Santa Cruz, Manila

Santa Cruz, Manila

Santa Cruz is located at the left bank of the Pasig River, on the northern portion of the City of Manila, near the mouth of the river, in between the districts of Tondo and Quiapo. The district belongs to the 3rd congressional district of Manila in the Philippines.


panish colonial era

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors to the Philippines, the district of Santa Cruz was partly a marshland, patches of greeneries, orchards and partly rice fields. A Spanish expedition in 1581 claimed the territory and awarded to the Society of Jesus or more commonly called the Jesuits.

The Jesuits built the first Roman Catholic Church in the area where the present Santa Cruz Parish stands on June 20, 1619. The Jesuits enshrined the image of the Our Lady of Pillar in 1643 to serve the pre-dominantly Chinese residents in the area. The image drew a lot of devotees and a popular cult grew around it.

On June 24, 1784, the King of Spain gave the deeds to about 2 km² of land that was part of the Hacienda de Mayhaligue to the San Lazaro Hospital which served as a caring home for lepers in Manila at that time.

At the Santa Cruz Parish, a small park was built that linked the area into the headquarters of the Spanish cavalry, the building that once was the College of San Ildefonso, operated by the Jesuits. The district in the Spanish times also had a slaughter house and a meat market and up north was the Chinese cemetery.

The Franciscan fathers were given the responsibility to care for the lepers of the city and specifically the San Lazaro Hospital. A Fr. Felix Huertas developed San Lazaro into a refuge for the afflicted and it became a famous home for those afflicted in the north side of the Pasig River.

World War II

During World War II, the Japanese occupational forces caught unaware of the fast approaching American & Filipino liberation forces in 1945 from the north, abandoned the northern banks of the Pasig River including Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz and much of the northern portions of Manila were spared from the artillery bombardment and to date, a number of pre-World War II buildings and houses still stand in Santa Cruz.

When the Philippine republic was finally established in July 1946, the San Lazaro Hospital complex became the head office of the country’s Department of Health.

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