THIS year’s commemoration of the city of Manila’s 445th foundation anniversary is a blast from the past, a flash back to how the Philippine capital was in the olden days.
Araw ng Maynila remembers the day in 1571, when Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi formally founded Manila as a city and center of the first Spanish settlement in the East Indies, which included the Philippines, Guam, and Marianas Islands.
Former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said he wants today’s young generation to have a glimpse of the old Manila.
“The way to bring back Manila’s old glory is to reflect on the past, so we can work on the future,” explained Estrada, who is soon to start his second term as the city’s mayor.
The city government lined up a number of activities for the whole week towards June 24, which outgoing President Benigno Aquino III declared as a special non-working holiday for the city, giving Manileños a three-day weekend.
Highlighting the weeklong celebration was the “Balik-Tanaw sa Maynila,” a photo exhibit cum costume program showcasing Manila’s customs and traditions, from costumes to dances, games, and people’s pastimes in the olden days.
Organized by the city’s tourism department, the event ran from June 20 to 23 along the entire stretch of Roxas Boulevard Baywalk.
“Manila was the only center of commerce,” Estrada said, “When you say Philippines, Manila immediately comes to mind. Where Manila goes, others follow. People say a lot of things about Manila, but it is still a premier city.”
“Balik-Tanaw” was one of Estrada’s programs to pursue tourism development for Manila.
In January, the mayor allotted P200 million to reacquire the Metropolitan Theater (MET) from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
Lighting up the city
Estrada has also earmarked an additional P128 million for the completion of Manila’s street lighting program. In March last year, he released P61 million for the installation of 1,054 new lampposts in the city.
“What I want here is brightness, not darkness,” he said. “We want to light up as many streets as we can,” mentioning public safety as the city government’s main consideration.
The street lighting project is part of Manila government’s urban renewal program, which includes improvement of landscapes and renovation of historical parks and monuments.
As of June, a total of 1,749 lampposts have been put up along 60 streets of Manila, as the city government hopes to double the number in the next few months.
Estrada noted that Manila’s tourist-oriented District 5, which covers Adriatico St., Taft Avenue, Mabini St., and Roxas Boulevard, benefited most from the street lighting project, as it helped boost business and local tourism in Manila, while deterring crime at the same time.
“This is for the people of Manila,” said Estrada, who was born and reared in Tondo, where 94 new lampposts were recently lit up.