It has been said that this was among the most beautiful streets in pre-war Manila with its never-ending foliage and architecture ahead of the times then. Less than a century after, remnants of its magnificence remain in its worn-out pavement and trees that have held on through decades of chaos – the same pavement I’ve walked for three years and the same trees that has become my shelter from the sun and its tears.
In between years and the history that went with it, the street housed The Manila Hilton, the first stop of the chain in Asia as well as the streamline moderne architecture of the Philamlife building which had a theatre with acoustics that were said to be comparable to the Sydney Opera House. From its end near the bay, there are buildings of great esteem – the historic Bayview Park Hotel and the Art Deco structure, the Miramar Hotel – both still fully operation but somehow lost its luster through time.
On days when I had the luxury of being a tourist-pedestrian, I would go down at Kalaw cor. Maria Rosa and walk through vendors of white corn, representatives of laboratories marketing their clinical services to seamen waiting to board, Chinese seafood restaurant staff recovering from a late closing the night before, balete trees that have also functioned as storage space for small business (karinderya) owners and transients of the pavements. Occasionally I’d chance upon a makeshift book sale on the sidewalks with titles that people of my cerebral leaning would enjoy.
United Nations Avenue bore witness to history and my story – in days sporadically distributed to three years that went by so quickly like how it would probably say about change – progress or decay, it matters not now.
(This series was featured in my Facebook Page beginning on the 10th day before I my resignation from my Manila employment became effective. This uncut version pays homage to my love affair with the capital. Not all lovers are given the chance to say goodbye. This is my attempt to chronicle her beauty. #10DaysOfManilaUncut )