Manila Plan: Creating the Sea Boulevard

Daniel Burnham's sketch of the sea boulevard from Manila to Cavite (1907)
Daniel Burnham’s sketch of the sea boulevard from Manila to Cavite © 1907, University of Texas at Austin Library

Cavite Boulevard was part of Daniel Burnham’s 1905 plan for beautifying the city of Manila. It was to be widened, extended and pushed back from the waterfront. Renamed as Dewey Boulevard (present day Roxas Boulevard), it extends from central Manila along the Manila Bay, all the way to the Cavite, shown in the map above.

Burnham’s concept of the Cavite Boulevard closely reflects his overall ideas of developing the waterfront and creating pleasant vistas to the city. Bayfront from the Luneta southward was proposed to be a continuous parkway, gradually extending up to 20 miles from the Cavite Navy Yard. As Burnham believed in creating equal priorities for trees and landscape, pedestrian and vehicles in the road, the boulevard consist of roadways, tramways, bridle path, rich plantations, and broad sidewalks–totaling up to 76 meters in width. Cavite boulevard was indeed provided for all classes of people in various conveyances, and also well protected from the sun with coconut palms, bamboo, and mangroves.

Construction of Cavite Boulevard (1912) in The Century Illustrated Magazine Volume 83 published in 1912 by William E. Parsons
Construction of Cavite Boulevard © 1912, The Century Illustrated Magazine

To quickly attain an aesthetical and functional result, different types of trees such as acacia were planted, alternating with trees of slower growth, then replacing after the latter attain their growth. The seaward side of the boulevard were planted also to achieve the mystery effect of the ocean and sky as the trees can occasionally interrupt the views of the sea. The boulevard continued on a reclaimed land in the south at the Old Fort San Antonio Abad in Malate, beyond which strikes the beach and follows the shoreline to Cavite. Further extension of the sea boulevard in the northern shore was to be determined by the town development and harbor works in the north of Pasig River.

Map of Ermita (1935)
Map of Ermita and Malate © 1935, National Archives, Washington
Dewey Boulevard in 1940s
Dewey Boulevard © 1940, Columbia University


‘Details and Description of the Burnham Plans for the Reconstruction of Manila’ (1907), Far Eastern Review, pp. 322

Goodno, J. B. (2004) ‘Burnham’s Manila’, Planning, 70(11), pp. 30-34.

Murphy, P. and Hogan, T. (2012) ‘Discordant order: Manila’s neo-patrimonial urbanism’,Thesis Eleven, 112(1), pp. 10-34.

“Report of the Philippine Commission to the Secretary of War” (1910), Government Printing Office, Washington.


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