Travel Through Manila’s History

with These 9 Must-Read


by Maria Romero, October 05, 2018 1:29pm

Art by Dani Elevazo.


Travel Through Manila’s History with These 9 Must-Read Books

by Maria Romero, October 05, 2018 1:29pm
Art by Dani Elevazo.

Living in Manila is a desire for those whose dreams were made for the concrete jungle. But to those who already spent years in this city that doesn’t sleep, living here is but a battle that takes so much from us. Sometimes we would wonder why we still continue to cram ourselves in this already teeming city.

We could always come back to Manila, the place. But we can no longer come back to the specific times in the past we once enjoyed. But thanks to these great local reads from different genres, we can now come back to the different eras of Manila and reconnect with the conflicts that once occurred in our country's capital.

1. Ermita by F. Sionil Jose

Set during the Japanese occupation, Ermita is the story about the territory of privilege and affluence and the decay of a society. Its plot revolves around Ermita Rojo who grows up with the nuns with hopes of having a family to adopt her until one day, she discovered why nobody wants her: she is from the socialite Rojo family. Through Ermita, F. Sionil Jose rammed down history in our throats.

 2. Bulaklak ng Maynila by Domingo Landicho

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Set in the 70s, this is a sad but hopeful narration from the author’s first-hand experiences of Manila’s state during Marcos’ era. Bulaklak ng Maynila is about Mother Azun who used to be a prostitute until she met an idealistic young man who turns to be a drunkard after he lost hope. They had a daughter named Ada who, after her first menstruation, got devirginized by Cris.

3. Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag by Edgardo Reyes

This is a story of young provincial man Julio, who risks everything to find his lost love in the city, Ligaya Paraiso, who is kept hostage by Chinese man Ah Tek. From one adventure to another, this narrative reminds us of how Manila corrupts a country boy’s mind and how it also shapes him to be wiser.

4. Canal dela Reina by Liwayway Arceo

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Canal dela Reina is arguably one of the most striking Philippine novels as it portrays the conflict between greedy landowners and low-class citizens and exposes social cancer hidden behind exhibitionism and pretentiousness. The formalistic approach of the story about Caridad De Los Angeles, the true owner of the land, and Nyora Tetay, the current occupant of the land, tells us how money and power could drastically transform a person.

5. Mondomanila by Norman Wilwayco

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A transgressive novel about Tony D., a 12-year-old boy who survives the slums of Manila full of evil people. This damning story reveals the truths behind abject poverty, sexism, homophobia, anarchy, and other conceivable political incorrectness. The fluid yet solid storytelling reminds us that good can still overpower evil.

6. Cubao Series by Tony Perez

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In this collection, the author gives us the feelings we thought we already lost through short stories in Filipino that deal with the various outcomes of romantic love. Perez made Cubao, not just the heartland of Quezon City but a province, a country, and a whole universe through his quirky characters.

7. Peksman (Mamatay Ka Man), Nagsisinungaling Ako by Eros Atalia

This comedic story is a plain narrative about a man who finds a job, got accepted, and went home happy as he waits for the next day to come. It has intellectual observations about everyday Filipino life and culture that keep telling us to sometimes take life lightly.

8. Manila, My Manila (A History for the Young) by Nick Joaquin

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Nick Joaquin sings of Manila’s greatness as Homer sang of Troy. So when former Manila Mayor Mel Lopez asked Joaquin to write about Manila, he came up with this pop history for young Manilenyos that goes deep into the country’s capital. It teaches us what made Manila be the city it is now.

9. Detective Boys of Masangkay: Ang Mangkukulam by Bernalyn Sastrillo

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This story is reminiscent of our 90s anime craze as it revolves around three playmates with great admiration for Detective Conan and how they saved their whole barangay from a witch. The detective boys are all vivid representations of our childlike hearts and how, once at a certain point in our lives, we are nothing but hopeful.

Manila isn’t hard to love and appreciate that’s why there’s no wonder people continue to embrace its drawbacks. But if things go a little sideways, just remember that a little turn of book pages could change your views around. Cheers to Philippine Literature!


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