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ALCAICERIA DE SAN JOSE
Pulsa la bandera
para español


Illustrators and painters were essential personnel in XVIII-century scientific expeditions. The Malaspina expedition around the world (1789-1794) hired a good number of them at one time or another, commissioning them to take graphic notice of everything they could observe during the trip, from the appearance and customs of the peoples they visited to the detailed analysis of the animals and plants collected or seen during the trip, the cities and exotic locations they visited, the aborigines, the landscapes or the strange creatures or plants that inhabited them. Two of the most gifted were the Italians John Ravenet and Ferdinand Brambila.
   I have been always intrigued by the Ravenet's illustration above that portrays a group of people of different ethnic groups and social classes in Manila milling around a water well with an arched cast iron support for a hoist. The image caption says it is a market in Manila called Parian. Was this a real place? And where in Manila? Most of the Malaspina expedition illustrations are not available online for downloading; the illustration here was borrowed, like the the majority of its copies appearing in blogs and FB posts, from the copy that appeared in Manila 1571-1898: Occidente en Oriente, an online publication about the exhibit in Manila in 1998 with the same theme on occasion of the centennial of the Philippine Revolution.
   The illustration caption reads literally “Mercado de Manila, llamado el Parián.” More accurately, it was a scene within the complex called Alcaiceria de San Jose, a Chinese trading area, we could call it a mall, built within the walls by Governor José Basco y Vargas in 1783 during his term.
   Two items merit some comment.
   First, the institution called “parian,” a designated living and market area for the Chinese, was located in different places at dfferent times for security reasons outside of Intramuros, the walled city of Manila. Several parians were demolished, burned and transferred a number of times. Through history, there were several very bloody Chinese rebellions, which made the administration very wary of the ethnic Chinese. The outside-of-the-walls parian was instituted to deal partly with this concern.
   Second, finished in 1760, a mere thirteen years earlier, Governor Arandia Santisteban built the notable Alcaiceria de San Fernando, almost a fortress, octagonal in shape, across the river from Intramuros. Buceta in his Dictionary (Buceta y Bravo, Diccionario Geografico estadístico historico de las Islas Filipinas, vol II, p 229, Madrid 1851) says that this new Alcaiceria was built because the old parian was ruined, was this ruined parian the older Alcaiceria of San Fernando? I would thankfully appreciate some clarification on this.

View of the new Alcaiceria de San Jose façade and of its partial fence,
built within the walls of the City of Manila in the ruined district of Mabolo.


Archivo General de Indias. Click plan to display it in large format.

   A drawing of the Alcaiceria’s main gate and portion of a solid fence (above) says in its epigraph that it was built within the walls in the ruined sector (barrio) called Mabolo. This was an irregular block by the city’s eastern wall between the Church of San Francisco and the convent of the Recollects. I theorize that the area in ruins was one of the many laid waste during the British storming and subsequent sack of Manila in 1762. The Church of San Francisco and the Convent of the Recollects Fathers were destroyed during the battle for Manila at the end of World War II and their lots are occupied today respectively by the Mapua Institute of Technology and the Manila Bulletin Building; Alcaiceria’s site by the Manila High School.

The medallion on top of the arch has a latin inscription that reads:

Public market for food and clothing built inside the walls for the convenience of Manila citizens beeing Jose Basco y Vargas Governor General of the Philippines, 1783


Plan of the new Alcaiceria de San Jose as it was executed. Its shops opened for business on October 7, 1783

Archivo General de Indias. Click plan to display it in large format.

   The red arrow on the plan above indicates the illustrator's viewpoint, who composed the scene around the central well with the main gate, partly covered, in the background. The street running diagonally is Calle Muralla.

Plano of the city of Manila, capital of these Philippine Islands,
drawn for the purpose of showing the destruction of its buildings, as ordered by Decree issued on April 23, 1873
by the Most Illustrious Lord Don Jose Basco y Vargas, Mayor of this Noble City,
Governor, Captain General and President ot its Royal Court.

Archivo General de Indias. Click plan to display it in large format.

Above, map of Manila ordered by Governor Basco in 1783 showing ruined areas and buildings in the city. Circled in red is an area between San Francisco and Recoletos identified as “barrio arruinado de Mabolo,” ruined district of Mabolo, one among many other destroyed properties in the city.

Street map of the city of Manila,
in Buceta y Bravo, Diccionario Geografico-Estadístico-Historico de las Islas Filipinas, Madrid 1851. 

Click graphic to display it in its large original

Circled in red in the map above is Alcaiceria' de San Jose's street plan, including its central plaza and water well..

What happened to Alcaiceria de San Jose?
Two Manila maps partially represented here and dated 1875 (below left) and 1893 (below right) display an empty lot circled in red. with no buildings or streets, where Alcaiceria de San Jose stood. Nothing is left of it, not even the center water well cast iron support and pulley. On its lot stays today the Manila High School complex.


Web Page by Jose R. Perdigon
Last Updated Sept., 2016
Comments to jrperdigon@yahoo.com