Waiting for a renaissance

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“… Races and empires and religions have washed over it; the warlike have used thunder to claim it and the city, smiling, has allowed them their foolish moment. Age after age, its lovers have hailed its rebirth or bewailed its perishing, while outside continued the traffic for strange webs with Eastern merchants. And all this has been but as the sound of lyres and flutes.”

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One of its native sons and certainly its most foremost chronicler, the late Nick “Quijano De Manila” Joaquin, thus described the city of Manila in his book “Manila, My Manila.”

Today is the 443rd foundation day of Manila, the country’s capital.

Indeed, any city would love to have the many unique historical attractions that Manila has because of its unrivaled past.

To name just a few, Manila has the 16th century Intramuros.

It has Rizal or Luneta Park, the site of so many significant moments in Philippines history.

It has neoclassical architectural wonders like the Old Congress building (now the National Museum), the Department of Tourism building, the Manila Post Office and City Hall itself.

It has Manila Bay, with its world-famous golden sunset, and old districts like Quiapo, Binondo, Sta. Cruz, Malate, Ermita and Escolta, as well as a good section of riverfront facing the Pasig River.

But Manileños would be the first to admit that their beloved city today is a far cry from that during its heyday.

The city has become dirty, dark and even somewhat dangerous at times, no doubt reinforced by such horrific incidents like the 2010 hostage-taking at the Quirino Grandstand that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead, which was perpetrated by a former Manila policeman at that.

Foreigners taking tours in any of the famous sites we mentioned will not likely miss Manila’s blighted neighborhoods, shantytowns and dilapidated buildings, and wonder whether this city is indeed the country’s capital, a city once bestowed such prestigious titles like “Pearl of the Orient” and “Paris of the East.”

Indeed, many of these foreign tourists have fallen prey to the city’s criminal elements.

The city is obviously in decay, its sorry state definitely hurting both the spirit and the economic state of its citizens.

Many of Manila’s 1.6 million residents live in slums. There are large concentrations of poverty in its districts and, of course, with it also problems with sanitation, crime, prostitution and general disorder.

We have seen a worsening of the quality of life in the city, tormenting its citizens and eroding their pride as so-called Manileños.

Indeed, even in the tourist belt of Malate, you would find hordes of homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks, including the Manila Baywalk, using the streets as their comfort room.

President Aquino issued Proclamation 604 on June 14 last year, “to give the people of Manila the full opportunity to celebrate and participate in the occasion with appropriate ceremonies.”

We wish all Manileños well and hope that there would truly be something more to celebrate in the near future than mere ceremonies.

Manila needs a huge comeback, a renaissance that could reverse its runaway decay and make it the city it was hoped to be and was once was—not only a mecca for tourists but a city where people really like to live and which residents can proudly proclaim as their own.

We truly hope that Joseph Ejercito Estrada could deliver his promise of a much better Manila, that his administration could muster the political and financial resources needed for the capital city’s renaissance.

This is Estrada’s second chance at a successful political career after his failed presidency.

It has been a year into his term and so far we are still waiting for him to implement a real and doable agenda for urban revival–one that could reduce crime, congestion, poverty and unemployment in the city, and solve other pressing problems like failing and overcrowded schools, inadequate public services, and diminishing parks and open spaces.

Pls. Mr. Mayor, make good on your promises and make Manileños proud of their city once again.

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3 Comments

  1. I hope that you are not kidding when you where urging mayor Erap to do something to revive our beloved city. We all know that he is a rich and popular crook whose present agenda is to still be in the limelight of politics so that he and/or his cohorts could get back the presidency.

  2. If they need examples of asian cities which have rebounded ?…look no further than Saigon and Hanoi, restored colonial architecture, 5-star hotels, masses of tourists..difference to philippines, they dont have BGC, Makati, Ortigas, Eastwood etc etc

  3. Carlo L. Adan on

    More power to you, former Senator Herrera. Your column is a herald of honest and sound assessments of aspects of our country.