A Glimpse Inside Manila’s

University Belt

by Inside Manila Contributor, September 12, 2019 12:31am

Art by Allen Mirambel


A Glimpse Inside Manila’s University Belt

by Inside Manila Contributor, September 12, 2019 12:31am
Art by Allen Mirambel

In the novel  “Americanization of Manila”, Cristina Evangelista Torres writes that our American colonizers had an urban plan for Manila. City planner Daniel Burnham wanted Sta. Mesa to be the education hub, but the US government wanted educational institutions to be located closer to the government offices in the periphery of what is now Rizal Park. 

An unofficial name of a de facto subdistrict in Manila where each colleges and universities are found at a short walking distance to each other.

University Belt (U-belt) is a generic term to an area that has a cluster of universities. Located in the heart of Manila, surrounds the district of Quiapo, San Miguel, Sta. Cruz, and Sampaloc. Manila University Belt has now at least 27 colleges, universities, review centers, and vocational schools in the area.

Historical Features of U-Belt

Did you know that there are schools in the area that are at least 100 years old? 

These schools are National University (1900), Manila Law College (1989), University of Manila (1913), San Beda College (1901), Sta. Rita College (1907), La Consolacion (1902), College of the Holy Trinity (1984), and the Centro Escolar University (1907). The grand oldest of them all however is the 400-year-old University of Sto. Tomas (1611).

The land where UST stands now was given by Don Antonio dela Riva and his lawyer, Don Alfredo Chicote. They donated the 22 hectares of land to the Dominican order for lending them the money they needed to purchase land around Sampaloc, presumably what we know now as Sulucan street. This came from the name of Don Antonio's company, Sulucan Development Corporation.

The first school to open along Calle Rizal (Taft Avenue) was Philippine Normal College and was established in 1901, followed by the University of the Philippines in 1908, and Philippine Women University in 1919.

Iconic infrastructure 

The first underpass was in U-Belt built during the ‘60s. The Lacson Underpass along Quezon Boulevard opened in 1961. It connects the road leading to and around the Quiapo Church. The vehicular underpass at the intersection of Recto and Quezon Boulevard opened in 1968. 

Three famous entertainment complexes were previously on the site of Isetann, Teatro Zorillo, and the country's first Cineplex, the Roman Cinemara, and  the Isetann Super Cinerama. 


Cheap second hand books

U-Belt is also a paradise for book lovers. You can find bookstores everywhereinside shopping centers, in standalone stores, or even sidewalks. 

Recto is famous for its cheap academic books that your professor asks you to have. You can also bind your thesis in a more affordable price. You’ll be surprised at the selection of rare book titles that will make your bookworm heart flutter.

Popular street foods at U-Belt

Each university has their own favorite street food and delicacies. You can never go hungry when visiting each school. Indulge yourself with food at a much cheaper price. 

The U-Belt is a food haven. There are fast food chains, tapsilogan, and karidenria joints, and an almost endless row of street food carts. Students flock to these carts where you can buy your all-time favorite tusok-tusok treats such as fish balls, kikiam, kwek-kwek, and calamares. There are also banana and camote cue, chicken skin, mango graham shake, and other Filipino merienda choices. 

Mang Tootz Food Haus


Ten of thousands of college students are flocking the University belt every day. The congestion and bustle can be overwhelming for young men and women, especially those who are not used to the organized chaos of the Metro Manila.

Student life is kind of like a first-timers trip to Ubelt too. It can be terrifying at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's nothing short of exhilarating. Make the most of your college life in the University Belt.


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