In February 1945, Filipinos suffered their biggest lost when hundreds of thousands died in the Battle of Manila. It’s a crucial historical event, one that plays an important part in the shaping of what Manila is today, yet something that is downplayed or even downright ignored in the discussion of Philippine history. The ruin of the beautiful and golden Manila, and the efforts to restore of what was once its legacy have been forgotten by its people.
Manila Transitio 1945 aims for the public to remember. Simply put, it’s a commemoration held every year to remember the Manila that once was, and celebrate the Manila that will be. Because yes, amidst all the chaos and “lack of identity” it’s known for today, there is something beautiful about present Manila, the Manila that is still, seventy years later, recovering from the destruction it suffered at the hands of the World War.
It’s a night of art and music, preceded by a historical Intramuros tour by the one and only Carlos Celdran, who is also at the helm of Manila Transitio. Now on its sixth year, Manila Transitio carries on its goal for history to recognize and remember this historic tragedy, and to let people move on to recreate and surpass Manila’s old legacy.
Held at March 1, the 6th Manila Transitio started with a 3 PM tour of Intramuros, followed by a cleansing ritual performed by Maguindanao shaman, Faisal. This was to pay respect to the lost lives in 1945, as well as bring much needed attention as well to our fellow Filipinos in Maguindanao.
The lady candle vendors of Quiapo were also present at the event, selling candles to those who wish to light one at the memorial. The night that followed was a beautiful night of Filipino music, with performers such as Noli Aurillo and the iconic Mabuhay Singers, providing lovely musical numbers, as commemorators picnicked under the stars with food and wine.
I have been on Carlos Celdran’s Walk This Way tour before– a refreshing, if somewhat disillusioned yet raw and honest take on Philippine history, peppered with its distinctive panache and humor. This year’s Manila Transitio is its 6th, though I haven’t had the chance to be part of this event until recently. In retrospect, Manila Transitio 1945 feels like the perfect culmination to the “education” one receives on Carlos’ tour, where he delves into rich detail about the country’s past. From exploring the tale of being a parochial state, to our allegiance to the United States, and on what really went down in the gruesome Battle of Manila, the tour manages to bring up so many questions that are, in ways, resolved by Manila Transitio 1945.
As a first-time attendee, it’s a surprise– a quite pleasant one, I might add– to bask in the ambiance of the event. There are no loud cheers, no fireworks, no elaborate gimmicks in order to make the night seem more interesting. It is a memorial after all, and while it was solemn, there was definitely no sadness in the air. People sat on their picnic mats, drinking wine, relaxing against the comfort of the dark night sky.
The Mabuhay singers were timeless in their charm, captivating their audience in a different manner from pop acts, as they filled the night with soothing kundiman songs. Whoever says the art of kundiman is dead clearly has not heard the beauty of the music of this ensemble, making you wonder why beautiful music as this ceases to exist in these times, and how this genre is so overlooked and unappreciated.
In a way, it is similar to Manila– chaotic Manila, soulless Manila. We all know Manila as the city of scavengers, thieves and deviants, sucking on what little rubble there is left of the former glory of this city. At times when you lose all hope for this city to bounce back at all, it’s when you sit on the grass on an otherwise peaceful night, serenaded by glorious Filipino music that you remember its beauty, even just a little bit.
The road to redemption is not easy, but as Carlos says, it always begins with the first step. And in this case, the first step is to shake off apathy and remember.
Manila Transitio 1945
Organized by VivaManila