Old Manila

Calle Escolta, Manila, Philippines in 1878. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Here in the United States, we often use New York City as our paradigm of extraordinary population density. Indeed, the city proper and some surrounding municipalities hold nine of the top ten spots for most densely populated places in America, and the city itself contains over 27,000 people per square mile. But that’s just a quarter of the density of the most crowded city on Earth: Manila, Philippines.

However, Manila wasn’t always so densely packed. When the photo above was taken, in 1878, Calle Escolta (the street pictured above) was the primary commercial thoroughfare in not just all of old Manila, but in all of the Philippines.

Despite its quiet appearance, the city already had a relatively large population — around 150,000 by the end of the 19th century. By then, Manila was starting to explode, its population nearly doubling in the 11 years spanning 1876 and 1887.

Between then and now, the city has grown a whopping tenfold, and easily claimed the title of the most densely populated city in the world (with 111,002 people per square mile). Here’s what the streets of downtown Manila look like today:

Manila Now

A crowded market street in Manila in 2008. It was then, and still is, the most densely populated city on Earth. Image Source: Flickr

For more mind-blowing then-and-now photo comparisons, check out what Washington Square Park looked like before skyscrapers, and how Piccadilly Circus went from being frequented by prostitutes to being bombarded by tourists.

Nickolaus Hines
Nickolaus Hines
Nickolaus Hines is a freelance writer in New York City. He graduated from Auburn University, and his recent bylines can be found at Men's Journal, Inverse, and Grape Collective.
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