Under the Star-Spangled Banner: American Manila

The Ayuntamiento Bedecked with the Star Spangled Banner

When the Americans finally arrived in the Walled City after the consummation of the farce Battle of Manila, the Joes were utterly shocked by what they saw. Huge monasteries, hooded friars, monks in Mendiola, nuns who are completely hidden from the world, precious works of art and architecture, natives who can sing Gregorian chant and play musical instruments, fine-looking bridges and of course, lovely mestizas. Like any foreigner, they had the impression that Filipinos, as in the natives, still lived on trees. They were completely dumbfounded.

Is this Asia? Or Medieval Europe?

Aerial View of Port Area (1925) as Renovated by the Americans

No, it’s the Philippines. And because they had this fine settlement, this fine newly captured archipelago, strategic and full of culture and heritage, the Americans did all their best to maintain and improve the present Spanish set-up. In comes Daniel Burnham, man responsible for the planning of Washington DC.

Daniel Burnham’s great contribution to the Philippines is the Neoclassical doorway Manila boasts of along Dewey Boulevard (presently Roxas Boulevard). There one could see a linear lay out of the Legislative (presently the National Museum), the Luneta, the Manila Hotel as well as the pier.

Manila's Layout According to Burnham's Plan

The Luneta with the Governor's Stand where the Governor's Band Plays Every Afternoon for the Afternoon Paseo

Rich Filipinos Enjoying the Sea Breeze in Luneta During an Afternoon Paseo

During this time too, sanitation projects were implemented. The moat around Intramuros was covered and some areas were reclaimed. The ancient sewerage system (if ever there was one in the first place!) was replaced and many campaigns against illnesses were launched.

The Ateneo Padre Faura Auditorium Was the Toast of Asia

By 1922, the Golden Years of Manila, and the rest of the Philippines was said to have begun. The districts of Manila became exuberant and vibrant, anticipating independence from America (as they promised) but also comfortable in the present set-up of being an American colony. New schools were put up, many pensionados or scholars were sent to American universities and the Philippine Government was finally professionalized with the Civil Service Commission and Examination. All seemed bright for Manila during that time of relative peace and progress. Our grandparents had very sweet memories of this time, with the sugar trade in Negros booming, the coffee of Batangas flourishing, everything seemed perfect. Afternoon paseos in the Luneta, the Manila Carnival, the Metropolitan Theater, everything seemed carefree, idyllic and promising. Filipinos during this time were dreamers and they had every right to do so.

An Ermita Street: Romantic isn't it?

Attached are some videos taken from youtube just to showcase how gay life was in what the Americans proudly proclaimed “the Pearl of the Orient”.


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. Something made yesterday - hecho ayer - can be tomorrow's saving grace. Never ignore the past.
This entry was posted in CULTURA, HISTORICA, OLD MANILA and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Under the Star-Spangled Banner: American Manila

  1. Sana magkaroon ng Mayor ang Manila na magtutupad sa City Beautiful plan ni Burnham. Or at least partially. Hahaha!

    (That’s why I’m partial to Atienza–he has an emphasis for infrastructure development)

  2. Francis says:

    We should learn from the past, and try to preserve what is still remaining from what was “Manila Pearl of the Orient”.

  3. Yago says:

    Manila fue la Perla de Oriente y los Filipinos tenemos que recuperar la cultura y el idioma español.

  4. ro2v says:

    Hi. Another pic wrongly captioned.

    “An Ermita Street: Romantic isn’t it?”
    I believe that might be Calle Aviles, modern-day Jose Laurel Street, since it’s the street fronting the Malacanang Palace complex

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