Monday, September 04, 2006


I got caught two weeks ago by Manila’s brown shirts — otherwise known as traffic enforcement officers — for color coding violation. I didn’t realize that it was way past three in the afternoon. As luck would have it, the traffic light turned red as I approached the corner of Solis and Rizal Avenue; right on the corner were two of them who immediately noticed my car's plate.

Remembering Philippines Phil’s blog entry, Driving in the Philippines, I decided to just grin and bear the due penalty. I was given a ticket while my license was taken from me, and advised to just show the ticket if ever I got stopped again. It would take about a week for my license to be ready for redemption at Manila City Hall.

Incidentally, since I’m way older than most cops and security personnel in the streets of the city, instead of addressing them as Sir, I’d often refer to them as Chief, which I noticed they would get a kick out of — respectful yet friendly. As I restarted the car, the brown shirt who issued me the ticket, to my surprise, apologized for not being able to give me a break. He confided that the unmarked Toyota Revo on the other side of the street behind us carried passengers — officers from his unit — who were observing him and his partner.

Getting back my license cost 300 pesos (about six US dollars). The process involves three steps. Firstly, I had to go to a certain window where I had to present the ticket. The clerk checked her computer terminal to make sure that my license had already arrived and recorded into their database. If not, I will be asked to return on another date.

If the license is ready for redemption, the second step is to walk over to another area (about 25 meters away) to trade my ticket for a stub with a number on it indicating my place in the line of people waiting to get their license back.

Third and final step is to head over to the redemption center and wait for my number and name to be called over a loudspeaker. Once called, I will be directed to a particular cashier's window to remit the 300 peso penalty.

I think the whole color coding scheme is a big joke, mainly because it favors the rich who can afford to buy a second car to circumvent this traffic regulation. What the city needs is a much better traffic management and improved, well-lighted streets and roadways.

Anyway, the whole process of retrieving one’s license, depending on how crowded it is, usually takes about 40 minutes. What I did while waiting to be called was take pictures of the city hall’s interior ground. With so many security personnel, as well as uniformed police and traffic officers roaming the area, I was surprised no one stopped me from taking pictures of the place.

My eldest sister Fraulein got her first job here when Villegas was the city’s mayor. She was a civil servant in the Assessor's Office until she left to pursue graduate studies at the University of Chicago.

Located at Plaza Lawton in front of SM Manila Mall, the city hall was supposedly built during the 1930s. It has a famous clock tower that is beautifully lit at night.

Unable to find any of its history online, I emailed Ivan Mandy requesting for any information. He immediately responded to say that it was “originally built during the early days of the American occupation (1901) but the current structure dates back only to the 1930s and was finished in 1941; designed by architect Antonio Toledo. It was destroyed during WWII. The current one is a post war reconstruction.”

Ivan also included a piece of trivia: if seen from above, it resembles a coffin with the clock tower as its candle. He credits Nick Joaquin as the author of this somewhat morbid comparison. He also mentioned that city hall was renamed Maharnilad during the Marcos era, and that there is an oversized mural created by Carlos Botong Francisco inside the mayor’s anteroom. I will try to gain access and take a photo of this mural another day.

City of Manila business permits are among the highest in Metro Manila; however, the business community is not complaining because of the many revitalization programs that the mayor has been actively pursuing, which translates to a surge in business growth.

Just a few meters north of city hall is the newly-refurbished Pugad Lawin Plaza; whereas the frontage of Universidad de Manila alongside the plaza, as well as the pedestrian area up to The Metropolitan Theater are all going through a transformation resembling an entire park with many brightly-lit lamp posts.

If the 300 peso fine I shelled out to redeem my license went to the coffers to fund continued revitalization programs of the city, then like the business community, I have no complaints whatsoever.

* * *

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posted by Señor Enrique at 6:24 AM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Test comment... ;)

September 04, 2006 7:20 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a nice hall with a nice set of history.

What is the color coding violation about?


September 04, 2006 8:58 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I was checking out Blogger Beta, Jhay -- that's why the test post you saw earlier before this one :)

September 04, 2006 9:15 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

The color coding scheme, Kyels, is the Unified Vehicle Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP). Instead of color, it should have been labeled number coding.

Vehicles with plate number ending with 1 and 2 cannot be driven on Mondays; 3 and 4 on Tuesdays; 5 and 6 on Wednesday, and so on.

However, there are cities in Metro Manila such as Manila that will allow affected vehicles to be driven between 10 am to 3 pm. Makati City is rather strict and does not allow any such break.

For foreigners planning to visit Metro Manila and do some driving, I recommend Philippines Phil entry (just click on his entry title above).

September 04, 2006 9:26 AM  

Blogger Senorito<- Ako said...

Ever wondered why Alfredo lim EASILY made senator but loss on a landslide against Mayor Atienza ?

You can actually see Manila getting its much needed touch ups from Atienza :)

Sorry for the political puntitry. :)

Nice shots btw! I bet they would've questioned you taking shots when you carry an imposing SLR around the premises.

Ivan Mandy was always interested with old architecture. He'd rather visit old churches than go to Baguio's crowded mines view. :)

September 04, 2006 9:35 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Your comments are always welcome, S.A., especially because you're a bonafide "Manila Boy" and your inputs always add color to my entries :)

Yes, Ivan seems to love our local architecture and quite knowledgeable about our distinguished architects. I plan on signing up for his tour of San Miguel next. Are you familiar with that area as well?

September 04, 2006 10:01 AM  

Blogger ipanema said...

It's nice to see the City Hall again. I think I've only been here twice. Once when I applied for my son's birth and my marriage certificates. The second when I returned for authenticated copies.

I haven't been to SM Manila. Nice shots again Eric. :)

September 04, 2006 10:12 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

It was such a bummer that I got a ticket, Ipaneme, but then I decided to turn it into a good thing and blog about it ... hehehe!

Hey ... keep an eye on your email, have something to send you later.

September 04, 2006 10:33 AM  

Blogger Gelo said...

Nice tour of Manila. Great work Senor.

September 04, 2006 12:24 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Plaza Lawton - that's were we usually catch the Saulog bus back to Noveleta, Cavite when I was still a kid and we would go to Manila. I wonder if the Saulog buses still run up to this day.

September 04, 2006 12:29 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Why, thank you very much, Peter.

BTW, I often read your entries; however, you do not have your comment box on, which prohibits interaction with your readers. I was going to ask about consumer-related issues in your city, which I thought was admirable on your part to keep writing about :)

Thanks for dropping by, too, Councilor!

September 04, 2006 12:59 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

You are right, Niceheart, Plaza Lawton was where you could catch Saulog buses to Cavite! My mother's step-sister was married to a Philippine Navy careerist; we often visited with them in their residence at a naval base in Cavite. Their son, a PMA graduate, is now a very high ranking naval officer with a spotless record; much to his late mother's great pride and joy, I'm sure :)

I don't notice Saulog buses at Plaza Lawton anymore, though I know it still actively maintains its bus route to Olongapo City in Zambales. I also met its owner (second generation, I believe), a friend of my cousin, when we once went to Wasabi bar & gril over in Makati Avenue to check out some music.

September 04, 2006 1:09 PM  

Blogger Gayzha said...

Wow... These places look neat and clean!

September 04, 2006 2:47 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If only for this nice and sharp images of the famed Manila City Hall structure, it was well worth the hazzle of lining up on some queues, and the 300 bucks I guess.

I had always seen the Manila City Hall from afar, while riding a jeepney or a taxi, but not this near, and I had always marveled why that building seem to have a lot of stories to tell, like a mystical giant hibernating for already quite a long time. Until now, if I think of Manila and my days spent there, I've always see in my mind's eye that high clock tower and sprawling yellow building.

September 04, 2006 3:03 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

There is really a lot of effort by city officials to make Manila an attractive and pleasant city for its inhabitants and visitors, Jase.

I must commend our Mayor Atienza for his enthusiasm in breathing life into the city.

September 04, 2006 3:50 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Hahaha ... I'm amazed by your keen perception, Major Tom!

I originally thought that if anything, 300 pesos was buying me a blog entry to share with readers.

One story Carlos shared with us was when Imelda Marcos marched to city hall to petition Mayor Lacson to declare her as the winner of Binibining Maynila, instead of just a mere first runner upper :)

September 04, 2006 3:56 PM  

Blogger ladybug said...

I am truly grateful to Mayor Atienza for all the renovations made to the beautiful city of Manila. I just noticed though that the Manila City Hall (the building itself) badly needs some renovation, especially where the trial courts are located. The hallways are dark and dingy. And there are only 2 elevators which are sssoooo ssslllloooowwww. So one time in 2002, when I was almost late for a hearing, had to use the stairs. Unfortunately, the stairways were long due to the high ceiling. Grabe, when I reached the courtroom, my case was already being called. So, I had to announce my presence. Unfortunately, since I was running out of breath, my voice sounded like I was crying. Hahaha...I wanted to hide at that moment. Sobrang kakahiya.

September 04, 2006 5:33 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I don't mean to laugh at your misfortune, Ladybug, but I couldn't help it. I ca just imagine how the judge and others in the courtroom must have reacted when they mistook you as crying while announcing your presence!

