MANILA -- Surrounded by clear skies and visible from across the sea and beneath the shadow of a mountain range, it's Metro Manila as people have not seen it before.
With the enhanced community quarantine against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on its second week, residents of both the city and the nearby suburbs have snapped glimpses of the metropolis that have only been made possible by the lockdown.
People have called the smog-free and close-to-nature images rare and amazing.
It's also visible proof of data released by private and public groups showing a decrease in air pollutants in the metro since the quarantine began on March 16.
Vehicular traffic has largely been banned during the month-long lockdown--the main factor cited by the groups for the quick improvement in air quality.
One characteristic of the metropolis made noticeable by the cleaner air is its proximity to a mountain range.
Photos taken by construction quality control engineer Johair Addang from the roof of a condominium tower in Pasig reveal the peaks of the Sierra Madre in neighboring Rizal and Aurora provinces dwarfing the city's skyscrapers.
The Sierra Madre, dubbed the "backbone" of Luzon, is the Philippines' longest mountain range that stretches north to south from the Cagayan to Quezon provinces.
Unable to return to his home province before the lockdown, Addang has been staying in at the condo where he also works.
He took the photos with his camera phone on Monday, March 23, past 5 p.m.
Addang said he had just chanced upon the view of what he was already aware to be the Sierra Madre.
"Dati matagal ko na siya nakikita. Pero shadow lang siya. Tapos nung nasa roofdeck ako nakita ko sya in details at maliwanag na siya," he told ABS-CBN News in an online chat.
(I've been seeing the mountain range before, but it was only a shadow. When I went to the roofdeck that day, I finally saw it brightly and with more details.)
As of this writing, he has not revisited the roof deck since taking the photo.
"Na-amaze lang ako kasi ngayon lang ako nakakita ng ganoong view within Metro Manila."
(I was just amazed, having only now seen such a view from within Metro Manila.)
Residents on elevated suburbs across the border of Metro Manila have also been treated to an unobscured view of the city skyline.
Celebrity Doug Kramer, whose family's house overlooks the city, noticed the absence of smog and posted the view on Instagram together with shots from the same spot on December 2019.
Kramer's photo 4 months ago showed a thick layer of gray smog blanketing the city--all gone in his March 21 shot.
In the post, he called it "a little good news."
"We've been here almost a year now. And it's a rarity to get consecutive days of a clear and unpolluted view. I would always wonder why our kids would easily get coughs and allergies when we were still living in the Metro," Kramer wrote.
With it he added a call for people to "take care of our home better" after the COVID-19 pandemic passes.
Even locals from Bataan province are able to see the Metro Manila skyline from across the other end of Manila Bay.
Bles Yee-Defeo of Mt. View in Mariveles, Bataan shared photos of the skyline and the bay which she took with her camera phone from her house's rooftop over consecutive afternoons.
She said Metro Manila--an estimated 45-kilometer direct distance from Mariveles--was last clearly visible from their area during her father's time.
"Kami tuwing gabi noon, malalaman lang namin na Manila kasi madaming ilaw. Pero ngayon, kahit umaga hangang hapon matatanaw mo 'yung mga gusali mismo. Tuwing hapon 'yan tinatanaw namin, eh nakakagaan ng pakiramdam," Yee-Defeo said.
(Before at night, we would recognize it as Manila because of the many lights. But now, even from morning until afternoon, you could see the buildings themselves. We would look at it now on afternoons, since it lightens our mood.)
She said she wanted to share that feeling to others by posting the photos online.
"Sana po makapag-send din ng positive vibes 'yan sa lahat ng makakakita po, lalo't lahat ngayon ay stressed."
(I hope the photos would also send positive vibes to all who saw it, especially since all of us are now stressed.)
Metro Manila has long been panned for its air quality reaching levels way above global safety limits.
It may have changed with the lockdown, with Philippine environment Sec. Roy Cimatu even lauding similar initiatives in other countries as allowing "the earth to heal from environmental degradation.”
The questions remains, however, if these rare views are only temporary and could disappear once the city again goes up and running.