The Manila We Knew
We could have introduced this project with a classic Filipino novel, an essential for recovery and peer review but I chose this book to introduce our intentions about reviving not only the lost appreciation of Filipino literature, but to revive a general interest in what’s local: in the little buried secrets and treasures of Manila, so that we can hope for her again. We’ve chosen to start from a city where many fond memories have been erased and it seems – no sooner replaced by complaints about how things are doomed to be ugly, decrepit and broken forever. Here is a book that transports us to a Manila that was, a Manila that we don’t know, a Manila that doesn’t surface in the minds of those complaining, when she was so beautiful that she was describable; people wanted to share her.
The Manila We Knew, is a collection of essays written by participants of the workshop, the Women Writers’ Workshop (W3), reminding us of Manila in her Golden Age, when she was heralded and sought after, courted even by foreigners (who are often suspected and blamed for ruining her soul) and loved – unconditionally – by her own citizens. She had streets that we currently know by different names: Dewey Boulevard is now Roxas Boulevard. EDSA was once “Highway 54″. She was draped in finer things; her memories were adorned with gated communities rich with flora and fauna, of prestigious private schools and of horseback riding. While these short stories were written from the perspective of a small representative of the Filipino population, the upper echelons of society, they are no less real. Whether or not they are about the rich or poor, the stories in this anthology are a part of her wealthy history, carefully selected to recall the days when she was young, opulent and with her whole life ahead of her. But so it goes, things change and sometimes, take a turn for the worse.
These essays include fragments of Manila’s painful history ravaged by war, but it also captured the elusive romance that is the charm of any city. This insightful collection returns the word rich to when it was synonymous with privilege and hard work and not especially to names of corrupt politicians or corruption itself. It provides us with the nostalgia we need to start believing in our city again.
She has kept a whole spectrum of memories, both grand and grey, but she can have many more. She is still alive – dying perhaps- and yet here she is, the underdog of the underdogs, all odds against her only made worse by our resignation to how things are. We forget that anyone whose heart can still function has a fighting chance to be revived, restored and renewed. We start by this book cover. Take the memories from this anthology, preserve your own, fight for her – and we can breathe hope into the Manila we know and watch her grow.
Back Cover & Alternate Cover: