Back to Balic-Balic: Origin of the Name

What is the origin of the name of Balic-balic, Sampaloc, Manila? We have three (surprise, surprise?) versions on how the hills of Sampaloc got her name.

The first version can be called the “dead-end” story. The long road, called Calle Balic-balic (today’s G. Tuazon) stretches from the poblacion of Sampaloc and way up to the hills of Sampaloc which was a dead-end. People had nowhere else to go but back (balic-balic) to where they came from. We can’t be certain when Calle Balic-balic was built, but old maps of Manila circa 1890’s shows Calle Balic-balic with the cemetery on the left side. The road continues until it meets Santol although the map shows a broken line possibly indicating that the road may not be finished.


Photo above shows map of Sampaloc, Calle Balic-balic circa 1899.
The second version is another “dead-end” story but this version echoes the time when Balic-balic Cemetery was still open for burial. In 1897, Fr. Antonio Martin de Vidales , parish priest of Sampaloc, and Fr. Emilio Gago, parish priest of San Miguel (Manila), signed an agreement whereby one-half of Balic-balic cemetery was sold to the parish of San Miguel. According to some old-timers, the residents of San Miguel had a peculiar tradition when burying their dead at Balic-balic. Apparently, the people of San Miguel showed great reluctance in parting with their beloved departed. The funeral procession was led by four people carrying the casket of the dead. Every twenty steps or so, somebody would shout “balic” and the casket carries would take ten steps backwards. The “balic” sequence is repeated until somebody would shout “Sulong.” The backward and forward choreography thus became a common site along the road the leads to Sampaloc cemetery and thus people referred to the hills where the cemetery was located as “balic-balic.”


Photo above shows funeral procession (Romblon Island) circa early 1900’s.

The third explanation comes from the Malay tradition obalicbalicleaf.jpgf naming places after plants abundant in the area. In this case, Balic-balic comes from a plant/tree with a scientific name of “Pongamia Pinnata (a close cousin of the narra tree). The tree grows to a height of 15 meters and a diameter of about 45 centimeters. The flowers are purplish. and the oil from the seeds have been considered as antiseptic, cleansing, and with healing properties.

Which of the three versions comes closest to the truth? Or are all three part of the history of Balic-Balic?

~ by Martin Gaerlan on August 2, 2006.

11 Responses to “Back to Balic-Balic: Origin of the Name”

  1. ang galing nagyon ko lang nalaman ung reason why pinangalanan ung place namin na balic balic ahahaha

  2. im from calle balic balic, son of sampaloc

  3. can i ask the history of thr name of the streets in balic balic?
    particularly honradez, firmeza, calabash, craig..

  4. very interesting and informative! thanks for this…..

  5. Everyone in b.balic should know these historical origins of the name of their place….I already did!

  6. we used to lived in Balic-Balic, Vicente Alindada St.

  7. norma st. here..why the names of our street is province??

  8. it’s so nice to remember all of those things, 1979 when we transfer inside the annex school that they called is Sampaloc cemetery. do you believe what is underground of that school before it was erected. i only remember they dug up corpse and that big steel Palayok that until now under out their.

  9. What was the livelihood in Balic Balic wayback?

  10. A very enlightening piece for someone who was born and grew up in Balic- Balic

  11. The third one is probably the more plausible explanation because most of the old streets were named based on the characteristics people associate it with. Examples are, Maahas, Meycauyan, Batong-Malaki etc.

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