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Manila Transitio: Remembering The Manila We Lost

Of all the commemorations being celebrated every February, perhaps the most overlooked is one that commemorates the Battle of Manila of 1945. Which is quite unfortunate considering how this sad and bloody chapter in the history of Manila transformed the city and the country on a macro perspective, causing destruction to so many cultural treasures in the city and death to more than 100,000 souls.

On one hand, the horror of this event may have been a factor as to why many choose to, understandably, forget what happened. On the other hand, this preference to forget is seen as the cause as to why Manila today has lost its soul in the midst of the progress and urban chaos that has adversely affected what was once known as the “Pearl of the Orient.”

It is the concern for this particular “forgetfulness” that tour guide/performance artist/cultural activist Carlos Celdran decided to hold an annual event to celebrate Manila before the war and remember the souls and treasures lost in the war called the Manila Transitio 1945, the recent being held last Saturday night at the Fort Santiago grounds.

Every year, the premises of Fort Santiago which is usually closed at nights, is opened and transformed for one night into a open space nightspot amidst the greens and the storied centuries-old walls where visitors can relax, have fun, or even hold an evening picnic.

film projected at the Fort Santiago gate

Entertainment is provided by guest bands and artists as they play classic tunes that celebrate the good old days, especially of Manila.

Yup, that’s Carlos Celdran singing on stage

But make no mistake that Manila Transitio is just about having fun in a historic spot like Fort Santiago. More than anything else, Manila Transitio aims to remember and honor the soul Manila lost in the war, or the Battle of Manila in particularly, remembering most especially hundreds of thousands who were needlessly killed in that month-long battle.

Carlos Celdran with a lady in ghastly makeup representing the ghost of Manila that was lost in February 1945

As such, every year the participants do an activity which serves to honor those who have died in the battle, as well as to convey one’s wishes and prayers for the city that the deep wounds that still linger, brought about by the war, will be healed and that future would bring for Manila a sense of optimism that things will be better and that, in some way, the city will find its soul once more.


Manila Transitio is pretty much a lowkey event of sorts as it is basically a solemn commemoration of the Battle of Manila. Nevertheless, hundreds come every year to take part of this event from different walks of life:  locals, expats, and even tourists. Those who still have a soft spot for Manila and share the same hopes and dreams for the city.

The moat in Fort Bonifacio illuminated by floating candles that symbolize offerings for the souls killed in the Battle of Manila

The Urban Roamer congratulates Carlos Celdran and the rest of the folks behind Manila Transitio and here’s looking forward for its continued celebration and commemoration Manila needs to have in memory of what it lost in February 1945.

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