I haven't been upstairs, but if they have been spending much money on beautification projects, I'm sure some funding was also allocated for renovations of city hall itself.

Thanks for sharing with us this story, Ladybug. Great one, indeed!

September 04, 2006 5:47 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...


I guess they made up that rule so that Metro Manila and Makati would not be congested.

I heard that the traffic is rather congested over there, right?

By the way, Malate is a district in Makati, am I right or wrong?


September 04, 2006 6:42 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

It didn't really solve the problem of traffic congestion, Kyels. Most people with money simply bought a second car.

Malate is in Manila. It was once a tony residential and business area; now, lots of restaurants, bars and clubs. It's a place to go to for most of the city's young people.

September 04, 2006 7:47 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got caught many times in Makati for violating that color code but I always talk my way out of it. One time the same cop caught me twice and we just laughed about it. I am so forgetful. That's my answer to them which is actually true.

September 04, 2006 9:30 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

I might have a false perception of the intensity of the traffic but I have the impression that there is less traffic now than last year. I guess some people think twice before using their car. Oil prices are increasing all the time and driving around is starting to be VERY expensive.
Maybe oil prices are more effective than color coding shemes.

September 04, 2006 10:07 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep. I've heard that Malate has lots of bars, clubs and so on.

How about Rockwell Centre?

Well, even in Malaysia it's bloody congested especially when it comes to the city. Unlike towns; the cities are very congested during peak hours. Even the public transportation such as LRTs will be sardine packed. Sheesh.

September 05, 2006 12:21 AM  

Blogger Analyse said...

yep, if it's for the funding of the revitalization program of the city, then no comment. but i was caught once too and i paid the same sum, and i was sure it went to the pocket of that police officer. on the other hand, it saved me from taking a day off to redeem my license.

i hope they will improve their system, like not taking the license but just taking the plate number and send the ticket or pay it once caught. it will save everybody from the hassle of going to city hall... but well, redeeming it there gives jobs to our fellow kababayans too... well, ok, i didnt say anything, ewan hehe..

September 05, 2006 1:10 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

What can I say, Noemi? You are one lucky gal! Especially when considering that Makati's traffic personnel is notoriously unforgiving :)

You may be right there, Sidney -- less vehicles on the streets due to increase in gas prices! However, there are still main thoroughfares in which traffic would bottleneck not only during the rush but at unpredictable times also -- such as Quezon Boulevard heading towards Quiapo.

Rockwell is much like Greenbelt, Kyels -- elegant and pricey. Only place I've gone to at Rockwell is Dish on Tuesday nights for oldies music.

Since there is usually only one main highway -- right after the expressways from Manila -- when going deeper to the provinces (either north or south) there would be bumper to bumper traffic, especially when approaching main towns and schools. What we often do in those trips is leave Manila at 3 or 4 in the early morning.

Manila's LRT is just much too packed. Horrible!

Immediately after settling down in Manila, Analyze, I noticed our law enforcement's major disadvantage -- low tech.

Until the day comes that every police car and motorcycle is equipped with computerized systems linked to a main database, we will just have to deal with their archaic methods.

September 05, 2006 6:28 AM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

Riding the jeepney from Malate to Quiapo (school was MLQU in R. Hidalgo)I used to be guided by that City Hall clock for my afternoon school schedules.

Some good nostalgic memories. Busy Taft Avenue, I heard has been renamed. Re Plaza Lawton, the same person also graced the old 50 peso bill, which was endearingly called, a Lawton.

Does the clock still keep good time?

September 05, 2006 7:51 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Yes, Amadeo, the clock has recently gone through some serious cleaning and calibration; however the internal shot of the clock was taken on a different day as the main photo on top :)

Taft Avenue still maintains its old name, thank God! But Plaza Goite is now Plaza Lacson :(

BTW, learned from the walking tour I took, the PNB building where your father may have once worked, was originally called the Crystal Building -- the very first fully air-conditioned building in Manila (and maybe the Philippines); costing one million dollars to build during that peacetime era.

September 05, 2006 8:41 AM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

Yes, that old PNB bldg where my father used to work. I would regularly visit his upper floor office, the Legal Dept, riding the elevators that were manned by operators also employed by PNB.

The Madrigal Bldg was probably also highlighted. Did the tour include a trip to Dasmarinas St., which in the earlier times was quite an integral part of the Escolta environs?

September 05, 2006 10:23 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

The Madrigal Building, he might have mentioned, Amadeo, but I may be busily photographing at that moemnt; however the Calvo Building in front of PNB, yes. On the second floor at the back is a narrow museum with its "Dyaryo at Bote" and old photographs of Escolta exhibitions.

Trivia: Remember Uncle Bob (I was a member of his Dick Tracy club)?

He had his TV studio right there in Calvo Building! I remember when Uncle Bob was always threatened with deportation and he would bid us kids a teary goodbye, BUT miraculously, he would remain :) Now, GMA is one of the major networks in the Philippines.

It was another tour guide, Ivan, who brought us to Dasmarinas Street and made us aware how that enclave has more banks than one can ever imagine. Talk about a Wall Street right there on Escolta neighborhood.

Question, Amadeo: was the stock exchange originally in the Prudential Building in front of Plaza Goite? I love that building and plan to feature it. Any info you may share about the Phillipine Stock Exchange would be appreciated. Thanks!

September 05, 2006 11:21 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think it's great that you turned it into a good thing. those photos make up for another great entry.

and as for the coding, i agree with you that it's a big joke since pabor sa mga mayayaman. yun nga lang, malas kung parehas parin ng huling number sa kanyang plate ang bagong coche hahaha.

so you're going to sign up for ivan's san miguel trip? i also want to sign up but then i don't have the means yet, maybe i'll settle for the intramuros walk first. :-)

btw, my site is fixed already. :-)

September 05, 2006 11:40 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Yes, Intramuros first, Carla. Excellent history lessons you'll get from Carlos.

I'm still checking my schedule; if free, I'll sign up for the next San Miguel tour. If not, I'll wait for the one after it.

I'm heading over your site now!

September 05, 2006 4:49 PM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

Gee, I can't recall the stock exchange site. But Prudential bldg is familiar. Those glory days of Avenida, site for many first-run theaters. Quiapo area mostly had second-run moviehouses.

And I do recall Bob Stewart on TV. But wasn't he eventually married to a Filipina?

And I recall distinctly the trio of plazas. Plaza Miranda for Quiapo, Goite (wasn't it spelled, Goiti?) for Avendia, and Plaza Cervantes for Jones. How have they been maintained? Maybe you should also feature them.

When Quiapo jeeps were full, one could also take either those plying Santa Cruz or Jones. But that involved a lot of walking to reach Quiapo.

But it was always a fun walk for me. Taking Escolta to cross over to Avenida, then stores-filled Carriedo to get to Quiapo.

September 05, 2006 8:09 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

just a quick browse on your blog... "pilipinas .... mahal?"

sort of double meaning... hehehe. pretty pics as always. :)

September 05, 2006 9:13 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Byahilo recently featured Prudential Building on his site, Amadeo:

Yes, I remember the Avenida Rizal strip with its magnificent display of neon lights, especially from the movie theaters -- Avenue, Ideal, State, Galaxy, and Odeon (did I miss anything?). Avenue was the only building that survived the bombing during the war; it was recently torn down -- property taxes are cheaper for vacant lots than with a structure standing on it, according to Carlos.

Yes, Uncle Bob was maried to a Filipina (related to Chito Feliciano?).

You might be right, Goiti. Okay, will photgraph these areas and feature them.

As far as I can remember, my father and I walked; no calesa nor pedicabs. For example: we'd start from his office at F. Torres and Azcarraga then to Ongpin and then up to Plaza Miranda to watch a Chinese opera troupe perform on a stage near the church during a Chinese festival. His choice of street from Sta. Cruz to Quiapo was like yours, Carriedo. Of course, there were food stops in between :)

September 06, 2006 6:05 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

You are so clever with words(double entendres), Jepaperts!

That is funny, really! Coming home can indeed be expensive or mahal ... hahaha!

September 06, 2006 6:08 AM  

Blogger Unknown said...

I used your city hall photo as visual for my short story and linked it up with the credits..
Thank you

March 30, 2008 10:22 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

look at the side walk of Manila city hall. it is a mess! even the underpass! it's business you Know! The law applies to all but not in city hall itself!

June 22, 2010 3:42 PM  

Anonymous gemma cruz araneta said...

Dear Senor Enrique,
Many years later, I came across this particular entry in your blog. For your information, the Pilipinas Kong Mahal inscription ( of Atienza vintage) was questioned by the City Legal Officer in 2007 because it is against the Flag Law. Since then Atienza had to modify posters and tarpaulins by removing the inscription from the face of the flag.
Gemma Cruz Araneta
Manila City Hall

October 12, 2011 1:17 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. The article was well written. May I ask where you got all the info about the establishment? I'm currently doing a research about it. I just thought that maybe you can help. Here's my email address:

Thank you.=)

December 06, 2011 9:01 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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