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 Guerrero 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 fine 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 fluent Spanish, English and sometimes, Filipino; 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. Idyllic. Peaceful.
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 Classical music has since been replaced by obscene and inane lyrics.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.