We are amazed when cities of the world welcome the New Year from the last minutes of December 31st up to the first hour of the first of January. It’s not just about the colorful fireworks but also how they highlight the best of their cultures embodied by their famous landmarks and customs. They consider it an annual tradition where locals gather as one hopeful nation and watch a fresh start unfolds at the tick of first midnight of the year.
Here in the Philippines, we opened the New Year differently and dividedly – literally. Although it’s not really bad to celebrate in different places at the same time, the fact that it is being done separately doesn’t count the reality that we are somehow divisive in a very special occasion. In many countries, despite divisiveness and conflicts, they celebrate in one public venue and witness the change of years together because it is a rare moment for them to unite, reconcile and enjoy as one. We Filipinos are boasting ourselves as a unified country, but are we able to show it to the world in the first hours of the New Year?
We never had one countdown celebration in an iconic landmark like what New York does to Time Square or Paris does to Arc de Triomphe or Eiffel Tower. We were not able to get featured in any international media because we can only offer typical fireworks displays and musical concerts sans paying tribute to cultural or historical symbols our hopes and aspirations in our country’s next chapter. We never staged our biggest and most united Filipino-themed countdown party that we can show globally and we can be truly proud of.
This leads to a proposition that is actually long overdue, as far as I am concerned. Manila has the majestic and historic clock tower at Manila City Hall. As part of our everyday lives for the past seven decades, the clock tower remains to be the distinct symbol of time, not just to the capital city but to the entire Philippines.
The Manila clock tower is situated at the nerve of the country’s historical core. It is surrounded by some of the most important structures the equally-iconic Post Office, the Metropolitan Theater which is known then as our “cultural center”, the Legislative Building which currently houses the National Museum and the august walls of the old powerful citadel called Intramuros. It is our Big Ben – a landmark that was and still serves as a witness that stood the challenges of a fast-changing world but never lost its endurance and elegance.
No local or national celebration in recent memory that highlight the Manila clock tower. As one of the most famous landmarks in the Philippines, it was never used in a globally-publicized special event to prominently represent our country like the Harbour Bridge in Sydney, the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Petronas Tower in Kuala Lumpur and Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The Manila clock tower may not be as huge as those structures, but the story and history behind its existence is more than a reason to show its hands strike at 12 every January 1 around the globe.
As we celebrate the seventh decade of this iconic structure in line with the upcoming 450th founding anniversary of the City of Manila in 2021, I call on the national government and the city government to pay homage to the grand old tower of the Filipino nation. It is time to show it to the world as the icon of every New Year’s Eve celebration in the Philippines starting New Year’s Day 2020. It is the perfect time to project a real Manila-style NYE countdown party that the world deserves to watch and admire.