Tuesday, June 24

Manila in Black and White

Found two videos of pre-World War II Manila in YouTube. The first is Manila, Queen of the Pacific. (Andre dela Varre, The Screen Traveler) In 1938, according to the voiceover, Manila had become a modern American city, although traces of its past as a "sleepy Spanish town" was still there--in the narrow alleys, the karitela, the horse-drawn buses, the marketplace where women tested the strength of baskets. It divided Manila into three areas: the modern city with its drug stores (not "chemists' shops") and airconditioned shopping areas in downtown Escolta, Tondo, where the masses lived, and the Intramuros, a great example of the medieval walled cities.

It was quite amazing to see the Manila that a lot of us never knew. There was a tranvia, where we only have the Light Rail Transit. Jones Bridge had been completed just a couple of years back. It showed a lot of promise: see the wide tree lined boulevard standing on reclaimed land facing Manila Bay. It was said that had Daniel Burnham's plan for the city had been completed, it would have been like Washington DC. But in fact, the waterfront road was the only thing in the plan that was accomplished. The Manila that we know now suffers from poor or lack of urban planning. I wonder what it would be like had the plan been put in place, and two, had the city not been destroyed in the Liberation in 1945.

The other interesting video is "Castillian Memoirs: 1930s" It said that the traffic in downtown Manila was insufferable. Just imagine what the narrator would say now. The most bizarre scene was the one with the rotating door for "foundlings" in the the Hospicio de San Jose. A man put a baby in the slot in what seemed like half a drum. "Want to abandon your baby? Drop it in the chute! Works every time!" But then, there was also the scene of performing prisoners in the Bilibid. The Philippines had the largest penal, er, holding area, at the time. And in the afternoons, guests may come in and watch the performances. In those days, this meant military maneuvers and the marching band. Suddenly it seems like the Cebu prisoners dancing "Thriller" is but a logical development.

Finally, found some links about the Liberation of Manila between February to March 1945. Very harrowing accounts of what happened then. If you have the stomach for it, watch the video here.

All three videos are in black and white. The thing with B/W is that the distinction between them is never too stark. Instead what we see is the different shades of gray playing off against gradations of light.

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