Ermita has a rich and varied especially the last 30-40 years, but how did Ermita actually get its name and what is the history of this famous section of Manila? Ermita is right next to the famous Manila Bay.
Back in the 16th century it was the Spanish who named the area ”La Hermita”, meaning heritage, so named because of a hermitage in that location during that time. So, what is a hermitage from that time period?
An Hermitage can be a place where a hermit lives in seclusion from the world, but a hermitage is more commonly used to mean a settlement where a person or persons lived religiously, in seclusion. Therefore, a Hermitage is a form of Monastery.
Over the years, this Hermitage became the Ermita Church. The area grew around it and during the American Colonial Period (1898-1946) also known as the Spanish American War. Ermita became famous for universities including the University of the Philippines and Atene De Manila, St. Pauls College and Adamson University. Most of which are still thriving today.
The Ermita church began as a small shrine made of bamboo, nipa, and molave wood which was built to house the image of Our Lady of Guidance in 1571 by the Spanish soldiers under Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. The shrine eventually became a chapel built in 1606 as a house for the image and called by the Spanish word, La Ermita, which also means “The Chapel” in English. The word also gave the name to the present Manila area of Ermita where the chapel is located.
The church became damaged many times due to earthquakes. In addition, the image had to be transferred to the Manila Cathedral for safekeeping during the British occupation of Manila in 1762–1764. A more permanent stone church had to be built in 1810; the image was returned to the church in 1918.
Naturally many Americans frequented the universities and the surrounding housing areas became dominated by Americans students and visiting friends and parents, this led to the famous Army and Navy Club and the University Club.
Ermita was rebuilt after the devastation during World War Two. University life continued to be the main concern of the district next to Manila Bay, but as time passed Ermita became more famous for being a red light district. For many years, Ermita had a very bohemian reputation
Bringing the story up to date and Mayor Alfredo Lim, really tried to clean up the area and in the main he became very successful in doing this. Now in 2015 Ermita may be seeing less red light districts and ladies on the street, but the lack of fund brought in by the foreigners has seen Ermita become dirty in many areas and a place where some foreigners may now choose not to go.
For those who still want to partake in the old red-light tourism, it is very much still in Ermita but not on show. Many Karaoke bars and establishments like that hide their true identity.
Out of sight out of mind.