I've been on an unintended hiatus from blogging for almost two months. I've moved to a new company and job and a new city and the settling-in has taken time.
Despite my absence from these pages, Manila hasn't been far from my thoughts. Mostly I've been thinking about the comments on this post from Carlos Celdran. Carlos posted a 1938 Andre de la Varre feature on Manila. The video is a must-watch for anyone interested in our city's history.
The camera pans across scenes of Intramuros and Binondo, of Ermita and Quiapo, and captures life in our city at a time of great change -when cars where beginning to take over the streets. Tranvias, calesas, automobiles, horse drawn buses and carabao drawn carts jostle with pedestians for the road. It shows congestion beginning in the streets, bustling commerce, churchgoers and promenaders.
Carlos' title for the post? "Sigh, sigh, sigh" as the film makes it easy to get nostalgic about the Manila we have lost. The comments echo his melancholia.
We've lost so, so much. :-( One hopes that we can rebuild, but it's been 70 years since that video, and over 60 years since the war, yet the deterioration continues. Sigh, again.Alvin agrees:
"Sigh" indeed. Sad as I am that we may never be able to recapture how Manila looked like then, I'm thankful that these videos that you kindly shared with us give us a clearer portrait of a more genteel, comparatively classier Manila.Most of the comments expressed a courageous love for the city -but all in the chord of "Our city is terrible now, and it's probably too far gone, but we love it anyway." -Which I admire but it bothers me nonetheless.
The love, heroic and seemingly unrequited, is principal. We must love the ground that raised us if our identity is to be grounded and if we are to grow deep roots.
The pessimistic melancholia, rose-colored glasses about a "genteel" past that may never really have been, and a clouded but determined commitment to hold the city dear despite its corruption, is ultimately self-defeating.
Do we still have hope for our city? Do you think we can still do anything about Manila and our megacity?
My fear is that, even those who profess to love the city, will say no. It is, after all, easy to be pessimistic, there is little that brings hope -and our city's problems seem too complex to find solutions.
But cities are never static. Cities are in constant flux. Buildings go up, and come down. Streets change shape and are rerouted. Properties are abandoned then reclaimed. Mores and fashions change with the generations
Cities change. Understanding how cities change will help us to shape that change. To set a path to sustainability and livability and mitigate the decay.
If you love the city of your birth and life but feel little hope for its future, then I offer the next few posts to you. Cities can change and cities can turn around. There are lessons we can learn from others and I hope to write about them, to teach and more importantly, to inspire.