Known in the olden days as Tambobong, the coastal city of Malabon is located on the northern part of Metro Manila and is one of the cities that form its outer ring. It is bounded on the west and southwest by Navotas City; on the southeast by Caloocan City; and, on the north and northeast by Valenzuela City.
While it is situated in the far fringes of Metro Manila’s urban sprawl, Malabon does not lag behind in historical significance. This coastal settlement was founded as a “visita” of Tondo more than four centuries ago by the Augustinian friars. Later, it became an important literary center that was instrumental in propagating the flame of nationalism and in keeping alive the aspirations for independence in the hearts of every Filipino. It is said that during the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine-American War, the revolutionary government first printed the “La Independencia” from an orphanage in Malabon as clearly indicated on the newspaper’s masthead.
The vast expanse of water provided Malabon with the largesse that fed its people and was a thriving town long before the Spanish regime. The Malabon-Navotas coast is a vital port and fish trading center where the fish haul from the abundant fishing areas of Palawan and the Calamianes islands are brought. Commercial fishing and fish trading is the backbone of its economy that supported ancillary industries such as ship building and repair, ship chandler services, trading of fishing equipment supplies, fish net weaving, fish processing. Other economic activities include metal and wood working, soap making and food processing.
The industrious people of Malabon derived their sustenance not only from the sea but from the land as well. Thick bamboo groves that used to grow abundantly around the town was a rich source of edible bamboo shoots, or “labong” that is why people referred to the place as “maraming labong” or “malabong” for short, which means “plenty of bamboo shoots.” From this term, was derived the name of Malabon.
What to See in Malabon
Summer is the best time to see the attractions of Malabon to avoid the perennial floods that come with the rainy season. The city has earned a reputation for being the “Local Venice” because of the waist-high deep flood waters that make its roads accessible only by banca or small boats. The following are a must-see for the first time visitor:
Heritage Houses and Structures: One need not go far north in Luzon to marvel at well-preserved centuries old structures and residences. The heritages houses and structures of Malabon are surprisingly well-preserved despite the ravages of time and incessant flooding during the rainy season. Most of these old Hispanic houses are located along C. Arellano and Gen. Luna Streets in Barangay Conception because the original owners of these houses derived their income from the fishing and trading activities in the area. The city also boasts of ancient public structures and places of worship such as the Asilo de Maysilo and the San Bartolome Church which were both built in the 16th century; the Immaculate Conception Church and Asilo de Huerfanos, a shelter for children orphaned by the plague of 1882 and where the “La Independencia,” the voice of the Philippine Revolutionary Government, was first printed.
Bulungan at Tañong Fish Market: Fish trading was a flourishing economic activity along the Navotas-Malabon river basin since the Spanish regime. The bulungan system of bidding (whispered bidding) for the fish haul which started as early as then, was passed on from generation to generation, and is still practiced today. Fish retailers from all over Metro Manila and nearby provinces who participate in the bid come to the fish market when the “bulungan” starts at 9:00 PM up to 1:00 AM. Witnessing the “bulungan” is a unique experience for first time visitors because of the distinctive way the bids are whispered so as not to be heard by other bidders.
Rufina Patis Factory: Located at 290-C Arellano Street, this factory was founded by Mrs. Rufina Lucas more than a hundred years ago when her special fish sauce concoction made from fermented fish in brine solution called “patis” started a flourishing industry in Malabon. “Patis” is a pungent condiment that is used as a major ingredient in Filipino cuisine. Rufina Patis has reached the shelves of stores in Asia, the United States, and other parts west where there are overseas Filipinos who swear that their cooking is not distinctively Filipino unless it is seasoned with Rufina Patis.
Where to Eat in Malabon
Malabon Food Specialties: The city has earned worldwide fame primarily because of two food specialties: The Pancit Malabon and Malabon Kakanin. Pancit Malabon is made of special rice noodles boiled in chicken or meat coated with a bright orange savory sauce with liberal toppings of sliced cabbage, squid, oysters, shrimps, crabs, “chicharon”, “tinapa” (smoked fish) flakes, hard-boiled duck eggs which is then seasoned with “patis” (fish sauce)and “calamansi” (lemon). This culinary delight is so famous and tasty that even prominent political personalities and show biz celebrities from Manila are known to frequent unpretentious specialty restaurants such as Nanay’s Pancit Malabon located at 37 Governor Pascual Avenue corner Santo Rosario Village and Rosy’s Pancit Malabon, which can be found along Hulong Dagat, corner of A. Bonifacio and C. Arellano Streets. Visitors should not leave the city without tasting this mouth-watering food treasure.
