Plaza Dilao and Paco Railway Station, Manila

Anyway, we walked towards the main avenue and we passed by a plaza or square in the middle. What makes this specific place unique was the statue in it. It was a statue of a samurai. Like I mentioned earlier the early Japanese migrants settled in the area of Paco and by 1593 there were around 300 to 400 of them. In 1603 the number increased to 1,500 to 3,000.

The Japanese had their own rebellion against the Spaniards in 1606-1607, and the numbers increased again when Japan’s Tokugawa Ieyasu persecuted Christianity in 1614. Under Takayama Ukon another 300 Japanese Christians moved to the Philippines as refugee. Today there were around 200,000 of them living in the island.

Takayama Ukon and Plaza Dilao

I will be discussing a brief history about Takayama Ukon since I hope that somewhere in the future I might visit his home or where he came from in Japan. The Plaza Dilao was organized during the 1970s in President Marcos’ time. So here is a summary of his life.

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Takayama Ukon

“The man was Ukon Takayama, born in 1552 to a landed gentry called the daimyo, in Haibara-cho, Japan. When Jesuit missionaries led by Francis Xavier introduced Roman Catholicism in Japan, the Takayama family was among the first to be converted.

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The statue of Takayama

 

Ukon Takayama was 12 years old when he was baptized as a Catholic in 1563. In time, he rose to become governor of the castle town of Takatsuki near Kyoto, then the capital of Japan. Before that, he made a mark and gained fame as an outstanding general. In civilian life, he became known as a builder of castles, churches, seminaries and oratories. As a person, he had been reared in the ways of the samurai and in the best traditions of their civilization. The only difference was that he was a Christian samurai, which was rare.

The turning point came when a new shogunate rose to power in Japan, that forbade the practice of Christianity. Those who disobeyed the order were executed. But in the case of Takayama and other nobles and samurais who occupied positions of social prominence, they were exiled to Manila, which was then the bastion of Christianity in Asia. These sturdy Japanese chose to lose their possessions, honor and social status and lead ordinary lives in a foreign land than renounce their Catholic faith.

Takayama peacefully complied and on 8 November 1614 departed for Manila. He arrived later that month and was greeted warmly by the Jesuits there, but died of illness just 40 days afterwards.”

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Historical Marker

Now you already knew the brief life of Ukon Takayama and why a plaza and statue was dedicated to him. The project to immortalize him was headed by the Philippines’ then First Lady, Mrs. Imelda Romualdez Marcos (1929- ), for a beautification program for Metro-Manila at the start of martial law (1972-1981), Manila Mayor Ramon D. Bagatsing (1916-2006) organized on February 1, 1973, the Kababaihan sa Pagpapaganda ng Lungsod ng Maynila [Ladies’ Committee for the Beautification of the City of Manila]. Sadly, today the plaza seems neglected and there were trash everywhere while the paint seems to peel off. We head on to our next destination which was on more pitiful state.

Paco Railroad Station

We actually didn’t go inside and explored since its all fenced up. We just took a couple of shots from a distance. It was a beautiful station because of its unique architecture compared to its surroundings of shanties and cardboard houses. Here is the history of this historic station.

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Paco Train Station

The Paco Railway Station was established on March 25, 1908 to serve the Manila Belt Line, from Tutuban to Paco, and the railroad line, from Paco to Binakayan, Cavite. The railroad from Paco Station to Muntinlupa was inaugurated on June 21, 1908.

With a lot of traffic coming into the station, which was located in front of Plaza Dilao, then a Japanese community, there was a need to build a proper structure to welcome travelers.

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Deterioration of the station

The Commonwealth Government hired the services of William Parsons—the same architect behind Manila Hotel, the Manila Army and Navy Club Building, Manila Elks Club, Philippine General Hospital, the Philippine Normal School, the University Hall of the University of the Philippines in Manila, The Mansion House in Baguio, and more—to design the station. Parsons’ inspiration for his design was the Penn Station in New York.

Construction started in 1912, and the building was officially finished in 1915, making it older than the Manila Post Office, the Old Congress Building, Metropolitan Theater, and the Manila City Hall. The majestic station was even featured in the 1922 report prepared by the Philippine Commission of Independence to the U.S. Government.

The Battle

The railway station served many travelers for decades right until the bloody Battle of Manila in February 1945. Paco, which had a big Japanese community, naturally became a stronghold during the battle, and the Japanese fortified its public buildings, including the Paco Railway Station.

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Pre-war Paco Station

The station was one of the first bases that the American 37th Infantry Division encountered when they advanced to liberate the city. The Japanese army posted machine guns all around the station. Foxholes with machine guns were manned by riflemen. Every corner had sandbag forts with 20mm guns. One concrete pillbox in the building even had a 37mm gun.

After 10 assaults and two days of fighting, the station was finally liberated on the morning of February 10. The 37th Infantry Division suffered 45 casualties and 307 more soldiers were wounded.

Capture
Paco Station during the liberation of 1945

It was a strategic victory that led to the recapture of the city, making the building a site with historical significance. Sadly, after decades of deterioration, the station was partly demolished in 1996 by a buyer who had plans to develop a mall in its place.

Just reading this history we already knew that this building was a cultural treasure and should be preserved but the lack of cooperation from the government and business greed had helped the early destruction of this wonderful building. This station was the southern version of the Tutuban Station, which was successful in being turned into a mall.

So that it’s for our adventure in the district of Paco in Manila, and we called it a day as we went to the mall to eat and have some fun.

Here are the links for more information:

Blessed Takayama Ukon: The Samurai of Christ

Plaza Dilao in History

https://www.samurai-archives.com/ukon.html

Plaza Dilao in History

https://www.esquiremag.ph/culture/lifestyle/paco-railway-station-history-a1729-20190301-lfrm

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