First stop was the Manila Central Post Office.
From around 1901 to 1946 the Philippines was a possession of the United States. That 45-year period, while brief compared to the three centuries-long Spanish colonial period, was tremendously influential for the country, as it imprinted onto mass consciousness a love of all things “imported”—that is, coming from the United States.
I’m a nationalist, and I have a very mixed view of the American Occupation. While the benefits were great—mass education, entry into the international community, basketball—the rest is… well, meh. The American era did much to institutionalize social and economic inequality across the country, and did so with a veneer of “democracy.”
But I digress. The Manila Central Post Office was built in 1926, halfway into the American era. While designed by Juan Arellano, a Filipino architect, the design’s inspiration came from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The plaza in front of the post office is known as Liwasang Bonifacio, after the national hero Andres Bonifacio, and it was a popular gathering point for political protests during the 1970s and 1980s. Thing is, very few people refer to the plaza by its proper name—it’s still popularly known as Plaza Lawton, the name it had during the American era. The plaza was originally named for Henry Ware Lawton, the highest-ranking American general killed during the Philippine-American War; it was only well after the Philippines regained its independence that the plaza took its present name.
Anyway, I was at the post office to drop off some very late Christmas cards.