Dolor’s Kakanin, on the other hand, is a veritable institution recognized for its Malabon Kakanin. Located at 19 Gov. Pascual Avenue in Barangay Conception, this famous establishment is known nationwide for its delicious steamed sweet glutinous rice cakes often cooked with coconut milk. Dolor’s specialties include “sapin-sapin,” “kamoteng kahoy,” “biko” and “maja blanca.”
Pescadores Restaurant: At the corner of Letre Road and Dagat-Dagatan Avenue, stands this food establishment which is considered as one of the original restaurants in the city. Visitors who step into this eatery order a delectable serving of its specialty beef adobo that is flavored with patis (fish sauce) instead of the more traditional toyo (soy sauce). This restaurant also serves the city’s specialty, Pancit Malabon.
Balsa sa Niugan: Located in Barangay Niugan at the heart of the city, this unique food establishment was originally a fishpond that was converted into a floating restaurant and a fishing garden. Its open dining facilities that can seat 350 people have a friendly and pleasing ambiance. Like other famous yet unpretentious restaurants in the city, Balsa sa Niugan has its share of movie stars as its regular patrons. A taste of its Sizzling Sisig is guaranteed to make you want to come back to Malabon long after you’ve returned home.
Where to Stay in Malabon
While Malabon has many historical and cultural treasures that provide a glimpse of its colorful colonial past, it does not have any hotel that might be of interest to both foreign and local tourists. But then, neighboring cities like Manila, Makati and Quezon City have a wide range of hotel accommodations that cater to Metro Manila visitors. There is, however, one hotel located in nearby Caloocan City, which may interest the visitor who wishes to stay close to Malabon.
Kabayan Hotel: Located at Caimito Road corner EDSA near Monumento, this 3-star hotel perfectly suits business and leisure travelers looking for budget accommodations. With rates starting at USD16.00, or only P640.00 converted at the prevailing foreign currency exchange rates, guests will enjoy first class comfort in well-appointed rooms, which includes air conditioning, internet connection, cable TV and private toilet and bath.
535 Caimito Road corner Epifanio de los Santos Avenue
Caloocan City, Metro Manila
Tel. Nos. (+632) 362-4678; 362-1298; 361-7454
How to Get to Malabon
From Manila to Malabon and Back: Moving around the city is not difficult because jeepneys and motorized tricycles ply the city streets. Tricycles are for in-city commute while the jeepneys provide conveyance from Manila to Malabon and back through the C.M. Recto–Gasak; Santa Cruz-Gasak; and, Divisoria-Gasak routes. The jeepney fare should not cost more than P30.00.
Cebu to Malabon and Back: To reach Malabon from Cebu, you can either fly or sail from Cebu to Manila. Approximate cost of a round trip plane ticket is P4,000.00 – P5,000.00 while a round trip boat fare is approximately P3,000.00 – P4,000.00. If your point of disembarkation is the Manila Domestic Airport, you can take a cab or a bus from there to the MRT train station at the EDSA-Taft Avenue junction in Pasay City. The train will take you all the way to Monumento station in Caloocan for less than P30.00. There are jeepneys plying the Malabon-Letre Road that will take you to Malabon City proper for less than P10.00. The taxi fare from the airport is about P100.00 to P200.00 (one way), while the bus fare is less than P20.00 (one way). If your point of disembarkation is the Pier Area, you can take a jeepney or cab to Divisoria where you can hop into a jeepney plying the Gasak-Divisoria route to take you to Malabon for less than P20.00. The taxi fare from the Pier Area to Divisoria is about P50.00-P100.00, while the jeepney fare is cheaper at P7.50 (one way).
Dumaguete to Malabon and Back: To reach Malabon from Dumaguete, you can fly from Dumaguete to Manila. Approximate cost of a round trip plane ticket is P4,000.00 – P5,000.00. From the Manila Domestic Airport, you can take a taxi cab or a bus to the MRT train station at the EDSA-Taft Avenue junction in Pasay City. The train will take you all the way to Monumento station in Caloocan for less than P30.00. There are jeepneys plying the Malabon-Letre Road that will take you to Malabon City proper for less than P10.00. The taxi fare from the airport is about P100.00 to P200.00 (one way), while the bus fare is less than P20.00 (one way).