Roxas Boulevard and the Filipino-American Friendship Footbridge in Manila
O nce I got past the armed security guard with what looked like a shotgun and waited for approximately 15 minutes before I was finally able to procure Philippine pesos at the bank — supposedly at a favorable rate — I then decided to walk north to the oldest and most historic part of Manila known as the Intramuros, or walled city.
More people were gathering outside in the shaded areas of Pedro Gil Street to talk, sit, eat lunch or sleep as I headed west towards Roxas Boulevard and crossed it, where I stopped to sit on a crumbling concrete bench to eat a melted chocolate bar as I faced the stagnant and odoriferous waters of Manila Bay.
I thought to myself that this area of Manila has such potential — a seaside promenade with palm trees swaying in the occasional light breeze as cars pass by on the fairly wide Roxas Boulevard; while customers patronize shops, stores and hotels on the east side of the divided thoroughfare — but the infrastructure of what is apparently known as the Baywalk is starting to crumble from supposed neglect, as grass grows long enough to resemble weeds.
The approach of several people attempting to sell me something interrupted the moment of quiet I tried to have as I reflected on portions of my uninterrupted trip around the world.
Once the chocolate bar was consumed and its wrapper properly disposed, I walked a few blocks north on the west side of Roxas Boulevard; and after passing Santa Monica Street, I encountered upon the Filipino-American Friendship Footbridge.
The Filipino-American Friendship Footbridge was opened in July of 2011 near the Embassy of the United States at a cost of 7.8 million Philippine pesos; or approximately $175,000.00. The “friendship” was temporarily suspended, however, as I was forced to cross the bridge for what was then a reason unknown to me. Crowds were gathering on the west side of Roxas Boulevard just north of the bridge; barriers had been erected; and a police officer instructed me not to proceed further.
I figured that as long as I was crossing the footbridge, I may as well take some photographs:
As I later walked long Roxas Boulevard northward, I realized what was going on: protesters paraded northbound in the southbound lanes of the thoroughfare, shouting things which I could not hear and causing a traffic jam where all vehicles were stationary. It was a peaceful demonstration; but I had no idea at that time why they were protesting. I was unable to take photographs of the protestors because palm trees and shrubs — as well as the passing vehicles of northbound traffic — impeded my view; and I had already walked too far north from the footbridge to go back in time to use my camera.
I found out later that the protesters were demanding that Joseph Scott Pemberton — who has the rank of Private First Class in the United States Marine Corps — be turned over to the custody of the Philippine government for the alleged murder of a transgender Filipino named Jennifer Laude; but spokespeople for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs reportedly claimed that it would only seek the turnover after a formal arrest warrant was issued for him.
After I crossed Kalaw Avenue while walking northbound on the east side of Roxas Boulevard, I arrived at Rizal Park, which includes the José Rizal National Monument erected in the memory of the Philippine patriot, writer and poet; the National Library of the Philippines; the Manila Planetarium; the Manila Ocean Park oceanarium; the Museum of the Filipino People; a relief map of the Philippines; other statues and monuments; and both a Chinese and Japanese garden. This historic park is also known as Luneta Park.
I am now across Padre Burgos Avenue from where the Intramuros begins; but I did not realize it just yet…
All photographs ©2014 by Brian Cohen.