Saturday, June 24, 2017

Old Manila in photos and paintings

Manila is a city established on June 24, 1571 by Miguel Lopéz de Legazpi. This year, therefore, marks its 446th founding anniversary. But note that in this post, I refer to the greater metro area as Manila in general, not just the old walled city built by the Spaniards.

For me, finding old photos of Manila is always fun because it gives me a glimpse of what this modern city looked like back in the day. These days, Manila is a busy metropolis of buildings, millions of vehicles (hello, EDSA traffic!) and of people (parts of Manila have higher population densities than Tokyo, Dhaka, Kolkata, Mumbai, Paris, and Shanghai). In fact, it's so crowded that there's an urgent need to find a way to move these people to and from work and school in the most efficient way. 

It's quite difficult to imagine Manila from the time it was an idyllic city. The photos I've seen exhibited at the Ayala Museum demonstrate what it was like back then. Although I expected that there were horse-drawn carriages, I was very surprised to note that there were rickshaws here too! And there were geishas! I thought these women were only in Japan!

I'm also fascinated with the different fashion statements that the people illustrated or photographed (aside from the coolie and the geisha) were wearing European attire. I assume that these images only feature the rich people in the city, who identify themselves as Filipinos. The rest of the population, the middle and the lower classes, rarely are featured in these historical documents... and probably didn't see themselves as Filipinos yet at that time. I'm referring, of course, to a scene in "Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon?", a period drama about a country looking for its national identity. 

It's refreshing to see how our ancestors lived back in the day. I wonder how the next generations of Filipinos will see the Manila that I grew up in, especially since most photos nowadays are digital and are posted on social media.