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Scenes of Vietnam, Singapore, and Philippines from Early 20th Century

Photo by Vo Anh Ninh. (Image: Flickr/manhhai CC License)
Photo by Vo Anh Ninh. (Image: Flickr/manhhai CC License)

Search around the Internet, and you’ll find several hand-colored photos and postcards of Vietnam, Singapore, and the Philippines offering a peek at everyday life in the major cities of these countries during colonial rule in the early 20th century.

These images are clearly historically significant and useful for imagining what life was like in the previous century. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Vietnam before the war

The photos below were taken by Vo Anh Ninh, one of the founding fathers of Vietnamese photography, and feature shots from the 1950s during the waning years of French colonial rule. They provide a rare glimpse of life in Vietnam in the 1950s before it was engulfed in a long and bloody war in the next decade.

The Saigoneer website posted some of these photos, which are colorized and uploaded on the Flickr page of manhhai.

Photo by Vo Anh Ninh, taken from the Flickr page of manhhai (CC License)

(Image: manhhaiPhoto/Vo Anh Ninh/CC License)

Photo by Vo Anh Ninh, taken from the Flickr page of manhhai (CC License)

(Image: manhhaiPhoto/Vo Anh Ninh/CC License)

Photo by Vo Anh Ninh, taken from the Flickr page of manhhai (CC License)

(Image: manhhaiPhoto/Vo Anh Ninh/CC License)

Photo by Vo Anh Ninh, taken from the Flickr page of manhhai (CC License)

(Image: manhhaiPhoto/Vo Anh Ninh/CC License)

Manila in the early 1900s

The Philippines was a colony of Spain for more than 300 years until a revolution ended it in 1898. But the United States immediately invaded and remained a colonial ruler until 1946. The images below show the capital city of Manila in transition. Spanish heritage is still evidently strong but American influence is already making an impact.

E. S. Sison colorized these photos from the digital collection of John Tewell. These colorized photos were uploaded to the Facebook page of Kinulayang Kasaysayan(Colorized History).

Binondo, an important religious and commercial center in old Manila. Image from the Facebook page of Kinulayang Kasaysayan, used with permission

Binondo, an important religious and commercial center in old Manila. (Image: Facebook/Kinulayang Kasaysayan)

Crossing the Escolta bridge. Escolta was the premier business center in old Manila. Image from the Facebook page of Kinulayang Kasaysayan, used with permission

Crossing the Escolta bridge. Escolta was the premier business center in old Manila. (Image: Facebook/Kinulayang Kasaysayan)

Washing clothes in Manila during the early 1900s. Image from the Facebook page of Kinulayang Kasaysayan, used with permission

Washing clothes in Manila during the early 1900s. (Image: Facebook/Kinulayang Kasaysayan)

Luneta Park in the early 1900s. This place, then and now, is famous for its spectacular view of the Manila Bay sunset. Image from the Facebook page of Kinulayang Kasaysayan, used with permission

Luneta Park in the early 1900s. This place, then and now, is famous for its spectacular view of the Manila Bay sunset. (Image: Facebook/Kinulayang Kasaysayan)

Vintage Singapore postcards

Hand-colored postcards from the public domain collection of the New York Public Library include several images of Singapore during the early 20th century. The postcards give a few hints of the eventual rise of Singapore as a busy harbor and vital trading post in the Asia-Pacific region.

Native sampan, Singapore. 1907 - 1918. Photo from The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Native sampan, Singapore. 1907 – 1918. (Image: The New York Public Library Digital Collections)

Finlayson Green, Singapore. 1907-1918. Photo from The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Finlayson Green, Singapore. 1907-1918. (Image: The New York Public Library Digital Collections)

Hill Street, Singapore. 1907-1918. Photo from The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Hill Street, Singapore. 1907-1918. (Image: The New York Public Library Digital Collections)

Victoria Street, Singapore. 1907-1918. Photo from The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Victoria Street, Singapore. 1907-1918. (Image: The New York Public Library Digital Collections)

This article by Mong Palatino originally appeared on Global Voices.

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