The Burlesque Downtown Girl Gone Old

Posted: August 16, 2010 in culture
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Worldwide, the urban landscape of countries most visited by tourists may have changed. While there are efforts to keep the historic centers of towns and cities teeming with life through development, it is not the same case with the Old Dowtown Manila. Downtown Manila is consist of the old districts of Quiapo, Sta. Cruz and Binondo. It was the heart and the face of a progressive Manila, which filmographer Andre De La Varre (1938) gave the upfitting title of “Queen of the Pacific”.

Quaipo in the 1950s

Avenida in the 1950s

Avenida in the late 1970s when construction of the LRT1 had begun


A more vivid illustration would be her picture of optical illusion. She was a snob, upbeat local, elegently donned in regal Western fashion. Such that you would see among other ladies of the modern world. When she grew old, her eyes could not anymore gaze elsewhere but below, ashamed and helpless that at her age she should tend for herself. In the dark alleys, with muddy potholes, at corners behind closed shops, the same image of this woman can be seen, trying to lure some men to take their fleshly offer, for a price of cup of coffee. That is Downtown Manila demystified. The magic of her beauty has no more shine, instead bland, dull, pale, sick, skinny and grey.

A metaphor of the Beautiful Manila in her aging years

War torn Avenida

 While she was young, everyone else from the City and outside the city would love to meet her upclose. Now getting close to her, alerts one’s senses. A look at her face would make one’s eyes get round, and brows slide up to meet each other’s end. Then a swallow of some spit as gasp for her agony, afterwhich a cramp of the stomach would push whatever possibly could be thrown up, because of her awful pungent perfume. Walking with her will be a slow exasperating walk, with watchful eyes, bent body and criscrossing legs to avoid tripping on the uneven, slippery, potholed floor.

Contemporary developments waging war agains cultural heritage of Downtown Manila

Where she wants to go, she doesn’t know. She must be wandering too of where she might be some other time. What she has left with her are only stories that she or the very few have heard from her grumbling gibberish and scathe voice. Everything that she richly possessed in her young glorious years has been snatched away from her, by those men who she entertained for the longest years of her life. And those women she carried in her bossom to shine like her on stage and on film, have gone so far leaving her behind, never returning nor giving her a last look if soon she’ll find her rest. Those she made rich with her beauty left her in that sulk state, silky skin shrunk and scaled.

Avenida in the late 1970s when construction of the LRT1 had begun

To the many who knew her in her glorious state, they would be dismayed to see her in rags. Now all she has aside from her memories that will soon fade like the cellulose of old films are unwothry scraps. She used to be in the limelight. But the lights in the theaters have gone dim. She could not even take a refuge from those theaters where she was the burlesque star, the nightingale, the beauty queen, the woman Cabaret woman.She would not even find them as they are billowed down into rubble. If she would ask anyone to take her back to her home, nobody would be able to do so, because that place is no longer in the mental map of those who go there.

Avenida in 2005

Avenida in 2006

Avenida today, from when we last saw it.

  1. rodrigo2.0 says:

    If you have any stories to tell about Downtown Manila, you will be contributing so much in my construction of its social history. You can tell any story from any period of time, specially of your cinema experiences there.

  2. […] The busiest day of the year was September 26th with 174 views. The most popular post that day was The Burlesque Downtown Girl Gone Old. […]

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