Special Feature

The Metropolis and its Capital Dreams (Part III)

After the end of World War II in 1945, Manila was in a state of total devastation. With most of the city’s infrastructure in near-complete ruin, the first task at hand for a recovering nation was to start anew, in the midst of meager resources the government faced at that time. Thus, the dream of a national capital had to be put on a wayside.

the Legislative Building after the war (from John Tewell’s Flickr)

Also as a result of Manila’s destruction, those who were fortunate to survive were too traumatized to continue living in the city premises. Thus the trend was for many families to move away to the suburbs, trying to escape the nightmares of war that still haunt the city that was trying to get back on its feet. Thus, the wide open spaces of Quezon City became a viable option as a place of residence for them, where they can start anew in a postwar environment.

postwar plans for the Quezon City quadrangle (from the “Manila: A City Beautiful?” exhibit)

Something else also happened by this time, though it actually happened while the war was raging on. On August 1, 1944, President Manuel L. Quezon, the visionary behind the idea of the national capital that was Quezon City, died in the US. For a person of such stature as Quezon, there was talk of building a memorial complex of sorts in his memory

It was the consideration of these factors that the planners decided to scuttle the plans for the Government Center in the planned quadrangle as parts of the complex were allotted for other purposes. The West and South Triangle areas of the quadrangle were allotted for residential and commercial development and the elliptical complex which was supposed to be the site of the Capitol was to be the site of the Quezon memorial instead. Today, the only traces of the planned national government center can be seen in the area around the East Triangle and parts of North Triangle and around the Elliptical Road where some government offices are located.

But the capital dreams for Quezon City were still alive. To further enhance the city’s position and jumpstart a new phase for the development of a national government complex, President Elpidio Quirino signed Republic Act No. 333 on July 17, 1948 which not only expanded Quezon City’s territory to more than 150 sq. km. with inclusion of the Novaliches area, but also designated it officially as the country’s capital.

With an enlarged territory and a secured position as the country’s capital, work began anew for the layout of a national government center. This time, the site chosen would be in the newly-acquired territory in the city’s Novaliches area. In fact, there were at least 3 plans that were made for the complex in 1949, 1955, and 1976, all of which involved the building of the National Capitol on the site called Constitution Hill. with a planned major thoroughfare called Republic Avenue which would traverse to the center.

the 1955 National Government Center plan for the Novaliches site (from Paulo Alcazaren’s Facebook page)

However, like many of the plans that went before, the government center did not fully materialize as as only a few government offices were relocated there, not to mention the completion of the legislative building we know today as the Batasang Pambansa Complex in 1978.

plan for the Batasang Pambansa Complex (from the “Manila: A City Beautiful?” exhibit)

Before the completion of the aforementioned Batasan Complex, President Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 940 which took effect on June 24, 1976, declaring Manila again as the capital of the Philippines and the seat of government to be the area known as Metro Manila. What this means is that even though Manila is the capital, a government office may be located elsewhere in the metropolis and not necessarily in the city itself, like the case of the Senate in Pasay, Batasan Complex and a number of government offices in Quezon City, among other examples.

to be continued…

Acknowledgements as well to “Manila: A City Beautiful?” exhibit by Metropolitan Museum of Manila

© The Urban Roamer

One Comment

  • Donn Mc Angelo T. Valdez

    D. Valdez

    Instead of renting at the GSIS billing, the Senate must relocate to the Batasan Pambansa complex and the proposed expansion of the complex to accommodate the Senate must be constructed finally.

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