It’s now 1 December 2012, and within 30 days, another year ends.Time has been flying so quickly in this day and age of BBM, Facebook and Google. At one click, one is able to “un-friend” a person, post a photo of what one is eating at present and even record a video that could be an international hit on Youtube. Mobile phones are now just not used for calling and sending out text messages; they’re now called smart phones.
It is with this regard that I wish to share with you some archival footage of Pre-War Manila. It is so ironic that with today’s powerful technologies, many Filipinos youths still fail to realize how, at the tip of their fingers, they can be transported to a different Manila – the Manila of our grandparents’ affections.
Why is this important, one may ask.
Because Manila before was beautiful. It was inspiring. It was captivating. It was the Pearl of the Orient. It is thus imperative that youths, our future leaders, be made aware of the potential (and lost chances) we have to realize especially in future decisions that ought to be made and plans that ought to be implemented.
Manila then featured a unique metropolis: a medieval walled city with ten magnificent churches and convents, schools, mansions and even a “marble palace” (the Ayuntamiento), a system of esteros (creeks and streams) that are connected to the Rio del Pásig, which is connected to Laguna de Bai and Manila Bay, charming summer chalets in hilly San Júan and summer houses along the riverside towns of Sta. Ana and San Miguel, a busy Chinatown in Binondo and commercial center with Indian, Muslim and native traders in Quiapo and Recto, a luxurious shopping strip called La Escolta, etc.
Manila lived up to its stature as a capital. And what is a capital but the place to feature nothing but the most outstanding and excellent of a country. The designs of houses set the standard for the rest of the archipelago, the taste in fashion of Manila’s alta de sociedad influenced the local gentry of the provinces and even the festivities and events of Manila were the most remembered.
Sadly, this Manila was forever destroyed, erased from the face of the planet forever after the “Liberation” of Manila in February 1945. It is thus heart-warming that several archives from abroad have vintage videos of beautiful, genteel, idyllic Manila available for the general public, and for Filipinos youths to enjoy and view.
It is enthralling, captivating and even heart-wrenching to see these videos. We no longer have these kinds of well-attended fiestas nor practices, wherein the divide between the rich and the poor are not so obvious, and where true Filipino heritage is displayed ostentatiously. The most we have are rock concerts held in some capitalist’s mall. We also no longer see this love and pride for national dress. In these videos, one can see ladies and gentlemen wearing traditional Filipino dress for their daily routines.
First Video: El Congreso Eucaristico, Manila, 1937
This is an actual footage of well-attended, grandiose 33rd International Eucharistic Congress held in Manila from 3-7 February 1937. Thousands of bishops, priests, monks, friars and nuns led the faithful of Catholic Philippines in those days of reunions, seminars, prayers, Masses and other pious activities, which was covered by different international news agencies. I myself read about this in the college library where there is a book that recorded, with vivid photographs, all the events and speeches. It was written in beautiful Spanish. The Papal Legate is seen here in the video arriving, the Bishop of Philadelphia (the Philippines was then under US Rule).
Manila during those historic days was abuzz with Latin and Spanish hymns. Everyone, both rich and poor, were on a high. The love for the Eucharist and the Mass then was so evident among Filipinos. In the Luneta, they set up many decorative arches and a tall structure to commemorate the event.
It should be noted that a diary of an SVD missionary records how Communists threatened people in Tondo not to decorate their homes for the Eucharistic Congress. If they did, their homes would be burned.
Second Video: La Naval Procession – 1929
This second video is a very rare recording of a Pre-War celebration of the country’s “procesión de procesiones”, the mother of all processions – the La Naval de Manila. Yearly since the image was commissioned, Manila is the sight, every October, of the grandest and most awe-inspiring procession, that of Nuestra Señora del Santíssimo Rosario – La Naval de Manila. The image is of Our Lady of the Rosary exquisitely rendered in ivory and bedecked and clothed in marvelous jewelry and gold thread. It is believed to be the most decorated image of the Blessed Mother. Its procession too was formerly the favorite of the country’s elite: the Zóbels, the Sorianos, the Roxases, the Legardas, Aranetas, Trindads, Zamoras, Prietos, Tuasons, etc. Nick Joaquín is perhaps the most famous devotee of Our Lady of La Naval. His essay “La Naval de Manila” gives us a glimpse of the grandeur of this fiesta that marked each Manileños October, and this fiesta mood actually marks the countdown to Christmas.
Third Video: Castillian Memoirs, 1930s
Finally, in this precious video, one gets a glimpse of daily Manila during the American period. To be fair to the Americans, they recognized how distinctly Hispanic the Philippines was on this side of the Pacific. Unlike many Filipinos today, this video recalls and relives the real connections we have with la tierra madre, Spain, From the physical features of the people, to their pious practices, their temperament, names, and traditions, this video showcases the Hispanic blood that ran deeply in Filipinos’ veins.
This video, finally, shows to us the genteel and highly-sophisticated society that Manila was before. In one scene, one sees beautiful ladies, in fine Filipiniana, coming out of a hat store and hailing a caromata. This video also shows us that despite the affluence of many Manileños, their city was set-up still in a way where there is much interaction between the rich and the poor. Unlike today when certain malls or areas are solely visited by the rich, before, people of all social classes rubbed elbows in church, in the arcades of Avenida Rizal, in Quiapo, etc.
It also tells of the city’s high regard for delicadeza and social etiquette. The likes of Vice Ganda wouldn’t survive in this Manila. It was a Manila that placed a high regard on being tact, on dressing up properly, in having table manners. It was a Manila where Spanish was the language of the educated, English of the new-money (not entirely) and Filipino used to interact with the lower classes. It was a Manila of convent-schools (where students were internas), where boys went to school wearing coats and ties and hats and canes, and where everything proper, good, pious and right were recognized.
* I do not own the photos and videos in this blog. I do not intend to infringe on anyone’s copyrights.