Quantcast
Latest Stories

Bring back Old Manila, cry the youth

By

Jai Alai, the building young people do not remember

I do not remember the Jai Alai. I have never marveled at the flame trees that once lined the paseo to Luneta. Not once have I walked through Escolta in all its glory, when it exuded glamour comparable to stylish European boulevards.

When my college history professor told us that Manila was once the Paris of Asia, I could not believe my ears.

And can you really blame me? Not when Manila today is a quagmire of traffic, belched smog and reeking garbage. Not when the buildings of Escolta look down upon you like haggard beggars, their walls smeared with grime, ghosts of their former elegance. Not when the Jai Alai is nowhere to be found, having been demolished in 2000 by then Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, only to be replaced by an empty lot.

You tell us that Manila was once beautiful. Where is evidence of that?

Hunt for the old city

ESCOLTA in 1942

After that history class, I scoured Philippine history books and the web for a glimmer of that golden past. To my surprise, there was so much material.

Bloggers have posted archival photos of buildings as they once were, when they were the pride of a nation in full swing before the destruction of World War II.

Carlos Celdran and Ivan Henares offer tours of Manila, taking oblivious urban explorers to jaunts that open their eyes to the heritage peeking under the layers of smog and grime.

It is there, despite the disappointing surface of a city gone to the dogs. Beneath the cities of our daily lives is a beautiful city of Art Deco buildings, old Spanish churches, tree-lined boulevards and parks. A city aching to burst forth and show us what we’ve been missing all these years.

I’ve searched far and wide for this city, only to find it staring at me in the face. We still have some buildings left. Despite all our efforts, we have failed to erase this city of our dreams. We still have the Malate Church and San Sebastian Church; the Old Meralco building built by Juan Arellano in the ’30s with relief sculptures by the Italian artist Francesco Monti; the Nielson Tower in Makati built before World War II as part of the country’s first international commercial airport; and many more.

These buildings stand on our university campuses, beside LRT stations, in front of malls or on streets we pass on our way to work. They are everywhere yet we do not see them.

Seeing Manila

OLD building in present-day Manila

The first step to bringing back Old Manila is to see Old Manila. Don’t only pass by these buildings, but look at them. Really look at them and imagine them if they had been cleaned and restored. Imagine them in their prime.

I spent two weeks in Europe for an internship and in between work, I would wander the streets of Amsterdam and Paris. What I saw there astounded me.

Buildings that date as far back as the 14th century have been restored and continue to be in use today. A building that might’ve witnessed the Black Plague currently houses a McDonald’s. A 17th-century chapel has been transformed into a classy bar. Though there is an oak bar full of hard drinks by the front, one can see the organ by the high ceiling which had once played mass songs. Old townhouses still boast residents. A gothic church houses a gallery. Bookstores, restaurants and boutiques front old buildings.

Bring it back

Why can’t we have that in our cities? Why must Old Manila remain old, a mere memory, a fleeting moment gone forever when we can bring it back? The war is no longer an excuse.

Manila was only the second most destroyed city during World War II. Warsaw was the first and its residents have now fully restored their built heritage.

With enough awareness, political will, financial investments and involvement from all sectors, can’t we bring back our city as well?

It will take time and effort, but that is a small price to pay for national identity and pride.

YOUNG city explorers discovering Manila one snapshot at a time

A couple of college friends and I repeatedly visit Quiapo, Binondo and Escolta hoping to get a glimpse of the city we had been robbed of. We bring our cameras and some money to go on a Chinese food binge in Binondo. We wander the streets hungrily and greedily take photos of the still beautiful buildings there, desperate for a taste of the past.

There is so much beauty in our built heritage.

My dream is to see Manila restored, transformed into a walkable city where the streets are organized in a way that restricts car flow only to certain areas so that people can eat al fresco without air pollution getting in the way of a pleasant lunch.

I want to see my kids sitting under a bench beside a tree-lined walkway getting ready to buy milk tea from the Old Meralco building, now an elegant home to stylish cafés.

