Notice that there’s a sign that says “Plaza de España” on the wall of the structure on the right edge of the old photograph. Obviously, this means that that side of the structure is facing towards the “Plaza de España”.

What confuses my untrained eyes and mind is the structure on the left which looks very much like a church.

Now, “Plaza de España” (which was, according to the marker found there, formerly known as “Plaza de los Martirez de la Integridad Nacional”) was bounded by the “Aduana” (north side), the Unibersidad de Santo Tomas (South West side), and the original Sto. Domingo Church (South East side).

Referring to the 1851 map of Intramuros, I thought, if the “Aduana” is on the right, it could only mean that the photo was taken towards the west and no church should be visible there. Instead, we should be seeing a portion of the old UST campus (is that how it looked like?). In addition to that, we also shouldn’t be seeing a street vanishing into the background.


Portion of an 1851 map of Intramuros showing area where Plaza de España is now situated - courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/)

For a brief moment I thought that the photo might have been exposed with the negative flipped over thus resulting to a “mirrored” positive print. But I dismissed the idea right away since the letters on the sign are not reversed.

I then compared the 1851 map to another map, dated 1898, and noticed a huge difference in the layout of the Plaza’s surrounding areas. In the newer map, the northern corner of the area occupied by the old UST campus does not extend anywhere near the Aduana (unlike in the older map) which provides for an unobstructed view of a street like the one seen on the old photo. Also, basing still on the newer map and from what I’m supposing was the vantage point of the old photograph, the UST campus should not be seen in the picture also. And for that, I’m supposing that the church-like structure seen on the left portion of the old photo is one that’s situated across the UST campus. So, what building is that?


Portion af an 1898 map of Intramuros showing Plaza de los Martirez de la Patria and its immediate surroundings - Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/)

In addition to that, the Plaza is named “Plaza de los Martirez de la Patria” and not “Plaza de los Martirez de la Integridad Nacional” as indicated on the marker I mentioned earlier.

One more thing that makes me doubt (somewhat) my conclusions is that the street seen in the old photo is not visible in the recent photograph I took. Has the layout been changed (once again) after the war? Or am I looking in the wrong direction?

By the way, the site on which the old Santo Domingo Church once stood is now occupied by the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) building. While the site of the old University of Santo Tomas campus is now occupied by the BF Condo building.

The Bank of the Philippine Islands building now occupies the site where the old Santo Domingo Church used to stand (Photo taken on September 27, 2008)

The Bank of the Philippine Islands building now occupies the site where the old Santo Domingo Church used to stand (Photo taken on September 27, 2008)

Note on the use of the old photograph and maps:

From the United States National Archives website:

“The vast majority of the digital images in the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) are in the public domain. Therefore, no written permission is required to use them. We would appreciate your crediting the National Archives and Records Administration as the original source. For the few images that remain copyrighted, please read the instructions noted in the “Access Restrictions” field of each ARC record.”

From the University of Texas Libraries website:

“Most of the maps scanned by the University of Texas Libraries and served from this web site are in the public domain. No permissions are needed to copy them. You may download them and use them as you wish.”

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10 Responses to “Then and Now – Plaza de España”

  1. achiemoon said

    That photo of BPI is where my mom used to work. It used to be the old Sto. Domingo church pala, sabi ng mom ko may nagmumulto raw before (a nun).

  2. BCS said

    Did she ever see it personally??? Ang sarap sanang gumawa ng series on haunted places eh lalo na’t it’s that time of the year nanaman… kaya lang mukhang mahirap. :P

  3. achiemoon said

    i think she did, but i’m not sure.

    dude, i have been staring at the map and can’t figure out where the 1945 photo fits in. naloka den ako hehe, specially because i’m familiar with the place (i used to go to my mom’s office a lot then)

    i think i know where Beaterio and Aduana is, the map makes sense pero when i see the photograph, parang baligtad…

  4. achiemoon said



    ok matatahimik nako. pwede nako matulog :P

  5. BCS said

    Exactly my predicament also… I suppose you’re saying “parang baliktad” yung photo because of the sign (cut off to the right side of the old photo) that has the letters “A” and “D” on it… “ADUANA” nga kaya yun? kaya naisip ko rin dati baka baliktad yung pagkakaprint ng photo, but then the words of the sign on the wall (that says “Plaza de España”) reads right naman.

    Nakakaloko talaga… that’s why I’m thinking that I’m probably looking at the wrong place with regards to the recent photograph.

  6. BCS said

    Hahahaha!!! Thank you thank you!!! So, I was wrong with regards to the direction of the recent photo. I hope I’ll have time to revisit the place soon so that I can correct the error. :)

  7. achiemoon said

    ito pa dude you might want to take a look at this:

    (sensha na to whoever owns this album hehe)

    and this:

    if you look at the 2nd link, medyo “rounded” yung end na yun of St. Domingo Church, which confirms the 1945 photo.

    as for the flickr photo, i think this was taken from the opposite side of the 1945 photo. I’m not sure but maybe you can see a little bit of your Plaza de Espana in the background (behind the church)

    (addik :P)

  8. BCS said

    Hahaha! Panalo ka talaga! Salamat salamat! :D :D :D You get my two thumbs and two big toes up for that! Hahaha!

  9. Laurence said

    the first photo, the old one of Plaza de Espana, actually shows two prominent buildings. the one on left is truly the Santo Domingo Church, the Plaza is located at the back. the one on the right, with street signages is actually the ruins of the old UST. you should have taken your new picture from BF condominium, on the spot of the marker of the UST, which is facing the Luneta Park. your new picture is taken from the other end of the plaza, thus you have shown a different orientation, facing the ROxas Boulevard.

    • BCS said

      Thank you very much, Lawrence. :) I’ve been meaning to correct the error, however I haven’t been able to find the time to visit the place again, at least not just yet. Nevertheless, your comment is very well noted and VERY MUCH appreciated. :)

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