Manila Reborn - The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the City of Manila [VIDEO]




Manila is said to have been called "Pearl of the Orient" since the 1750s 

A foreign tourist at the time enthused: "She is easily the queen of the cities of the East, and for one who knows how to find the buried treasures, a year of residence in Manila may be one of the most profitable in a lifetime."

Built heritage in prewar Manila--such as the art deco buildings, the "Walled City" of Intramuros, and Chinatown--vividly reflected the confluence of Asian, European, and American cultures.

After Spanish colonization of the country, American rule led to the institutionalization of education and the creation of public infrastructure which opened Manila to world trade and culture.

Cosmopolitan Manila was a city that "felt equally at home with the tango, the flamenco, the waltz, the jive, and Balinese dancing." It enjoyed an era called "Peacetime."

Manileños before the war were entertained by "vaudeville, talking pictures, a big basketball game, [or] a gala night at the Santa Ana Cabaret." Meanwhile, America sank into The Great Depression.

As the country's capital, Manila was important in World War II for its ports, airfields, edifices, shipyards, factories, and warehouses. But when the war first broke, the city was taken by surprise.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur had planned to liberate Manila as soon as the United States Army entered it on February 2, 1945. Little did he know that the Japanese had been setting up defenses since December 1944.


As Filipino and American troops entered Manila, Japanese soldiers began to detonate buildings everywhere in the city in a calculated program of destruction.

The Filipino-American army waged the Battle for Manila with tanks and tank destroyers, heavy artillery, bazookas, machine guns, flamethrowers, snipers.

The havoc was complete. As Bambi Harper wrote, "The combatants took our history when they leveled Intramuros, they took our future when they slaughtered our youth."

The Dead City of Manila is Completely Conquered after 21 days of battle.

Among the prewar structures destroyed as a result of the Japanese defense position was the Bureau of Posts Building on the south bank of the Pasig River.

Another was the Legislative Building. Designed according to the Beaux Arts tradition, it had housed majority of the items of the National Museum of the Philippine Islands.

The Finance Building was not spared.

Neither was the Commerce and Agriculture Building.

First constructed in the 1590s, the Manila Cathedral is virtually as old as the city of Manila. The seat of the country's highest prelate, it had endured many storms, earthquakes, and wars.

Some important cultural structures were completely lost, like the Bureau of Science Building which contained the Divisions of Ethnology and Anthropology of the National Museum.

Manila came to be the second most devastated Allied city in World War II. Ruins of the Battle for Manila--and the city's prewar culture--were bulldozed to give way to reconstruction.

When the war officially ended in September 1945, recovery was slow. The Philippines had no one to turn to for help but the Americans,

Part of the United States' war assistance to the Philippines was the clearing of debris in Manila, and the provision of surplus US military equipment and property already in the country.

War had changed how Manileños navigated their city. For instance, right-hand driving was introduced in the country during the Battle for Manila, when it facilitated the movement of American troops.

The United Nations sent $11 million worth of food, clothing, medicine, and farm implements, but the relief program ended when the Philippines became independent in 1946.

The United States allotted $1.24 billion as payment for war damages even if the Philippine government's estimate was $8 billion. Payment was enforced only upon the approval of US-controlled free trade.

The money paid by America for war damages helped cover the reconstruction of some heritage structures, like the Bureau of Posts, the Legislative Building, and City Hall.

Compared to reconstruction in contemporary times, postwar rehabilitation was relatively quick and took only a few months or years.

But rebuilding life from scratch was hard. Manila five years after the war was, as Nick Joaquin wrote, "in the same condition in which it had been left after the Japs and the GIs were through with it."

"The makeshift devices of the Liberation days, like the pontoon bridge and the quonset hut, had...become the normal conditions...like the ruins, the relief goods, the racketeers."

"Abnormality had become the pattern of our lives. And the abnormality showed most in the three freaks that the Liberation had spawned in Manila--the jeepney, the barong-barong, and the squatter."

Life went on as Filipinos tried to recover their strength. Carlos Garcia's "Filipino First" policy encouraged Filipinos to venture into trade, leading to the proliferation of factories in Manila.

Ferdinand Marcos pushed for the creation of a "New Society" in which old values were supposed to be rejected in favor of progress and reform. 

In 1975, Marcos decreed the creation of Metro Manila under which Manila was subsumed. Marcos appointed the First Lady, Imelda Marcos, as governor of Metro Manila.

Rather than reconstruct old buildings, new ones were built, such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex in the reclaimed area of Pasay, another sub-city of Metro Manila.

Businesses left war-torn Escolta, and the once-grassy municipality of Makati prospered as the new commercial center of the region. Eventually, Makati became a city within Metro Manila.

By the 1980s and 1990s, with the country trying to reclaim democracy as it approached the new millennium, World War II had already been quite forgotten despite its relics.

With half a millenium of history on its book, the city is home to new generations of Filipinos from all walks of life.

Through the vigilance and commitment of cultural workers and old timers, Manila is still able to preserve some of the country's history. The Legislative Building again houses the National Museum.

The former Commerce and Agriculture Building was briefly home to the Department of Tourism and is now the National Museum of Natural History.

In this age of social media, email, and SMS, the Post Office Building remains one of the grandest American-era structures in the country.

The Neo-Romanesque Manila Cathedral reopened in 2014. In early 2015, it welcomed thousands of Filipinos during a mass by Pope Francis.

Jones Bridge reopens in 2019 thru restoration projects by Mayor Isko Moreno.

The constant rebirth of Manila seems as if every problem, 
every crisis, arises just to prove the aliveness of this city: 
continually destroyed and continually rebuilt, 
ever decaying  and ever re-greening."

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Source: Manila Reborn Google Arts & Culture

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