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Then and Now – Plaza de Cervantes

Posted by BCS on October 9, 2008

//dlxs.library.cornell.edu/s/sea/index.php)

Plaza de Cervantes in 1899 - Photo used with permission, courtesy of Cornell University Library, John M. Echols Collection on Southeast Asia (http://dlxs.library.cornell.edu/s/sea/index.php)

Plaza de Cervantes circa 2008 (Photo taken on October 4, 2008)

Plaza de Cervantes circa 2008 (Photo taken on October 4, 2008)

A footnote in the English translation of Rizal’s “El Filibusterismo” by Charles Derbyshire (copyright, 1912, by Philippine Education Company) states:

“Originally, Plaza San Gabriel, from the Dominican mission for the Chinese established there; later, as it became a commercial center, Plaza Vivac; and now known as Plaza Cervantes, being the financial center of Manila.—Tr.”

In Chapter 2 (entitled “All About the Town”) of the book “The Great White Tribe in Filipinia” by Paul T. Gilbert (1903, Jennings and Pye), Plaza de Cervantes is described as:

“The banking center of Manila, built around a dusty plaza in the Tondo district, and consisting of low buildings occupied by offices of shipping and commercial companies, suggests a scene from “The Merchant of Venice” or “Othello.” English firms—such as Warner, Barnes & Co.; Smith, Bell & Co.; the Hong Kong-Shanghai Banking Corporation, where the silver pesos jingle as the deft clerks stack them up or handle them with their small spades—are situated hereabouts.”

As you may have noticed, Gilbert said “Tondo district” and not Binondo. But then, this paragraph is preceded by a paragraph about Escolta and followed by a paragraph about Plaza Binondo (which he only referred to as “an emerald plaza” with which he mentioned about Oriente Hotel and Insular Tobacco Company).

Moreover, writing about Plaza de Cervantes in his article “A Walk in Binondo”, Anson T. Yu mentioned that:

“Just across Juan Luna St. from the BPI building, you will see a five-story structure of neo-classical style. This building was known in prewar Manila as the offices for Hong Kong Shanghai Bank Corporation. In fact, HSBC has been on that site since 1875, when it was originally house in a two-story wooden building.”

What Gilbert failed to mention (or simply ignored) is that Banco Español-Filipino de Isabel II (now the Bank of the Philippine Islands or BPI) was also situated there.

In his book “The Philippine Islands” published in 1906, John Foreman had this to say about the bank:

“In Manila there were (and are still) two foreign bank branches (one with a sub-branch in Yloilo), three bank agencies, and the Philippine private banking-house of J. M. Tuason & Co.; also the “Banco Español-Filipino,” which was instituted in 1852, with a capital of P400,000, in 2,000 shares of P200 each. The capital was subsequently increased to P600.000.12 Authorized by charter, it issued notes payable to bearer on demand from P10 upwards. The legal maximum limit of note issue was P1,200,000, whilst the actual circulation was about P100,000 short of that figure. This bank did a very limited amount of very secure business, and it has paid dividends of 12 to 15 per cent.; hence the shares were always at a premium. In 1888, when 12 per cent, dividend was paid, this stock was quoted at P420; in 1895 it rose to P435. The Obras Pias funds (vide p. 245) constituted the original capital of the bank.”

By the way, the site on which the present BPI building is standing is said to be the same site where Banco Español-Filipino de Isabel II was established.

Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) building on the side opposite of that shown in the images above (Photo taken on October 4, 2008)

Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) building on the side opposite of that shown in the images above (Photo taken on October 4, 2008)

Below is another photo of “Plaza de Cervantes” from 1899. I can’t figure out for sure how the old photograph was taken (I mean to which direction the photograph was pointing his camera at), but then, by the looks of the tram rails (and the sign on the wall), I’m thinking that it is more of a photo of Plaza Moraga than Plaza de Cervantes(?).

Plaza de Cervantes in 1899 - Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections and the United States Library of Congress

Plaza de Cervantes in 1899 - Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections and the United States Library of Congress

Plaza de Cervantes circa 2008 (Photo taken on October 4, 2008)

Plaza de Cervantes circa 2008 (Photo taken on October 4, 2008)

Acknowledgment:

My sincerest and endless thanks goes out to the Cornell University Library and Fiona Patrick (Project Coordinator, DCAPS & Copyright Services) for granting me the permission to use and post on here the first image on this post.

Note on the use of the other old photograph:

From the Copyright and Permission to Publish page on the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections website:

“The University of Wisconsin Libraries generally do not own the copyrights to materials in their print and electronic collections. Consistent with their public university mission, the Libraries encourage the use of content in these collections for study, research, and teaching.

“Most works published after 1923 are protected by U. S. and international copyright laws. The publications of the United States government are not copyrightable and may be freely copied and/or re-published.

“Fair use of copyright-protected works for study, research, and other purposes does not require the permission of the copyright owner provided that the use meets the standard specified in Section 107 of the U. S. Copyright Law.”

And from the United States Library of Congress website:

“Whenever possible, the Library of Congress provides factual information about copyright owners and related matters in the catalog records, finding aids and other texts that accompany collections. As a publicly supported institution, the Library generally does not own rights in its collections. Therefore, it does not charge permission fees for use of such material and generally does not grant or deny permission to publish or otherwise distribute material in its collections. Permission and possible fees may be required from the copyright owner independently of the Library. It is the researcher’s obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the Library’s collections. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Researchers must make their own assessments of rights in light of their intended use.

“If you have any more information about an item you’ve seen on our website or if you are the copyright owner and believe our website has not properly attributed your work to you or has used it without permission, we want to hear from you. Please contact OGC@loc.gov with your contact information and a link to the relevant content.”

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