Manila on a Friday Night

Walking at the backside of Manila City Hall where there were no passing cars

Siesta was cut short today on my first day of sembreak because I got a text message giving me the go signal to conduct my first two out of five life-story interviews I need for my thesis. I had to go all the way to the Escuela Taller workshop in Intramuros by 4:30. Good thing I had time before meeting my friend at 6 before we went to the flamenco and guitar duet at Instituto Cervantes.

After my interviews with the kids, whose lives before Escuela Taller were heart-breaking but are now lives of hope, I was prepared to go the Instituto Cervantes. But I remembered “How?”

I wasn’t familiar with that side of Intramuros facing City Hall. But suddenly, the collection of maps in my brain functioned.

the Plaza behind City Hall, which opens to Taft Avenue

I remember we were required by Srta. Alexi Alunan to visit the frustrating National Museum for Spanish II. I remember getting off at LRT1 Central Terminal station and walking quite a distance to the museum. I also remembered how during those days as an intern at Instituto Cervantes, the trains would pass between City Hall and SM Manila.

Main entrance to the City Hall

I then walked towards the underpass leading to City Hall, went through it (it was actually well-lit, and there were a lot of people, not masikip or anything) and surfaced at City Hall. The City Hall of Manila is huge, and rightly so. I went to its far left side to be able to go back, and walk at its rear side, the one facing SM.

That was the scariest walk of my life in Manila. I’ve never walked alone in that notorious city in the evening (it was just 6 actually but it was already really dark, what with Manila’s missing lamp posts!). And the fact that it was the historic City Hall made it all the more scary. Once I reached Taft, it was a long walk to the corner of T.M Kalaw where I would be meeting my friend.

Stage at Cervantes before the program

But, actually, it was a liberating and relaxing walk. It was cool, dark and the sidewalks were not congested. There were occasional groups of fellow students and of course, Manila’s city urchins and mga taong grasa but it was a lovely experience seeing the City Hall, the National Museum and National Art Gallery as well as the Luneta during those dark minutes. I didn’t walk briskly, I enjoyed every moment of it despite my usual checking of pockets.

Don Jose Rodriguez, Director of Instituto Cervantes opening the night

The night ended with a beautiful and captivating Guitar and Flamenco show in Instituto Cervantes, which was FILLED with friends and guests of Instituto. We were all very happy. I’d like to believe that “Seis cuerdas para dos tacones” was a success.

Juan Antonio Suarez on the guitar

But it was during the solo guitar moments that really made me pensive and reflective. First, I remembered the bloody semester that has passed. And I remembered too the two scholars I spoke with at Escuela Taller. Lastly, I recalled the long walk I had from Intramuros to Cervantes and how during that walk all my lessons from Cultural Heritage class under Dr. Fernando Zialcita filled my mind and heart.

Manila, as in the capital, should be a walkable and safe, pedestrian-friendly city because for one to enjoy and relish its history, one has to walk through it. Forget the stench and the jeeps (although it’s hard to do so). Try walking!

Good night! It was definitely a productive first day of semestral break for me.

This day hecho ayer.


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.
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