MANILA, Philippines – The first settlers on the delta isles built their houses along the riverbanks. The “streets” were the esteros. Their bamboo-and-nipa huts rose on posts above water. The interior was a single room that served as living room, dining room, kitchen and dormitory. This is according to the late National Artist Nick Joaquin in his book, “Manila, My Manila,” referring to the first inhabitants of the city of Manila.
Things have not really changed since the early 16th century. Estero dwellers, like the first settlers who came to Manila to seek better opportunities, continue to trade goods in Quiapo and Divisoria and raise their families.
These barangays have survived centuries of wars, man-made disasters, natural calamities, revolutions and relocations.
On the eve of the 442nd founding of the city of Manila (Monday, June 24), I visited 3 “lucky” esteros – Estero de San Miguel, Estero San Lazaro and Estero Magdalena. I call them lucky because they were not included in the list of areas to be relocated as part of the Aquino government’s flood control master plan.
But this is what I saw: