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Naga’s historical landmarks

By Jose V. Barrameda, Jr.

Fearful about the ravages of time and man’s short memory, the author, a respected Bicol historian, lists down at least ten interesting sites and landmarks in the city worth remembering and preserving for future generations to come.


Site of the Cuartel General of the Guardia Civil in Camarines. It was constructed  of granite blocks and wood in 1870.

During the mass arrests in September 1896, Florencio Lerma (who was also held in the Casino Español); Cornelio Mercado; Don Tomas Prieto, alcalde of Nueva Caceres;  and Macario Valentin were  among the first to be brought to and tortured in the cuartel.

Around midnight of 18 September 1898, Civil Guard Captain Francisco Andreu, his wife and children, as well as two European Civil Guards, and a Spanish voluntario died in the cuartel when Filipino Civil Guard corporals Elias Angeles and Felix Plazo led an uprising of Bicolano and Tagalog Guards in Nueva Caceres. The action resulted in the formal surrender of the Spanish colonial government in Camarines, after more bloodshed, to the Filipino forces in the afternoon of 19 September 1898. Ciudad de Nueva Caceres and the province of Ambos Camarines thus became the first in the Bicol Region to be liberated by arms after three and a half centuries and prior to the arrival of General Emilio Aguinaldo’s republican army in the city.

Following the organization of a Philippine Constabulary Detachment in Ambos Camarines on 1 September 1901, the cuartel became the PC provincial headquarters. The Constabulary returned to it as its headquarters after World War II that saw Naga liberated from the Japanese Occupation forces on 13 April 1945 by guerrillas of Camarines Sur, before American forces got to Naga which at that time was the capital town of the province.

On 30 March 1978 the century-old building, by then the headquarters of the defunct Philippine ConstabularyIntegrated National Police (PC-INP) in Camarines Sur, was totally razed by fire caused by faulty electrical wiring.


Until 1839, the Casa Tribunal or “common house” stood at this site, on grounds prone to flooding from the Naga River that originally ran just behind the building.

Following Alcalde Mayor Manuel Esquivel y Castañeda’s project which rechanneled the twisting river into its  present course and reclaimed the low-lying area from  Padre Burgos to Dinaga, an improved, beautiful Casa  Tribunal which provided free rooms to travelers stood on less soggy grounds by 1887. The Becerra Law of 12 November 1889 gave Nueva Caceres and six other principal towns in the Philippines the  authority to organize their  ayuntamiento similar to those in municipalities in Spain. The ayuntamiento in Nueva Caceres transacted official business in the Casa Tribunal. On 19 May 1893, the Maura Law changed the name Tribunal del Pueblo to Tribunal Municipio, and in Nueva Caceres people began to refer to the elegant ayuntamiento edifice of bricks and wood at the site as the municipio.

During the American colonial regime and the Commonwealth period, the building became the Municipal Presidencia. Destroyed by American bombs in World War II, it could not be immediately rebuilt as the city hall of the new city government of Naga. After the century-old Spanish cuartel being used by the PC-INP burned down in 1978, the city government transferred the Naga City Police Department to a new building constructed at the cuartel site. The former police headquarter building on this site then became the Naga City Library until the latter’s transfer to its new, modern  building at the City Hall complex.


On this site stood the Casino Español, a spacious building of piedra china and wood that served as the social and recreational center of the male Spanish population of Nueva Caceres and neighboring towns.

Following the discovery of the Katipunan in Manila in August 1896, the Spaniards in Nueva Caceres organized themselves into homeguards called the Cuerpo de Voluntarios. Patterning themselves after the Cuerpo Casino Español in Manila, the local voluntarios made the Casino Español here their headquarters.

When Civil Governor Ricardo Lacosta ordered the mass arrests all over Camarines starting in mid-September 1896, the Casino Español became one of several holding areas for harsh interrogation and violent torture. Among those taken to the Casino were Antonio Arejola, Camilo Jacob (from the infirmary of the San Francisco Church), Florencio Lerma (who was subsequently transferred to the nearby Cuartel General of the Guardia Civil), Macario Melgarejo, Mariano Ordenanza and Manuel Pastor, and from Daet, Roman Cabesudo, Ponciano Caminar, Diego Liñan, Valentin Lipana, Gregorio Luyon, Adriano Pajarillo, and Pedro Zenarosa.

In 1898, Nagueños attacked the Casino during the bloody uprising led by Elias Angeles and Felix Plazo. The building survived intact until World War II. American bombs destroyed it in 1945.

“The Becerra Law gave Nueva Caceres and six other principal towns in the Philippines the authority to organize their ayuntamiento similar to those in municipalities in Spain.”


By 1588, the Casa Real stood at this site. It was originally constructed of light indigenous materials. By 1655, the Casa Real was of bricks and lime. The Alcalde Mayor still resided in the building. Because Nueva Caceres was the capital of the province (which at various periods included Camarines Norte and Albay) the Alcalde Mayor or Civil Governor also thereby exercised administrative control over the Spanish city which counted as component pueblos the pre-Hispanic native villages of Naga, Tabuco, and Camaligan.

By 1792, the Casa Real had been constructed with more durable stone materials. After the river’s course was straightened and the area up to the present Plaza Rizal cleared of homes and elevated with earthfill by 1839, a new government building replaced the nearly century-old Casa Real in 1887. By then it was more  popularly referred to as Casa de Gobierno.

Slightly damaged like other Spanish-vintage buildings in the 1898 uprising by Filipinos in Nueva Caceres, the Casa de Gobierno was enlarged and remodeled under the American colonial regime following the cessation of the Filipino-American War in Camarines Sur in the early 1900s. The invading Imperial Japanese Army took over it in 1942, and an all-Filipino guerrilla force in Camarines Sur wrested it back, first in May 1942,  for the second time on 13 April 1945 before American soldiers arrived in Naga. Damaged by American bombing raids, the     edifice was reconstructed and enlarged under the new Philippine Government and remained the provincial capitol building of Camarines Sur until a fire destroyed it on 26 June 1976.


Peñafrancia Avenue was first known as Via Gainza in honor of Bishop Francisco Gainza, O.P. (1863-1879), the 25th and considered by many to have been the greatest Spanish bishop of the See of Caceres.

Until around the second quarter of the 19th century, the thoroughfare was an unpaved road that stretched from the Peñafrancia Shrine in present-day Barangay Peñafrancia to the San Francisco Church in front of what is now the Plaza de Quince Martires. Under his prelacy, Gainza widened and paved the road with cobblestones and extended it to its present junction with the western end of Panganiban Drive that was then known as Calle Legaspi. Bishop Gainza’s design had the road provided with two outer lanes for opposing vehicular traffic and a middle lane for pedestrians.

His episcopal rule saw the improvement of the Metropolitan Cathedral along with various churches in his See that at the time encompassed the Bicol Region and the eastern seaboard of Luzon up to Palanan, Isabela. Bishop Gainza gave immediate, particular emphasis to the reconstruction and beautification of the Peñafrancia Shrine which he found on arrival in a state of utter disrepair. A born linguist, he wrote the definitive history of the Patroness of Bicol in the vernacular in 1866, which provided a tremendous impetus to the increase of devotees to the Ina.  On that same year’s fiesta, he delivered his sermon in the Bicol language.

His most visible legacy is the present Universidad de Santa Isabel which he established first as a primary school for girls in 1868, then as the first Normal College for women in the Philippines, called the Escuela Superior, in 1875. Appropriately, the school later featured a gate to Via Gainza.

On the same year that he opened the Escuala Superior, Bishop Gainza organized and successfully held in Nueva Caceres the first agricultural and industrial exposition ever in the Bicol Region during the Peñafrancia festivities. He extended the novenary in the Metropolitan Cathedral to Saturday, a practice observed to this day and opened with the annual traslacion of the Lady of Peñafrancia down the length of what is now Peñafrancia Avenue that once was named Via Gainza in his honor and memory.


Calle Real was one of the earliest streets in Spanish Nueva Caceres. It was laid out at about the time that the Castilian settlement was established as a city towards the close of the 1500s.

Originally, Calle Real ran in a northwesterly direction. From the eastern end of present-day Caceres Street (originally Calle Padian), it skirted the western bank of the original course of the Naga River at the central downtown area. It ended just beyond the Casa Real, and was  connected by an unpaved road (in the area of P. Burgos Street now) along the northern side of the same river to the San Francisco Church in the east.

By the first half of the 19th century, Calle Real had been reoriented and lengthened in a more northerly  direction that it retains to the present. The paved Calle Real provided a wide and impressive avenue to the  present site of the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Seminario Conciliar, the bishop’s palace, and the Colegio de Santa Isabel.

On 15 January 1929, the Municipal Council of Naga  (the name which had replaced Nueva Caceres) unanimously passed a resolution asking for authorization to conduct a drive for public voluntary contributions to fund the construction of a  monument to Elias Angeles. Twenty-nine years later,  in 1958, the proposal remained unacted on. In the  meantime, Calle Real had been renamed Calle Elias Angeles.


Until the 1830s, this street did not exist. It was part of the marshy land of the pre-Hispanic village of Naga then bordered by the eastern bank of the Naga River.

By 1839 when the river had been straightened to its  present course and the swampy land all the way to  Dinaga had been filled up, a rudimentary road from the side of the ayuntamiento building appeared. It served as a short cut from Calle Real to the new western bank of Rio Naga. A light bridge of wooden planks and bamboo railings provided the first direct link to the other side of the river, to the Camino Real (now Panganiban Drive) that led to Pili and points beyond. A solidly constructed bridge around the middle 1800s eliminated the need for heavy, wheeled vehicles to take the roundabout way via Pueblo de Tabuco road to reach the Camino Real in the Pueblo de Naga. Vehicular traffic through the short cut increased and it gained importance as a commercial artery. When the colonial authorities during the second half of the 19th century began to improve roads and name them after illustrious Spaniards, the once lowly footpath became Calle de Legaspi.


Before Alcalde Mayor Manuel Esquivel undertook his reclamation project, the area bisected by the Rio Naga east of Calle Real was part of the Pueblo de Naga. At that time, Naga was accessed from the Ciudad de Nueva Caceres via Tabuco or by another bridge of wooden slabs at the river’s original bend south of the San Francisco Church. This latter bridge led to a road that is now  approximately Balintawak Street and ran in a north to southwest direction to the Pueblo de Tabuco. Perpendicular to the road in Naga was the Camino Real going to Pili.

Following the completion of Esquivel’s project around 1839, a road was laid out on the new western bank  opposite Camino Real. It became Calle de Legaspi. With the appropriation of government funds in 1844 for the construction of a sturdier link between the two points, the existing light bridge was replaced with a massively designed one of concrete with work starting in 1847. The bridge was named Puente de Naga, and until the early parts of the 1900s people referred to it by that name. In the 1920s the bridge, together with the Camino Real, was renamed in honor of Bicolano Jose Maria Panganiban, a leading light in the Propaganda Movement.

Following its passage by the Sangguniang Panlungsod on 18 October 1989, Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo  approved the ordinance that changed the name of the bridge to honor the memory of Lt. Delfin C. Rosales who sustained mortal wounds from enemy fire while rescuingn a fallen guerrilla soldier on the bridge during one of the most significant events of the city’s history in the 20th century—the Battle for Naga in April 1945.


Around half a century after Governor Manuel  Esquivel’s reclamation project, Don Tomas Prieto  acquired a residential lot on which he built a large house of stone and wood on this site. On the ground floor he put up his pharmacy store, the first one in the province. His botica soon became a commercial success and also a favorite meeting place for resident and visiting ilustrados. Gifted with a photographic memory, he entertained his friends and guests who included a Freemason and fellow pharmacist from Cavite, Victoriano Luciano (likewise  executed in 1896), with verbatim recitations of passages and even chapters of politically banned publications, including Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.

Born on 18 September 1867, Tomas Prieto was the youngest of six children of Dee Se Co, a Chinese from Amoy, China, who took the name Marcos Prieto upon his baptism, and Juana Antonio, a resident native of Nueva Caceres. He spent his early years in the family house which was then at Calle Padian in what is now a part of the Naga City public market. Following his studies in the Seminario Conciliar de Nueva Caceres, he enrolled in the University of Santo Tomas in Manila where he earned a Bachiller en Artes degree. He pursued further studies in pharmacy and passed the examinations with the highest grades (sobresalientes) in 1888.

By 1895 he was alcalde (equivalent to mayor) of Nueva Caceres. He still held the position when Spanish voluntarios from the Casino Español arrested him in his fairly new residence late in the evening of 16 September 1896.

On 11 November 1896, Don Tomas Prieto’s house on this site and the properties of others arrested and eventually executed with him were confiscated by the government on grounds of rebellion and disloyalty. Nearly two months afterwards, a Spanish military tribunal on 29  December pronounced him and his fellow-accused guilty of the crime of rebellion as defined in Articles 229, 230 and 232 of the Codigo Penal para Filipinas. He was executed by firing squad at 7:00 o’clock in the morning of 4 January 1897 at Bagumbayan Field in Manila together with his elder brother, Rev. Fr. Gabriel Prieto, and nine others from Nueva Caceres, namely, Rev. Fr. Severino Diaz, Rev. Fr. Inocencio Herrera, Manuel Abella, Domingo Abella, Camilo Jacob, Florencio Lerma, Mariano Melgarejo, Cornelio Mercado, and Macario Valentin. With his priest-brother Gabriel, Don Tomas Prieto epitomized the sacrifice and invaluable contribution of the Chinese-Filipino mestizos to the cause of Philippine  independence. He left behind his wife, Filomena  Pasion, a niece of Mariano Arana, another martyred  Bicolano from Nueva Caceres, and four young children. He was twenty-nine years old.


The church and parish of San Francisco antedated the erection of the Diocese of Caceres in 1595 by nearly two decades.

Initially of bamboo and other light materials, the church was built on this  present site originally on a north-south orientation. Its puerta mayor faced its parish, the pre-colonial pueblo of Naga which lay across the Naga River that at that time curved from its southerly course to a westerly direction before winding southward again alongside present-day Elias Angeles Street.

In the mass arrests of September 1896, the infirmary and basement of the San Francisco parish house were used for the interrogation and torture of some of those  arrested in Nueva Caceres and from as far as Libmanan. Among the detainees were Mateo Antero, Leon Hernandez (who was transferred to the provincial jail where he died from more torture), Camilo Jacob (transferred to the Casino Español), Eugenio Ocampo, Severo Patrocinio, Pablo Perpetua (later also taken to the provincial jail), Celedonio Reyes, Juan Razonable, and Vicente Ursua.

The infirmary, convento, and the church itself became the refuge of some 400 men, women and children when the Filipino Guardia Civil contingent led by corporals Elias Angeles and Felix Plazo rose up in arms against the colonial government towards midnight of 18 September 1896.  Following another attack by the Angeles-Plazo forces the next day, Civil Governor Vicente Zaidin sent a letter from San Francisco accepting the demand for the surrender of the Province of Ambos Camarines to the Filipinos. In the afternoon of 19 September, a delegation of Spaniards proceeded from San Francisco to sign the protocol of the surrender in the Colegio de Santa Isabel, which became the seat of the new Filipino government of the province formed by Elias Angeles that same day.

Reduced to rubble by the heavy bombing of Naga in World War II, the church remained in ruins until the present new edifice was constructed.


Domingo Abella. Bikol Annals: The See of Cacere, Vol.1.  Manila, 1954.

Leon Sa. Aureus. “Third Annual Report of the City of Naga. Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1952.”  (Mimeo)

Jose V. Barrameda, Jr. “A Filipino-Chinese Martyr.” Encounter  Magazine, January 1989.

Julian B. Jose. “The Filipino Martyrs from Kabikolan.” Encounter Magazine, January 1989.

Codigo Penal y Ley  de Enjuiciamento Criminal. 3ra edicion. Madrid: Centro Editorial de Gongora, Calle de San Roque,1. 1896.

Francisco Gainza, OP. The Lady of Peña de Francia. Jose V. Barrameda, Jr. (trnsl). Naga City: Synergetic Communication Systems, 1981.

Danilo Gerona. Naga: The Birth and Rebirth of a City. Naga City: LGU Naga, 2003.

Marcos Gomez, OFM. A Friar’s Account of the Philippine Revolution in Bicol. Apolinar Pastrana Riol, OFM (trnsl). Manila: Regal Printing Co., 1980.

Felix de Huerta. Estado Geografico, Topografico, Estadistico, Historio-Religioso, de la Provincia de San Gregorio Magno . . .  Binondo: Imprenta de M. Sanchez y Cia, 1865.S

Legajo 52 #12 – Camarines Sur. The Philippine National Archives.

Francisco Mallari. Vignettes of Bicol History. Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1999.

Pambansang Surian Pangkasaysayan. Kalendaryong Pangkasaysayan 1521- 1969.  Manila, 1996. (1st ed. 1970)

Juan Francisco de San Antonio, OFM. The Philippine Chronicles of Fray San Antonio. Manila: Casalinda and Historical Conservation Society, 1977.

Carmen San Buenaventura. “The Revolt in Naga.” 1934. (Typescript)

Jacinto Ursua and Ignacio Meliton. “Martires Bicolanos: Un Episodio de la Revolucion del ’96.” Naga, Camarines Sur, 1940. (Typescript)

Manuel Villanueva y Sarremo. Declaracion Jurada. 1938. (Handscript)

Notes taken during interviews with Hon. Gabriel P. Prieto in  Quezon City, 1959.

Ramon Olaño provided documentation on the date of the Provincial Capitol fire on 26 June 1976.