The Manila of our Grandparents’ Affections: Videos of Pre-War Manila

A beautiful Filipino family on their wedding day. This is the marriage of my Lolo Francisco Joaquin to Mercedes de Jesus Verdote in a church in Manila, which surprisingly, I cannot identify. The photo is dedicated to Lolo Francisco's eldest sister and her husband, the parents of my own grandmother.

A beautiful Filipino family on their wedding day. This is the marriage of my Lolo Francisco Joaquin to Mercedes de Jesus Verdote in a church in Manila, which surprisingly, I cannot identify. The photo is dedicated to Lolo Francisco’s eldest sister and her husband, the parents of my own grandmother.

For many unfortunate Filipinos, their only ideas of pre-war Philippines (or Manila) were products of poorly-guided and rushed museum tours, a few “scary” black-and-white photographs and inaccurate Philippine period movies.

I find it a blessing that I had relatives, in particular, my late grandmother, who told me of many, many stories of pre-war Manila. I am also thankful for the grace of being able to have read beautiful (but heart-wrenching) books on pre-War Manila namely those by Purita Echevarria de Gonzales and Carmen Guerruero Nakpil.

It was a beautiful city – a city of affections. It was cosmopolitan but genteel, laid-back but pioneering, a city of pious devotions and fantastic parties. It was a hotbed of innovation especially in the field of architecture. It was home to beautiful people – ladies in the finest Filipiniana who can switch to the fashions of America at the time, with their hand-painted abanicos and lace veils from Spain, children who spoke Spanish, English and sometimes, Filipinos, gentlemen in sharksin suits, Panama hats and canes.

Intramuros was the religious and cultural capital but the rest of Manila’s arrabales (suburbs) including “far-flung” New Manila and San Juan have developed into precious, quiet enclaves for the country’s important families and personalities.

The majestic bay of Manila was sight of countless evening paseos where families, lovers, priests and nuns, ex-pats and tourists would enjoy the sea breeze as they met and exchanged pleasantries amidst the backdrop of Manila’s iconic sunset. By 6:00 PM, all of Manila’s churches will toll their bells for the evening Oracion or the praying of the Rosary and the Angelus Domini either in Spanish or Latin. Families, upon the conclusion of the Oracion, kiss each other (the beso), starting with the most senior member of the family. Evenings proceed to the comedor where families, dressed in their best, will enjoy dinners where only the best table etiquette was allowed. Before retiring, they enjoyed tertullias – gatherings in the sala where poems are recited, musical pieces are performed on the piano, harp or violin or where animated conversations are held.

Beautiful. Meaningful.

Those days are over. Today, Metro Manila has warped into an ugly city of roads, highways, gated villages, monstrous malls and more monstrosities. The values of the generations after have been dictated and controlled by an economic market obsessed on sex and materialism. Classical music has since been replaced by obscene and inane lyrics. Why, even the Catholic Mass, once the unwavering connection between centuries, has since changed.

We are grateful, eternally indebted, to the people who recorded these precious videos of a Manila we will never experience but should forever remember.

We remember, in a special way too, those murdered coldly during the Liberation of Manila. The horrors of that episode in the history of our country should never be forgotten. God, a movie on it should be due!

They should produce one that’s very similar in quality to Oro, Plata, Mata.

Below are now some videos that record the horrors committed by both Japanese and American indiscriminate bombing on the city. The Japanese killed, raped and coldly murdered Filipinos, Spaniards and other persons in a desperate and deranged effort to keep the city.

We need to remember that the city of Manila was not a city of beautiful buildings – it was a city of affections, of memories. The violence of the war tore out, with force, the soul of a city.

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About hechoayer

Things made yesterday still influence us until today. Things made today will influence us tomorrow. Things of the essence such as faith, culture, food, music and values should never disappear nor eroded by the times. Instead, these must be recorded, lived and shared. Such are things hecho ayer - made yesterday.
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8 Responses to The Manila of our Grandparents’ Affections: Videos of Pre-War Manila

  1. Aurora Lambino says:

    WOW.. What a small world… I had to double check the author of this piece as I also follow Kathleen Joaquin Burkhalter, who is a direct descendant of Francisco Joaquin and Mercedes Verdote. Do you know Kathleen? I am sure she will be so happy to know you have written about her grandparents. I love reading your magazine and kudos to you for writing such good pieces!

    • hechoayer says:

      Hello! We met this year and that photo is actually from hers. But as the caption says, it is originally addressed to my grandmother’s parents, Consuelo y Pepe. It is a very, very small world indeed.

  2. Hi!! I think the church where your grandparents were married in was the pre-war or pre-Vatican 2 interior of the Adamson University’s St. Vincent de Paul chapel.

  3. hehehe!! Yes, those two circular windows above the retablo are still in the present chapel. I think they just took down the retablo and replaced it with a “cloud like” structure. I just love your blog!! I hope you’ll be able to update often. I think I’ve seen you a couple of times in Our Lady of Victories for Mass? :) well, God bless your undertakings!!!

    • hechoayer says:

      Ah really? I am so thankful to SSPX for nurturing in me a deep love of the Faith. I started hearing Mass there when I was in 7th grade. I also like hearing Mass at the Pink Sisters because they still sing most parts in Latin.

      • WOW!!! REALLY? The trad world is really small!! The beauty of the Catholic Faith really binds all Her children together!!! You know what? Because of your blog entry on the Gilmore Carmelites I was able to meet and befriend a wonderful Carmelite nun. (Sor Anita) Keep up the good work!! God bless you!!!

  4. jose says:

    “my late grandmother, who told me of many, many stories of pre-war Manila”.
    Gracias por compartir sus vivencias. Apreciaríamos mucho si recordase esas historias que su difunta abuela le contaba de la Manila de antaño.
    Las personas que conserven fotografías o películas de Manila deberían hacerlas públicas.
    “We need to remember that the city of Manila was not a city of beautiful buildings – it was a city of affections, of memories”.
    No estoy de acuerdo con Ud. Si quiere decir que Manila no tenía famosos edificios, como la torre Eiffel o la catedral de San Pablo de Londres, entonces claro que no tenía edificios hermosos. Manila era una ciudad colonial con una arquitectura única y propia de Filipinas. Era colonial pero era también señorial. Eso no lo puede negar nadie.
    Creo que cuando dice que Manila era una ciudad de afectos y memorias se refiere a una manera de vivir más señorial y más humana donde la cultura y la gentileza tenían un peso que ahora no tiene -en ninguan parte del mundo moderno- Son esos afectos y memorias que evocado arriba y que ha compartido con nosotros.
    Muchas gracias

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