Malate during the Spanish colonial period was an open space with a small fishing village. During the Spanish period, the center of activity was the Malate Church, dedicated to Our Lady of Remedies.
After the United States of America annexed the islands in 1898 as a consequence of the Spanish–American War, American urban planners envisioned the development of Malate as the newest and trendiest exclusive residential area for American families. American expatriates and some of the old Spanish mestizo families populated the district in modern high rise apartments and bungalows.
Despite extensive damage after the Second World War, many homes and buildings were still standing. The displaced wealthy families who evacuated their homes during the war returned and re-built their private villas and kept the whole district exclusively residential until the 1970s.
The once exclusive residential areas in western Malate began to transform into a commercial area with some large homes and residential apartments being converted into small hotels, specialty restaurants and cafes.
During the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos, visual and performing artists found a haven in Malate and it became a bohemian enclave