Arts and Culture

Manila during Christmas is a city of bright lights, vibrant colors, hectic shopping and religious piety. Under the gaze of Christmas decors, Filipinos celebrate Christmas in both commercialized fashion, inside Manila’s temples of commerce for Christmas sales, and traditional religious fashion through the Simbang Gabi. The ongoing Covid 19 pandemic and the destruction of Typhoon Odette  may have put a damper on things but Filipinos will do their best to ensure that Christmas remains an occasion of love and joy.

As a way of capping the year 2021, Renacimiento Manila presents to the public the “Pasko sa Maynila: Christmas Photo Series”. The photo series is Renacimiento Manila’s Christmas gift to the public – from its fans and followers to the general population. The “Pasko sa Maynila” series pays homage to Manila during Christmas by reimagining pre war Manila during the Christmas season. It is also a way by which Renacimiento Manila brings together the many skills, outputs, and talents that it has gathered and honed in the entirety of 2021. 

Conceptualization

“Pasko sa Maynila ” was conceived in October in order for Renacimiento to have a timely Christmas themed project and feature. The series was envisioned to be a way by which Renacimiento could feature its creativity and technical abilities. It was also seen as a good way by which to use the output of the Digital Manila Project’s Prewar Manila 3D model, turning it into a backdrop for human stories and interactions set in Manila’s past.

Earlier Examples: Photo manipulations by Chaeyeon Lee 
Image from (Chaeyeon Lee’s Facebook Profile)

Prior to this, Renacimiento Manila’s premier modeler, Chaeyeon Lee, had been manipulating rendered photos of the model and inserting herself as well as Renacimiento members. This meant that Renacimiento was no stranger to the concept, it just hasn’t done it on a larger scale, involving more people or acting out creative scenes.

The three main components of the project were: the 3D model, the scenes and human assets, and the additional graphics. By October, the initial stages of planning and orientation commenced.

Earlier Examples: Photo manipulations by Chaeyeon Lee 
Images from Renacimiento Manila

Research and Design

Image of Prewar Manila: One of many references used by the team
(Image from John Tewell’s Flickr Collection)

Once the project began, the team immediately set about trying to find Christmas time pictures of prewar Manila. This proved to be difficult since Manila was quite bare during Christmas time, with decorations more concentrated in interiors of places like shops. It became necessary to reimagine the city, adding decorations which would be relatable to modern audiences but still true in spirit, such as parols or lanterns. 

With Angelo Andres at the head, storyboards were created to depict the scenes which will be acted out by the members during the photoshoot, and locations that will be rendered in the 3D model.

Preparing the 3D Model

Leading the Digital Manila Project was Architect Carlos Cucueco III, with modelers such as Chaeyeon Lee, Niel Magbitang and Sean Dagle. 

By October 2021, most of prewar Escolta had already been modelled. The northern side of Escolta, together with Plaza Moraga were 90% completed. Work was thus concentrated on the southern side of Escolta. Important landmarks such as the Uy Chaco Building and the Masonic Temple ensured that a large portion of the model could be rendered and used.

For the Intramuros scenes, which included Plaza Roma and Santo Domingo Church, assets from the Vision Model were taken and redesigned to match the prewar cityscape. Final adjustments were completed by December with Chaeyeon Lee’s redesign of the Intramuros model.

Photoshoot

One of the most difficult part of the project was the photoshoot. It was decided that it will be Renacimiento Manila’s own members as well as friends who will act out the scenes, as main characters and background characters. Initially, members were instructed to choose what character they want and portray and then take their own photos from wherever they are located. This was difficult because not everyone had the period costumes for the scenes, as well as the quality of camera necessary. 

Luckily, the lowering of Alert Levels and restrictions in the Greater Manila area meant that a centralized photoshoot could be done. A few members were able to take their photographs on their own, but for the most part almost all the photos were taken during the centralized photoshoot. 

The photoshoot was made possible through the generosity of the Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation, who opened their Revellin de Recoletos office in Intramuros as a venue for the photoshoot. 

The photos were taken by Yasuda Rain, who was a prolific photographer of Manila’s many sights and attractions.

The photoshoot took place the whole afternoon of November 30, which also became a great bonding experience for Renacimiento’s members, who for the most part have only met each other online.

Creating the Graphics

Graphics were essential in giving life and adding color to the cityscape of downtown Manila. As mentioned earlier, Christmas time pictures of the prewar city were researched. In addition to this, pictures of posters were also researched in order to piece together and create new posters. As such, the final product were posters that for the most part were based on historical photos but some were reinterpreted in the context of the project. This included hanging tarps, painted wall ads, signages, and riverside billboards.

Layout: Piecing Together the Pictures

The final layouting took place in December. What proved to be challenging was the new work schedule of some of the people involved in the project, since the lowering of the ALert levels also meant that some had to report to their actual offices.

However, the project pushed through. The model was rendered, the pictures were edited and the graphics integrated. Angelo Andres was the one who did the work of bringing to life what was only an idea two months before. Advising and assisting were Bea Dolores and Chaeyeon Lee.

Work concluded in time for Christmas Eve.  Here are the finished pictures.

Conclusion

The “Pasko sa Maynila” series is just one of many ways by which Renacimiento Manila is working to utilize technology and creativity in promoting Manila’s history and heritage. The series shows the potential of the 3D model in bringing to life a lost city and a bygone era.

Although it is a year end project, the “Pasko sa Maynila” series is a herald of things to come for 2022 – where Renacimiento Manila plans to continue to push the boundaries of its own capabilities to renew people’s interest and connection to the city of Manila, and to usher in a cultural rebirth for the Pearl of the Orient.

Maligayang Pasko sa inyong lahat!

RENACIMIENTO MANILA is a group of artists, creators, and history enthusiasts committed to heritage advocacy, with a particular interest in Manila’s built heritage. As such, the purpose of Renacimiento Manila is to produce art to promote and realize Manila’s cultural rebirth and for it to materialize its core philosophy, the Renacimiento Movement. 

The Renacimiento Movement. What, then, is the Renacimiento Movement? The movement is the core philosophy of the organization. It is founded on the reality that heritage is a cornerstone of holistic development and that it is indispensable in ensuring the quality of life. As such, cultural revival is necessary for the promotion of heritage on the national agenda. Heritage should be driven by the people, regardless of race, gender, creed, or religion. This cultural revival can be achieved through the following ways: government support, the advancement of private initiatives, and the engagement of the people.

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