Of all the towns and villages in South Africa there are very few who have a more interesting and fascinating history than Kalk Bay. Part of this rich history includes the settlers from the Phillipines. In the mid-1840s a Filipino crew who were ship-wrecked at Cape Point settled at Kalk Bay.
They found the climate most favourable but above all the abundance of the fish in the False Bay was almost too good to be true.
The Filipino populations of Kalk Bay slowly grew and the anti-Spanish riots in the Phillipines in the 1850s resulted in thousands of refugees fleeing the Phillipines, and a good many joined their countrymen in Kalk Bay. Their numbers were reduced somewhat in 1898 when America took possession of the Phillipines and many returned home.
The families who stayed, some 60 odd, still have descendants in the village to this day and the names of de la Cruz, Fernandez, Menigo and Erispe still appear in St James catholic School register.
There is also a single concrete tombstone in Kalk Bay that overlooks the last resting place of many Philippine settlers.
Now, over a century and a half later, these early settlers are to be honoured by the City of Cape Town. The unnamed Kalk Bay steps, on the corner of Quarterdeck and Kimberley Roads, will now be known as the Manila Steps, after the Capital City of the Phillipines.
The decision follows an application by the Kalk Bay Historical Association early last year, who deemed it appropriate to honour these early settlers.
Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson says the Filipino community made a huge contribution to the fishing industry in Kalk Bay and the traditional way of life that is still evident in the local community today.
“The naming of the Manila Steps recognises the history and influence of the Filipino community in Kalk Bay, many of whom first began to settle here in 1839. They have helped to shape the history and character of Kalk Bay and many of the descendants of these early settlers still live in Kalk Bay. As an inclusive City, we acknowledge the proud heritage of this community and the contribution that they have made to the unique and diverse history of Cape Town.”