Manila in the Claws of Light 2

Manila, the Philippines

November 30, 2020

No pandemic could put a damper on the development of our capital city. The good mayor of Manila, Yorme Isko, had kick-started his revitalization initiatives at the area around Manila City Hall before the world ground to a halt in the first quarter of 2020. While I spent months at home on self-imposed lockdown, public works in the city hardly paused.

Ki @ Lagusnilad Underpass, Manila
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The Jewel in the Palace

Manila, the Philippines

April 25, 2019

In my 50 years as a Filipino citizen, I never set foot in Malacañang Palace, the seat of power in the Philippines. As the office and official residence of presidents since a century ago, it never piqued my curiosity even as a historical site. A palace implied royalty; last time I checked, our form of government was never a monarchy. The opportunity came in the form of an invite from a colleague and docent-in-training. Her connections in the Presidential Museum secured our group a spot in their weekday guided tours.

TTT with Mesdames X, Y, Z, and a Secret Agent @ Malacañang Palace, Manila
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Manila in the Claws of Light

Manila, the Philippines

July 20 and November 24, 2019

The urban squalor depicted in the acclaimed Brocka film Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag in the 70s persisted like a stain that wouldn’t come off. The glory days of Manila were long forgotten. In the 80s, I could not unsee children and grown men hanging from embankments and pooping directly onto Pasig River in full view of morning rush hour traffic. Thirty years later, little else had improved. Until Mayor Francisco Moreno Domagoso – popularly known as Yorme Isko – came along. Barely warming his mayoralty chair, he set out to scrub off the decades-old grime of our capital city.

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Good 2Go

Manila and Cebu City, the Philippines

December 30 – 31, 2018

Sailing used to be the cheaper alternative to flying. But in the advent of LCCs, it mostly cost less – and for less travel time – to take a plane than a ship. One December day, though, we decided to welcome the new year in Cebu. The holiday rush shot flight fares through the roof; that was a given. What was not was going by boat, which basically meant going by 2Go, the country’s largest passenger ferry fleet.

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Three Weddings and a Breastfeeding Virgin

Manila, the Philippines

May 18, 2014

My grandfather must have turned in his grave. He was the first Filipino Baptist minister in my hometown in the 1930s; fast forward to about 80 years later and his daughter – my mother – declared she wanted to do a visita iglesia in Manila. As a PK (pastor’s kid), Mom could count with one hand the times she had been inside a Catholic church. Perhaps because of this blog, she finally caught on to my fondness for religious art in these colonial-era churches.

Wedding @ San Agustin Church, Manila

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Filipino Gothic

Manila, the Philippines

January 29, 2011

Gothic, Illuminati, noir-ish. No, these were not plot elements of the latest installment in the Da Vinci Code franchise.

One gloomy January day, I attended an Illuminati event at the only Neo-Gothic church in Manila, the Basilica Minore de San Sebastian. From the elevated train, the sight of the church’s twin spires piercing the sunless sky evoked an ominous Gothic atmosphere. Despite the whimsical aquamarine exterior, darkness enveloped my tentative steps as the basilica’s main portal creaked open akin to a film noir opening sequence.

San Sebastian Church

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Balangay, Where the Sky Meets the Sea

Manila, the Philippines

September 26 / October 24, 2010

The Philippines may have more or less 7,107 islands, but when Miss Philippines Charlene Gonzales was asked about the exact number, she cheekily replied, “High tide or low tide?” Regardless, the sea had been regarded as a geographic border that separated people and places. However, in precolonial times before the Philippines became a politically unified archipelago, “communities were connected, not separated, by water,” according to historian William Henry Scott.

Japanese Tourist Attempting the Split at the Museum of the Filipino People

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Museum Musings

Manila, the Philippines

September 26 / October 24, 2010

Sunday is free-admission day at the National Museum of the Philippines. Despite the come-on, its halls are hollow with just a handful of visitors. It seems that the museum has become a mausoleum of our historical remains – static and dead. Yet its halls should be hallowed. The museum is the country’s beating chest of historical treasures. It is said that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Perhaps this is why history does repeat itself in the Philippines. How many of us step into the museum to be reminded?

National Museum of the Philippines

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Spatial Transcendence

Manila, the Philippines

September 26, 2010

“It’s not flat!” Karry, my Japanese friend, exclaimed as she was looking up at the ceiling of San Agustin Church in Manila. That one sentence proved that the church’s ceiling mural had fooled yet another gazer. And that was exactly what a trompe l’oeil painting intended to do. French for “deception of the eye,” the visual art technique rendered images on a flat surface to be realistically three-dimensional, and it had been used for centuries. Kids, 3D was not invented by James Cameron.

LIght and Shadow, Reality and Illusion @ San Agustin Church, Manila
Light and Shadow, Reality and Illusion @ San Agustin Church, Manila

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The Tragic Beauty of Manila

Manila, the Philippines

May 3, 2010

There was no better way to know a city than by walking its streets. Though I had walked and known other cities, I was not inclined to accord the same intimacy to Manila, the city I worked in but would rather not walk in. There was always something that kept me off its streets: the mundane grind of real life perhaps, or the grime, crime, and grinding poverty. However, one sun-baked afternoon, cabin fever lured my friend and me outdoors to pound the city’s pavement.

A Calesa on the Sidewalk in Manila

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