HomeManilavol. 3 no. 1 (2007)

A Preliminary Study of the History of Pandacan, Manila, during the Second World War, 1941-1945

Fernando A. Santiago Jr.

Discipline: History



Today, Pandacan, Manila, is a typical looking place where one would find narrow streets with small houses, where the people are simple, and compared to other places in the city, it is relatively quiet. Although located

at the heart of the nation’s capital, it is bereft of the hustle and bustle of the big city. In fact, despite its location, it has a somewhat provincial atmosphere which may give the impression that the district is unimportant to history.


However, unknown to many, it is a district with a rich and vibrant past. Aside from once being considered a “cradle of agitators,” Pandacan was also known as the “Little Italy of the Philippines” during the Spanish period (Medina, 1994, 61-62). During the American period, the district continued to be renowned for the people’s musicality and had a reputation of being a haven of artists.


Like in the rest of the city, the Japanese invasion drastically changed the daily patterns of life in Pandacan and, in general, the people of the district experienced the same trials and tribulations met by the rest of the

Manileños. As a result, a survey of historical works about the War in Manila would show that historians have focused mostly on the collective experiences of the people of Manila and, in some cases, there even seems to be an assumption that the experience of one was the experience of all. It is understandable that an event of such magnitude is very difficult to document but now that general histories about the great war in Manila have been written, it may be time for the current generation of historians to look at the events exclusive to its districts.


This paper is an attempt to document the events and experiences of the War that are exclusive to the people of the district, as well as to show what they actually shared with the rest of the Manileños. It will tackle the reactions of the people of Pandacan to the Japanese invasion, the subsequent preparations for war, the real story behind the burning of the oil depots, the great fire that razed the district, the major problems met by the people in the district and everyday life in Pandacan during the war years. There will also be a discussion of the role Pandacan played during “Liberation.”