Monday, August 11, 2014

Royal Postal Heritage Tour: The Veiled Beauty

Wazzup Pilipinas!

Traveling always fascinates me. Whether it be for just a short while or for a number days. The mobility of it gives me brief glimpses of the variety of culture and traditions that people have kept throughout their existence contributing to the identity of the place itself. These unique attributes gives us a representation, a title for a place which began without an identity. Manila was one vague place for me. It is the capital city of the Philippines which is probably the reason why it is a melting pot for a lot of cultures. These culture (dominantly Spanish) somehow clashes in tastes when it comes to their architecture but is harmonious in one way or another.

Manila, huge as it is, is home to different worlds. One turn and you may find yourself in another era from another country. This aspect of the place intrigues me because there’s not much variety from the places I am familiar with. Rizal’s provinces are not much different from each other. So walking around and introducing myself to these new sights was a pleasurable surprise for me.

I took part in the Royal Postal Heritage Tour. It was not the typical “Fort Santiago-Intramuros tour” that is so common in Manila. This was different, I can tell because I did not know the places that we’ll be going to. And its unfamiliarity determined my curiosity. The tour said that the meet up will be at the Liwasang Bonifacio around 11:30 on a Sunday. Mind you, although I was a student in Taft during the time of the tour, I was still a newbie to manila itself. In fact I even needed to ask directions on where Liwasang Bonifacio is.

Upon arriving, Mr. Lawrence Chan started the introduction, we went inside the Manila Post office and frankly I was caught off guard. The inside was reminiscent of the buildings I saw in old British films. It was like a photo taken right out of Mary Poppins or Oliver Twist. It was a Sunday, there were no posts on Sundays but it was open for the APO Philatelists meeting. Philately is the study of stamps and postal history; the APO philatelists were one of the groups which made the tour possible. Walking around the Post office, I came to think of what this building might come to since there is talk of putting it to rest. I don’t need to know the details of the “why”, but the fact that we, as a generation would much prefer telecommunication or the internet over postal is a good enough reason to cater to its demise.

After going around its great walls, one can see the artistry of the building. A faded beauty nearing its ruin, the Manila Post office stands proud to be one of the well detailed buildings in Manila.

Walking down the street to where the National Press Club was, we spotted a statue of Queen Isabella of Spain. It was erected in front of one of the entrances to Intramuros gate Puerta Isabell II. This entrance would have been meticulously maintained and promoted if we were in a different country, but we are not. So around the said statue were scattered trash from which emits a foul odour. From there the places we went to walk by were not as different in terms of maintenance. Like the whole city, much architecture had potential but was left to decay because there were no funds to maintain it. Some places part of the itinerary was shockingly unknown except for a signage scarcely giving the place the rightful introduction it deserves. Streets and alleyways that supposedly played a big role in our history sits there unnoticed and left alone.

Finally we passed by somewhere familiar to me, the typical tourist hubs in Manila, the Manila Cathedral and the San Augustine Church. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed inside either of them. But nonetheless one will be satisfied just looking at it from afar. The impeccable details of each sculpture will surely catch your attention. And although I’ve seen these lots of times, I would say that it still never fails to leave me breathless. By late afternoon, most of my fellow travellers were tired from all the walking; we sought refuge in our next stop which was the Bahay Chinoy. I opted not to go inside the exhibit, because I wanted to sit down and rest my feet. There is a 100 Php entrance fee for those who would want to look through the exhibit. Sitting on the chairs in the lobby was equivalent to seeing a trailer on what it might contain inside. Big renditions of Siopao accentuated the oriental designed stools to hold guests and there was a statue of a Chinese soldier guarding the staircase. I imagined that this would be exactly how a wealthy Chinese house would look like.

Since it was getting quite dark, I told myself that I would stay on just for one last stop, the Metropolitan theatre. And I would say it was a grand ending to my adventure. We entered the theatre through a hidden entrance and from there; we were manoeuvred to experience the theatre life by visiting rooms that were used by the theatre crew. These rooms gave us a glimpse of the chaotic life behind the stage. A colourful mirage of the glamor in being part of the MET would have been the greatest honour any artist would get. The Theatre was a cathedral for the arts. From its carved walls and minarets, one can see that the construction of the place was not only aimed to house plays but also to stand as an exhibit in itself. A proud representation of Manila’s best.

But like every location we passed by, The Met will soon be just a faded memory, left out to its ruins. Most of Manila has potential but heritage is not as important here as it is in other countries. It is a sad truth that we choose not to ponder on. We, as Filipinos would rather put over a veil to these old beauties than to show it to the world. Hiding their proud standing in our history and rendering them useless for our quest of the new. But the new is not necessarily what we need. Maybe that is why when asked what is authentic in the Philippines, we struggle to find the answer. Because instead of nurturing our unique past, we choose to adopt what others want us to be.

But there is still hope kindled by small groups such as the APO Philatelists and in order to start the movement, they will need a lot of people to support them in their cause. You can help by signing the petition to help the Metropolitan Theatre. This is one of the many buildings soon facing destruction. At current, the theatre is already closed down. The people guarding the theatre say that there is a renovation being planned for it. Let us hope that this renovation does not de-face it of its original beauty. Beauty for me, Is having flaws but still being able to flaunt it. It is through these flaws that one sees the strength within the outer core. Let us not hide the eternal foundations laid by the MET, let us flaunt it to world.

Contributed by Patrice Pargas

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