- Historical Continuities in and New Works on Philippine Cities
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On 14 February 2019 Pres. Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 11201, establishing the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) "to streamline housing and land use planning by the government" (Ranada 2019). In the process, the law dissolved two state agencies—the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board—and merged their functions in a cabinet-level department. On a somewhat related note, the government is also mulling over the creation within ten to fifteen years of a Greater Capital Region (GCR), which would be composed of Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and the CALABARZON provinces, i.e., Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon—a development that may well be realized due to the ongoing railway projects that will eventually connect the said regions together (Roque 2019). Based on these moves, the Duterte administration seems geared toward massive urban restructuring that will affect not just the national capital but also other cities.
This trend makes the study of urbanization an imperative. Fortunately, works on Philippine urban history and urban studies are on an upswing, especially in the past decade, equipping us with the necessary conceptual tools to understand the dizzying pace of change both in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia. The historiography of Southeast Asian urbanization traces its roots to the 1950s, when scholars (Ginsburg 1955; McGee 1967) began theorizing the similarities and differences of the so-called Asian city. In recent years, new frontiers in Philippine urban history have opened up, with some scholars looking at previously ignored topics like health and medicine, [End Page 132] food and provisionment, and even household technology (Mactal 2009; Doeppers 2016; Reyes 2012). Furthermore, the scholarly concern toward the built environment, mass housing, vernacular architecture, and the emergence of the informal urban fabric remain prominent, exemplified by the works of Paulo Alcazaren et al. (2011), Greg Bankoff (2012), and Edson Cabalfin (2014) and a 2016 special issue on urban history of Philippine Studies: Historical and Ethnographic Viewpoints. Adding to this growing body of scholarship are five recently published works that I review in this essay: Ian Morley's Cities and Nationhood: American Imperialism and Urban Design in the Philippines, 1898–1916; Gerard Lico and Lorelei D. C. de Viana's compilation of primary sources, titled Regulating Colonial Spaces (1565–1944): A Collection of Laws, Decrees, Proclamations, Ordinances, Orders and Directives on Architecture and the Built Environment during the Colonial Eras in the Philippines; A. K. Sandoval-Strausz and Nancy H. Kwak's edited volume, Making Cities Global: The Transnational Turn in Urban History; Andre Arnisson Ortega's Neoliberalizing Spaces in the Philippines: Suburbanization, Transnational Migration, and Dispossession; and Wataru Kusaka's Moral Politics in the Philippines: Inequality, Democracy and the Urban Poor.
Cities and Nationhood is the first book of Ian Morley, who is associate professor in the Department of History at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. It is the culmination of his long engagement with the history of planning in the Philippines, Morley having published a number of essays on this topic in various academic journals. The first of its six chapters introduces the terrain of concepts and paradoxes that have defined the Philippine nation and links this map of ideas to the...