Some Filipinos are surprised to find that there is a street here in Singapore that was named after their nation’s capital. Manila being a major port and once center of economic and Christian missions during the Spanish era in all of Asia shares a long and deep history with Singapur. Just imagine the history that has transpired from our shores to theirs, ships that has gone back and fourth between the vast seas that separates the two state.
I’m not sure if we had reciprocated Singapore’s remembrance of old Manila (as most of our new streets are named after politicians these days) but hopefully one day we can return the favor. Manila is not a main street, more like an alley that you would hardly noticed when you happen to pass by but significant none the less. There aren’t that many places here named after a city or a country.
A quick study of the history of the two port city reveals a long standing tradition between two nations. The amount of trade that was taking place indicates the rich trade between Singapore and the Philippines then. A quick list of what’s being exported out of Manila (1850’s): azucar, anil, sibucao, abaca en rama y en jarcia, sombreros y petacas de bejuco o nito, aceite de coco, rom, huesos de bufalo, basca y caballo y en gran cantitad tobaco. And this is not even a partial list. Being a British trading outpost, much of the imports leaves the port to other places for consumption.
Another example of this historical tie is when Bishop Jean-Paul-Hilaire-Michel Courvezy sought for the assistance of the Arzobispado de Manila (and Queen Marie-Amélie Thérèse of France) to raise funds to help them relocate their church – the oldest Catholic church in the island. An interesting story is how it got its name. When the French Priest, Saint Laurent-Marie-Joseph Imbert (probably the first to celebrate mass here) surrendered to the Korean authorities in the midst of a Christian persecution in that land, he offered these words to his fellow missionaries: “the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep”. The church authorities inspired by his sacrifice then named their church after his courageous words. One of the legacies of this French mission, being the oldest, is that up to this day, there exist a small French speaking Catholic community around it. There’s about 250 families that still speaks and understand French. How they’ve kept this language is something we all can learn from. Traditions must be honored and accepted as it directly links the present to the past. What’s happening to us Filipinos is that we view the existence of numerous language as a problem, when it is in reality an asset.
In the past, Filipinos like Pedro Roxas found safe haven in Singapore, thanks to the English administrators who understood their situation (protección a las autoridades inglesas como refugiado político). Accounts has it that Roxas and a certain Capitan Camus urged Rizal to alight and seek refuge in the Singapore. He never did. The city’s shores has always been friendly to Filipinos all through out the course of history. For hundreds of years, not much has changed.
I wanted to write about Aguinaldo’s time here in Singapore. But first I have to find where “La Mansion” is, said to be at vicinity of the historic Raffles Hotel. I would have to do some research to locate it. It was here that he sealed the fate of his land when he met with the US consul Spratt.
Our experience with the Japanese during the war was also a shared experience. Both city’s were ravaged by the cruel occupation. One could find very beautiful memorials dedicated to the heroes and victims of the war around downtown. The strategical location of Manila and Singapur were ideal for just about everything, including serving as military bases for invading armies. I’m hoping to find a good book about WWII events here in Singapore.