07/21/13

The Metropolis and its Capital Dreams: Part I

Recently, there has been a proposal put forth by Philippine Senator Antonio Trillanes to move the capital of the Philippines to a new location, away from the congested, urban planning-challenged, traffic-infested, flood and earthquake-prone Metropolitan Manila. While this Urban Roamer has his doubts as to whether this proposal will push through, (as with many examples, but I digress) it must be noted that this latest proposal is just part of a long and tangled history we have with regards to planning a national capital. Thus, let this entry tell you the saga of a national capital, a story filled with hopes and plans that have been unrealized and gone awry. Continue reading

07/14/12

The Grand Dame by the Bay (Part 2)

With the many changes the Manila Hotel underwent through over the years, there is still this old world charm that it has managed to somehow retain today. This is evident the moment you step in its doors and be greeted by its iconic grand lobby.

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From the lobby to the room, every inch of the hotel manages to still retain an old world charm that reminds you of what Manila was in the past.

As far as hotel dining is concerned, the Manila Hotel has managed to make its mark thankss to its Ilang-Ilang Restaurant which offers a rich buffet of dining choices from different parts of the world.

Given its long history, there are countless stories that have been told in this hotel, from the illustrious guests that made their way through the grand lobby, or even at the hotel bar, where legend tells that sometime in 1946, an American businessman Roy Farrell and a group of journalists brainstormed for a name for his new airline. It was decided then and there that its name would be…Cathay Pacific. Continue reading

07/7/12

The Grand Dame by the Bay (Part 1)

Each city has at least one icon of a hotel that has inextricably become part of that city’s history and heritage. And if there is one hotel in Manila that deserves that iconic tag, there is little doubt (if not none) that such honor will be granted to the so-called “Grand Dame by the Bay”: the Manila Hotel.

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Perhaps no stronger case can be cited with the intertwined histories of the city and its hotel than a glance at the hotel’s history, a part of what was supposed to be a grander masterplan by American architect Daniel Burnham for Manila in 1905 as a “City Beautiful.” The land where Manila Hotel stands today is actually reclaimed land, along with what is now known today as the South Harbor, Luneta “extension,” and nearby areas along a stretch of a coastal boulevard we know today as Roxas Boulevard. Burnham saw the importance of the Manila Bay to the city. Thus, he conceptualized the reclamation and the construction of the boulevard, and important structures that would highlight Manila’s connection to its bay; Manila Hotel would serve as centerpiece for that connection. Continue reading

06/29/12

Manila’s first flyover

It is said that during the late 1930’s, at a time when Manuel Quezon served as President of the self-governing Philippine Commonwealth, he was keeping a mistress who lived in what was then the affluent district of Santa Mesa. So he would pay her a visit from time to time on a strict timeframe, something which was of convenience as well since he also maintained a residence in the area. (as well as some other prominent Filipinos during the prewar period)

One day however, in one of those visits, Quezon and his entourage was stopped by a passing train along the railroad tracks that intersected Santa Mesa Boulevard. Being in a hurry and his strict timeframe cut short, Quezon was fuming mad at that incident that he ordered the Public Works office to have an overhead bridge constructed along the boulevard, built over the railroad tracks, for the benefit of the passing vehicles. Continue reading

05/31/12

Pandacan: the land of arts and depots (Part 2)

One little-known fact about Pandacan is that it has been dubbed the “Little Italy” and “Little Venice” partly because of its topography being surrounded by a river and esteros or creeks and also because of it being the center of arts and culture especially during the 19th-early 20th century. In fact, Pandacan was known as the cradle of Italian operas in the country as this district was the center of opera and orchestral music performance in and around Manila, and perhaps the country as well.

One of the foremost figures of music based in Pandacan is Ladislao Bonus, who is also known as “the father of the Philippine Opera.” He was able to establish the first Philippine opera company in Pandacan in 1887, was part of the Manila Cathedral and Marikina orchestras among others, and has written musical scores for a number of zarzuelas as well. Today, a memorial to him exists along a street named after one of the first members of his opera company, Teodora San Luis.

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Continue reading