Northern District

The districts of Manila beyond the river Pasig are largely working-class areas very different from Ermita and Malate. The mouth of the Pasig in Manila Bay was formerly the scene of great activity, with the comings and goings of the galleons and merchant ships. It is now much quieter, but unfortunately also more polluted than in the 18th century, when the limpid waters of the river were fringed by meadows and thickets of reeds and luxurious mansions lay farther upstream. Today the river is flanked by the two parts of the port, the North Harbor and the South Harbor.

In this part of Greater Manila the river is spanned by six bridges. Going upstream, they are the Roxas Bridge (on the line of Bonifacio Drive and Roxas Boulevard), which gives access to the San Nicolas district beyond the North Harbor; the Jones Bridge, the principal means of approach to Binondo and Chinatown; the MacArthur Bridge and Quezon Bridge, which lead to Quiapo; the Ayala Bridge, leading to the San Miguel quarter and the Presidential Palace; and, farther east, the Mabini Bridge, still known as the Nagtahan Bridge, the way to Santolan and New Manila and to Quezon City.

The Legislative Building, designed by Burnham, was originally built as a National Library and Museum. It was completed in 1934, damaged during the battle for Manila in 1945 and subsequently repaired. On the facade are statues of Manuel L. Quezon (President of the American-Philippine Commonwealth 1935) and Sergio Osmeña (President of the Philippines 1944-46).

The City Hall, opened in 1939, also suffered damage during the war. On the 2nd floor is a fresco by Carlos Francisco celebrating the deeds of the Bulwagang Katipunan, the secret society which led the fight against the Spaniards at the end of the 19th century.

To the right is the site of the old Chinese ghetto (Parian) of the early colonial period. Arroceros Street perpetuates the memory of these rice-sellers, who as non-Spaniards, were not allowed to live within the walls of Intramuros. A botanic garden and a small zoo were installed here in 1876; the area is now a public garden, with statues of the Spanish-Filipino botanist Sebastian Vidal y Soler and the Filipino Leon Maria Guerrero. The zoo has a number of naturalised African animals presented by Kenya. Close by is the Metropolitan Theatre, an art deco building with stylized relief carving of Philippine plants, this building was partly restored after 1945. The theater was closed in 1996.

Continuing North, the Plaza Bonifacio or Liwasang Bonifacio, named after the great revolutionary and organiser of the Katipunan secret society which prepared the way for the 1896 rising. The statue of Bonifacio (by the Filipino sculptor Guillermo Tolentino) was erected in 1971. A short distance farther on, on the right before Jones Bridge, is the white mass of the Head Post Office with a handsome colonnade by the Filipino architect Juan Arellano in 1940; this building was restored after the war.

Jones Bridge commemorates William A. Jones, senator for Virginia, promoter of the Jones Act which provided for Philippine self-government. On the far side of the bridge is the banking quarter, with the National Bank, the offices of insurance corporations, importing and exporting firms, etc., and then the district of Binondo.