The History of El Deposito, the Biggest Spanish Artifact in the Philippines
The largest remaining Spanish-era artifact in the Philippines (and possibly, the world) isn't a church or a school. It's the El Deposito water reservoir, the 150-meter-long waterway system that played an important role in San Juan's hygiene and the country's history. Though currently buried beneath San Juan, recent restorations have it set for a 2020 reopening. Before that happens, here's a quick history of El Deposito.
The Origin of El Deposito
It all started with Francisco Carriedo y Peredo, a man who made his fortune on the galleon trade. He arrived in Manila in 1772 and, after accumulating his wealth, was gracious enough to donate P10,000 to the city of Manila in 1783.
His donation was intended for the construction of a
Materials were brought in from all over the country and the world. Local
The entire structure consisted of a central canal connected to 25 smaller ones. Each canal was five meters high and three meters wide. All in all, the water system was capable of holding 56,000 cubic meters of water, which later on supplied up to 300,000 people from all over Manila. To keep the water fresh and free from contamination, ventilation shafts and filters were also used.
Before El Deposito, residents relied on wells,
The water coursed through Marikina River to Santolan via five kilometers of
The War and El Deposito
The water reservoir became such an important part of the city that, in his plans to reclaim Manila, Andres Bonifacio thought to cut the water supply to Intramuros to cripple the city and make it easier to fight the Spaniards, who were heavily reliant on El Deposito.
The first leg of the plan was to capture El Polvorin, the gunpowder depot in San Juan del Monte. Though the narrative is largely contested (historian Jim Richardson contests the events in his book The Light of Liberty), many accounts suggest that Bonifacio and troops of about 800 soldiers armed with
The Katipuneros followed them but more Spanish reinforcements arrived from Fort Santiago. Around 150 Katipuneros died from the Battle of San Juan del Monte and 200 more were captured. This was officially the first major battle of the revolution. Despite losing, it was enough to ignite a sense of nationalism among Filipinos and threaten the Spaniards. In fact, just a day later,
Despite its role in the war, El Deposito continued to be used as the main water reservoir until the American Occupation. In 1903, Americans turned it into army headquarters, even numbering the tunnels to mark the areas where
Recaptured after World War 2, the structures aboveground were heavily damaged. Unfortunately, it fell into decay and was used as a dump.
The Restoration of El Deposito
According to San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora, the restoration of the reservoir started in 2016 when the University of the Philippines Archaeological Studies conducted an assessment and excavation of the historic site. Two years later, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines started a cleanup.
Despite the sorry state of the reservoir, it was recognized by local historians as significantly important in the country’s history. The former site of the El Deposito building where the battle took place is now known as Pinaglabanan Shrine.
The shrine itself was unveiled on February 4, 1974. An obelisk depicts the Philippine flag and, in the background, a monument by Eduardo Castrillo stands.
Aside from this, the El Deposito museum was also opened to the public
The underground waterways, on the other hand, will open to the public in 2020. Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat told Inquirer.net that El Deposito has the potential to become a top tourist attraction in the country.
“Once complete, people can go down and walk inside and view the aqueducts,” Zamora told Inquirer.net. “It will allow people to go back in time.”