MANILEÑO DOWNGRADED: “Citizen of the Capital” no more?


This article is part of Aurora Metropolis’ #Manila447 Series in celebration of Araw ng Maynila. The views expressed by the author does not reflect the view of all organizations he represent or he is affiliated with.


Just recently, I’ve read a news about the transfer of the Capital City in line with the proposed Federal Constitution as replacement to our current 31-year-old Constitution.

Speaking on behalf of Rodrigo Duterte’s consultative committee (ConComm) which attempts to draft a “hybrid charter”, lawyer Roan Libarios said in an interview that under the proposed federal government, vital centers shall be divided to other metropolitan areas as way of distributing powers in different regions. He cited the former Clark Airbase in Pampanga as the new administrative center while Metro Cebu can serve as another center to decongest traffic in Metro Manila, the current National Capital Region (NCR).

Libarios emphasized that since the 1987 Constitution does not exactly mandate Manila or Metro Manila as the Philippine capital, the ConComm is open to proposals for a new capital centers that shall serve as images of our country to the world.

This raises many questions in my mind:
– Is Manila become less valuable socially, culturally and politically?
– Is being “congested” an enough reason to hinder Manila from becoming a national capital?
– Do Manileños fail to exemplify a living global image for Filipinos?

Let me share my observations in a micro-perspective: As a Manileño or someone who was born, live and observe the city of Manila for all of his life.

While it is not provided by the current charter, dictator and former president Ferdinand Marcos released Presidential Decree No. 940 on June 24, 1976 “establishing Manila as the capital of the Philippines and as the permanent seat of the national government”. This instituted the formal transfer of the Capital City title to Manila from Quezon City which was declared as such by then president Elpidio Quirino in 1948. Months prior to the declaration of PD 940, Marcos also issued Presidential Decree No. 824 on November 7, 1975 creating Metropolitan Manila and, at the same time, declaring it as NCR. Given these orders from a head of state at that time, it is suffice to say that Manila and Metro Manila are both legally proclaimed as national capitals, contrary to Libarios’ claim that there was no legal mandate on the designation of seats of powers.

However, in the course of Manila’s growing economy in the 1970s, Escolta, the country’s central business district (CBD), started to feel the hardships of running the country’s commercial facet. The issues of traffic congestion, lack of parking areas and bigger office spaces forced big companies and leaders of vital industries to search for new places and build their own business infrastructures. One great example is the Ayala group who saw the potential in the former Makati municipality from a vast empty land to a progressive CBD. The rise of the Ayala Empire in Makati has made Escolta down on its knees as the commercial capital of the Philippines.

Despite the loss of a vital gem in its crown, Manila continues to be relevant in the socio-political arena. It’s not just because Malacañang is located here but, also, Manila served as a significant venue to display the continuing saga of struggling workers, highly-vigilant students and youth leaders and movers of political reforms that led to policy changes, political shifts and, the most memorable of all, ouster of a president.

Linking to Manila’s socio-political value is its history that made the city an invaluable cultural paragon. Since 1571 when Adelantado Miguel Lopez de Legazpi founded the city as the seat of the Spanish empire in the East, Manila became the administrator and messenger – or a dictator, in this matter – of all important instructions and directives from the King of Spain and the Governor General. Even before colonizers controlled the Philippines, Manila’s leadership culture ran in its veins with the emergence of the rajahs, datus and other dominant leaders of pre-Spanish Philippines.

Indeed, it has all the aces to retain the title of the Philippines’ capital, but is it really enough for Manila to continue its duties of becoming the Capital?

Truth be told: Manila is generally filthy, unruly and crammed. Unlike other cities, the capital city shows slower economic development and uncomfortable kind of living. It is mostly dependent to the national government in terms of tourism promotion and development. Poverty is evident in almost all corners of the city and the local government which was led and managed by well-known political juggernauts after EDSA People Power Revolution remains passive with delivering services and initiatives to raise the morale of its citizens.

All of these dilemma made the worse generation of Manileños since pre-World War 2 years – downgraded, dispirited locals who need to endure daily battles first before studying, working and living with dignity, harmony and pride. More of us feel that the government sees us as important because we have their votes in the next elections. More of us feel that idolizing and supporting their cheap stunts have monetary and material value. More of us feel that Manila is no longer a classy, honorable home but a warzone where every day is a struggle and every moment is a chance for survival.

Yes, Manila may be losing the Capital City title once the current regime pushed their proposed system. It may be sooner than we think and we cannot do anything because we have a dirty-old tyrant in the palace.

But is it too late for us to change Manila? Is it too late to break the curse for our dear city? It is for us as one community of Manileños to decide and act.



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