Thinking About Our Past and Future

by alex

San Augustine Church in Intramuros Manila is a heavy, heavy place for me.  My heart is heavy every time I’m there.  I feel the weight of its history.  I feel a great sense of loss.  

It’s the oldest church in the walled city built by the Spanish over the site of Rajah Sulayman’s Muslim city of Maynila, a city with a population of over 10,000 people.

Maynila was a major trading port in the region and traded with other parts of what would be the Philippines, as well with other Malay cities (through what would be Malaysia and Indonesia), as well as with China, Vietnam, Japan, India, and the Middle East.

In this church I wonder what we would have been had the Spanish not colonized the lands.  I wonder how our already literate society would have developed.

I remember how a Manila man was already a major political figure in Portuguese colonized Malacca when Magellan was there just a few years before he “discovered” the Philippines.

Inside the church there is a chamber that houses religious artifacts from that dark period in our history.  I look at these and I remember how religion was used as a colonial tool, and how it was an attempt to erase our identity.

San Augustine is a heavy place.  I ask these questions and wonder why so many of us have forgotten our own past.

But of course we can’t live in the past.  We can’t build a future out of ‘what ifs.’  So though while inside San Augustine I can’t help but lament, stepping outside, and seeing the realities of modern Manila, I remember that this Spanish past is a part of our present.

We are a society in the process of creating who we want to be.  I think our project as balikbayans (and I know this group is much bigger than just Vince and I) is not just to seek out our identity, but to also to be part of the movement creating it.

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©2010 alex felipe
All Rights Reserved.

Please contact the photographer with use inquiries.

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5 Comments

  1. These are amazing pics.

  2. “We are a society in the process of creating who we want to be. I think our project as balikbayans (and I know this group is much bigger than just Vince and I) is not just to seek out our identity, but to also to be part of the movement creating it.”

    word.

  3. I agree that while it’s inevitable to wonder about the ‘what ifs’ or ‘what could have been’, it is important to move on from where we’re at now, which reflects all that had already happened, the way it happened, in the past. However, I believe that understanding our past grants us a brighter realization of our present state, which allows us to find the stable grounds to build our future upon.

    Many of us are proud to have gained our independence from Spain, but how come so many of us are not sufficiently aware, or at least learn much later on, about our true relationship with America? Although it’s necessary to know about how Rizal and others revolted against the Spanish control, “Not recounted as vividly are the three years of fighting that went on after the Spanish-American War, as Filipino insurgents under General Emilio Aguinaldo lashed out against the newly established American presence.” (Angel Velasco Shaw, Luis H. Francia, eds. Vestiges of War: The Philippine-American War and the Aftermath of an Imperial Dream, 1899-1999. New York: New York University Press, 2002, http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=9190). I personally was not fully aware of this until I started investigating a little deeper into our history, long after I had finished ‘school’.

    I hope, that as we collectively dig deeper into our roots, we can gain much more courage and wisdom to know how to deal with the imperialism that has plagued our country for longer than we can even remember. It has been a cold and dark road for our people because we had not even been given a moment to recover from colonialism, when imperialism came into effect, with all its disguise and tools to ensure no light upon our path. But, what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger, right? And together, we’re deciding where to turn, as we go along on this path. And somehow, more and more light is coming through. I’m excited to take each step to where we’re headed!


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