Dreams, Optimism, Wisdom


Bro. Erle Frayne Argonza

[Writ 04 April 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

Good day, Fellows!

This primate city, my beloved Manila, was dubbed as the Pearl of the Orient before the 2nd World War. Reading through accounts of the city during the late President Quezon’s time, and viewing pictures of it during those halcyon days, one’s jaw would surely drop at this jewel of the orient.

I was never that lucky to have witnessed that great past. But I’m lucky enough to bear witness to Manila’s unfolding into a gigantic over-developed metropolis that it is today, which had since expanded into a ‘greater Manila area’ comprising of 17 cities and towns. And it is still growing into a megapolis.

It was simply too tragic a thing that the Philippines, like its sibling nations in Asia, got entangled in a war that was not its own. That catastrophic event fated Manila to be flattened back to the Stone Age by ceaseless carpet bombings, rendering the once jewel city into an apocalyptic wasteland that was 2nd in devastation only to Warsaw.

The city had grown after the war, with the execution of a master plan for a greater Manila that defined development expansions on through the outlying lands. It became the hub of the industrialization efforts started by the Roxas regime, gave birth to a new city called Quezon City (as envisioned by the late president Manuel Quezon) that was to be the administrative and educational center, housed the financial center that was to be Makati, and out came forth every commercial activity without let up across the decades.

True, just like the rest of the primate cities of Asia, Manila attracted vast hordes of migrants from the rural areas. Squatting, pollution, traffic jams, flooding during rainy days, and population congestion calcified as its chief problems. By the 1990s Manila was all but a picture of apocalyptic urban decay, no different from what it was in 1945 after the end of World War II.

That situation had since changed. Manila had surely jettisoned off to the ‘overdeveloped’ or 1st world status. New arterial boulevards have arisen, 17 key mix land-use commercial hubs grew as its model areas, floods have been put under control, light rail systems are rising rapidly around it, and many former polluting industries were disseminated to other regions.

Today Manila is a gigantic metropolis and is fast moving to become a megalopolitan hub or ‘megapolis’. It produces 1/3 of the gross domestic product or GDP and has sufficient resources to build its own ambitious infrastructure projects including international airports. Being so awash with funds, it had been compassionately donating aid to calamity-devastated cities and towns that are less fortunate (i.e. 3rd world communities).

It had also arisen as the fashion and shopping capital of Asia, an esteem that used to be bestowed only on Hong Kong and Tokyo. It boasts of huge shopping malls, most of which are of wonderful architectural designs. Underlying this cultural landscape is the multi-cultural template of a postmodern city, which makes it a natural attractor of culture producers and cosmopolitan bohemians from many parts of the globe.

Now that it had risen to its present state, Manila, this time grown to a megapolis in size and influence, is fast regaining its ‘pearl of the orient’ image of a foregone era. And most likely this image can be surpassed in the coming years and decades ahead.


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