What Is Both Gone and Remains

Dear Dr. Gerard Rey Lico,

I did not buy Archi[types/text]: Architecture in the Philippines. I picked it out of a stack of books as my prize for asking a question at the Literary Forum during this year’s National Arts Month Celebration by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). There were a lot of books and I did not have the luxury of time to browse to through every one. I could only choose based on the titles and front covers.

And I love my choice of book!

When I visit a government building, museum, or church, I sometimes wonder at its many details. I even try to guess how old it is and what style it has. I note some of the details that catch my eye. Sometimes, I’m able to find the name for it; sometimes, I do not. Nevertheless, it fascinates me to learn about buildings. That’s why I was floored when I learned what exactly was in the book I chose.

The chapter about architecture and fashion was a treat. I could not help but wonder how they would look like paraded on the catwalk. My two favorite pieces are the Ivatan-inspired wear because I love hoodies and the Greenbelt shirt. Not so much with the jacket and pants.

Imperial Manila section, especially the toilet and construction subsections, brought me back to tours led by Carlos Celdran and Prof. Xiao Chua. I have recollections about details they mentioned found also in the book. In discussing Daniel H. Burnham, I could not help but remember a map featured by a news agency about the old plans for Quezon City. I shared that with an online contact and she told me that her parents used to live in Parañaque but transferred to Quezon City because they did not want to be anywhere near an airport.

Looking at all those B&W photos of pre-war Manila just made me all the curiouser. I wonder at the lost beauty of the city and the future that could’ve been ours had we been spared. I have no idea if what I feel could be nostalgia for something that already vanished even before I came to be.

The chapter about the city and cinema is both wonderful and foreign to me. I have not seen a great deal of the movies mentioned there. While the names of the actors are familiar, that is about as much connection I could get. I have one friend who became instantly excited when he saw the still from “Kidlat… ngayon!” According to him, that was the first Filipino superhero movie; he was glad that you guys featured it.

On finishing the book, I have better appreciation for the architecture around me, for what is both gone and remains. Thank you so much for creating that book.



Mati Serraño


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