Friday, July 20, 2007


Wow. This one is cool. Log onto the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's amazing collection of Manila pictures from the 1960s. Part of their "Cities of the World" feature and captured by a man named Harrison Forman, these pictures are an amazing account of what Manila was like one generation after World War II. They also show some very interesting details. For starters, who knew that Plaza Moraga at the foot of Jones Bridge had such great looking streetlamps (top, center). I wonder if Manila City Hall can have them copied?

It also shows that the Santa Cruz Church had no street vendors hanging outside in the plaza in the mid-1960s. I wonder when they - and the beggars - moved in. Incidentally, that tin street light hanging from the wires in the top center of the photograph is still there. Just saw it last week.

This photograph shows people wearing long sleeved shirts and slacks when going to work on the Escolta. Perhaps Manila was colder then? It also shows our city streets still packed with American cars. Not a TOYOTA in sight. I especially love the Studebaker on the left.

This photograph shows a very affluent Manila population going about their everyday business on the corner of Pinpin Street and Escolta. The kind of people who would probably never be caught dead there today. And most of the shops also seem so...American. Not to mention the fashions. We seem to have consumed a very conspicuous amount of American products and cultural norms right after the war.

This shot shows the El Hogar Building and Citibank still in use, complete with neon light billboards for Shell gasoline, Royal Tru Orange, and FGU Insurance. The Pasig River waterline looks much lower - and the water itself seems cleaner too. It's apparent from this shot that major multinational corporations in the Philippines still based their offices downtown and not clustered around the cramped Makati Business District in the mid-1960s. I wonder when exactly did the transition of Manila's business district from Manila to Makati happen. When did they abandon the streets of Juan Luna, Muelle de la Industria and Muelle del Banco and leave it to rot with the wandering vagrant classes? When did big business abandon downtown for Ayala Avenue?

Which, in this photograph, does not look cramped at all. And whatever happened to those pine trees on either side? It totally completes the illusion that this is a scene somewhere in the United States of America instead of the Philippine archipelago. Only thing lacking in this photograph are real Americans.

And check out this picture of a fabulously flowing, traffic-free, four-laned Roxas Boulevard. No coconut trees had been planted along the shoreline yet and the road had not been widened to eight lanes punctuated by overpasses. Most interesting of all, what is that being constructed in the distance? Is that the Cultural Center of the Philippines being built?

Other amazing shots to check out: Manila street scenes with painted jeepneys, a newly restored Manila Cathedral, and a wide open Agrifina Circle. Log on here.

Thanks Apa for the link.