I want a Manila flocked by tourists eager to see the Paris of Asia. Only to us, it won’t be just another Paris. It will be Manila. Our Manila.

PHOTOS BY JOSEPH SANTOS ANGAN


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: 2bu , Escolta , History , Jai Alai , Old Manila , Philippine Heritage , Philippine History , Travel

  • http://www.facebook.com/zet.pena Zet Pena

    Bring back Metro-Manila Governor Imelda Marcos. Why not?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/55XNXOYBNF6BG3EWOM5V4YMWXM Pedro

    HWAG NAMAN PONG MAGAGALIT SAKIN, Nagsasabi lang po ako ng totoo, ibang iba na po ang Maynila today !. . . Manila now is notoriously known for  beggars sleeping on sidewalks, undisciplined jeepney drivers causing heavy traffic by transforming whole streets as jeepney terminals, . . . . fake diplomas and  fake  transcript of records easily  available for a fee at the Recto university,. . .illegal vendors , . and yes , dilapidated  buildings and most of all. . . ruthless holdup men who will kill people at the price of a cell phone and kotong cops waiting in ambush positions. . . Nakakalungkot. . . but that is a reality of Manila now. . .

    • http://twitter.com/retoot aris alfaro

      …yan ang pinaka magandang pag de-describe ng maynila ngayon. lahat tayo ay nais maibalik yung glory of the old days ng maynila. pero malabo na yun e. korek yung isang nag comment: nawala na ang soul ng maynila. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ESHBUAHKJ6TPHIPWCRJUM7MLEQ c5cjr

    that’s what happen kung sila Lim & atienza lang ang pinagpipilian mayor !!!!

  • mnlmad

    Lets admit it. Manila is a truly UGLY city.

  • Mananandata69

    U are dreaming an impossible dream. It  takes a politician with enough courage and wisdom to bring Manila back to its glory. And that politician has yet to be born. siguro kung si imelda marcos pa maging mayor, pero siempre marami mag re react na naman.



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. How to enjoy Buntod
  2. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  3. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  4. No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  5. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  6. The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  7. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  8. Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  9. What has happened to Barrio Fiesta and Singing Cooks & Waiters?
  10. Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  4. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  5. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  6. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  7. This is not just a farm
  8. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  9. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  10. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  3. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  10. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer

News

  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 American doctors
  • [VIDEO] No assurances on Janet Lim-Napoles’ bid to become state witness
  • South Sudan president fires long-time army leader
  • 25 cops ordered relieved over links to drugs
  • Bloodied shirt, unwashed fork: JPII relics abound
  • Sports

  • Pacquiao can dodge tax issues
  • F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges
  • Big Chill freezes Cafe France to arrest skid
  • Pacquiao has to go through PBA Rookie draft
  • Guiao summoned by PBA for name-calling incident
  • Lifestyle

  • Gongs and southern dances star in a workshop at San Francisco Bayanihan Center
  • This woman ate what?
  • Photos explore dynamics of youths’ sexual identity
  • 12th Philippine Food Expo set at the World Trade Center
  • No tourist draw, Malang the croc will remain wild
  • Entertainment

  • Smithsonian wants photos, videos for ‘Day in the Life of Asian Pacific Americans’
  • What Garcia Marquez left behind
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • Sony developing live-action Barbie comedy
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Business

  • Metro Pacific acquires stake in Victorias
  • How ‘one percent’ economic elite was uncovered
  • Facebook profits triple as mobile soars
  • Insular Honors Sales Performers at Testimonial Rites
  • Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock
  • Technology

  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • Obama to visit Filipino soldiers in Fort Bonifacio
  • Fil-Am youth conferences unite under one theme
  • Embassy advisory: Filipinos still need visas to enter US
  • No travel restriction to Mideast, DFA clarifies
  • PH-HK relations repaired, but families of victims still being courted
    Marketplace