I saw an interesting tweet by author Butch Dalisay tonight that made me think of how rich our heritage is, and how much we’ve lost to the past. I think it’s such a shame that we allow so much of our cultural and built heritage to be neglected and left to waste away.

What beautiful photos. I wish I could have lived in the early 20th century to witness how beautiful “the Pearl of the Orient”, the “Paris of the East” really was. It’s too bad that we never got to see these anymore. Manila was completely decimated after Filipino and American troops battled with the Japanese forces occupying the city in the Battle of Manila, where hundreds of thousands of civilians died.

But even before the War, natural disasters have previously wrought much damage to beloved buildings in the city. There were two major earthquakes in the 19th century — one in 1863 and another in 1880 — that wrought much destruction in the capital. ‘

In 1863, the earthquake destroyed prominent landmarks in Intramuros, such as the Manila Cathedral, the Ayuntamiento, and the Governor’s Palace — which are all located in what is now Plaza de Roma. (I read on Wikipedia that this was also the time when the residence of the Governor-General — the highest official in the Spanish colony, was moved 3 km up the Pasig River to what is now the Malacañang Palace. In 1880, the island of Luzon was hit by another earthquake, causing much destruction to a newly rebuilt Manila.

What a waste. But at least we get to see bits and pieces of the Old Manila in postcards, photos, and paintings. I feel so bad about how badly Escolta deteriorated, and I’m hoping against hope that someday, a Manila mayor will be brave enough to be at the forefront of the conservation of these historic places.

Lyric Theatre, 81-83 Escolta Street, Manila, Philippines, 1940-1941. Photo by John Tewell

I think that no two generations ever experience the same Manila. What we see are merely shadows of replicas of memories from what it used to look like centuries ago. It’s painfully sad.

Untouristing Manila Cathedral


Please, if you know where to get a copy of Nick Joaquin’s Manila, My Manila, do let me know! I read like the first half about a decade ago and I badly want to continue reading it!