"More than a Rebirth"
As media continues to praise the efforts of the community in reviving the historic Escolta in Manila, this person rather says that the efforts is more than a rebirth, for Escolta was there alread and it needs a thorough general cleaning.
Most covered in grime and in soot, concerned groups and individuals are rolling up their sleeves, taken up the mop and the bucket, if not bags of cement and trowel to bring back an almost lost masterpiece after decades of being left out by well known companies and institutions alike, that once made that said district known from the early days of American occupation to the early days of the republic.
But as time goes by, of rapid developments in once barren districts, existing ones are being left out in favour of much "modern" ones developers afford to offer. Negligence, intentional or unintentional, contributes both grime and soot that somehow deteriorates the district's integrity. There are developers willing to take the businesses, but not to develop and improve the existing edifices in favour of just demolishing them, in case of the old Jai Alai, San Lazaro Hippodrome, Sta. Ana Park, and others that brought fame and development in Manila's respective districts.
However, in an era where people having no taste in culture except those of their consumerist fantasies, it seems to be difficult to encourage people to preserve heritage amidst modernity. Yes, most would say that classical art is nonsense, that age old architecture is useless, that anything old is as ugly full of dirt, gime, and soot, all in favour of modern-day clutter fueled by an illusory progress. Ironically, Most wanted to see the grandeur of other well known cities, but how come the more people ought to admire its neighbours the less they look on its own? They do see the beauty of the Napoleon III-era buildings in Paris, but how come the once beauteous Escolta and Sta. Cruz, till the concerned came and afforded to clean, was full of grime and soot? Is the grandeur of the Philippines be limited to those of Intramuros and Vigan, if not Makati or Ortigas? Even some of the buildings that brought development in the latter two districts were also demolished like the old Benguet centre of Locsin, as well as the Monterey Apartment that was once stood as one of Makati's earliest modern buildings. But given the profiteering attitude of most developers, of owners, heritage, no matter how decades old it is, pre or post war, were disregarded as such.
Sorry to say this, but such inconveniences compels one to give up the good fight, but that person chose not to discontinue for that good fight is more than a series of general cleaning, painting, refurbishing, educating people within and from the outskirts of The City of Manila, that revival is an attempt to bridge both the aspirations of the past and present.
And yes, it is a difficult task but worth fighting for. It may take several years or even decades to bring back its age-old grandeur as part of reclaiming its heritage being a culto-financial hub, and for sure there are others whom seriously adhere to reclaiming and preserving heritage treated their life's work a "devotion" in bridging the past and the present. After all, why to give up anything that is deeply rooted for an illusory progress that requires demolishing altogether no matter how sturdy or good it was? Decades old indeed, full of grime and soot, but destroying it just because it is ugly and bereft of value and be replaced with another which is plain and also bereft of value (except those of commercialism) is all but a mockery of development the system afforded to brag. What's wrong in having old edifices in that district anyway? The decades-old El Hogar remained closed and its neighbour, the former head office of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation became a mere warehouse. Lucky for these two edifices since they are threatened to be destroyed by scrupulous developers all for the sake of building "modern, high-rise" buildings yet saved by those whom really concerned about the value of these edifices made decades ago, with the El Hogar made during the early days of the American occupation. Meanwhile, its other neighbour, the former First National City Bank head office was given a "real" general cleaning, a fresh coat of paint, putting new concrete, new tiles and fittings, anything that is worth reclaiming the grandeur; yet with a different task that includes turning into a hub for Call Center Companies abroad.
Besides general cleaning and impovement, there are legislators whom, inspired by the success of Vigan and Iloilo, urging the local government of Manila to grand tax incentives, if not exemptions for heritage buildings within the district; furthermore, these legislators like Cavite's Francis Abaya expressed willingness to sponsor a bill that will impose strict implementation of real estate tax holidays and reduction of inheritance tax to structures duly recognised by national cultural agencies. Some European countries, particularly those in urban districts, did encourage tax exemption in centuries old buildings as part of preserving heritage, amidst modernity. Since this writeup cited the examples of Europe, of Vigan, and Iloilo, how about Manila? Do need to wait a major threat to happen to make people respond to save the deeply rooted and reclaim lost grandeur?
Again, as said in this post, is part of a rebirth, that is, more than just a rebirth. It may take several years, if not decades, of general cleaning, rehabilitation, improvement of grand old structures to bring back Escolta, as well as other similar districts around Manila and other cities in provinces to its former grandeur, to its lively setting, to its bustling yet picturesque appearance as it was in the past. Continuous developments requires consideration to the ones that also contributed to the city's development, and that requires enlightening everyone the value of heritage, its relevance, and the continuous pursuit of bridging the aspirations of both past and present for a promising future to come.