Conserving Manila’s Heritage Sites

Today I read this article in ABS-CBN News Online about the social commentary of Dolce Amore, a prime time soap about the degenerating status of heritage sites in Manila. The show went to Paco Park which I’ve also visited and found to be barely maintained. They also went to Luneta Park and discussed how the local government can allow, in the name of increased revenues, an eyesore to be built.

dolce amore
Source: ABS CBN News Online

I find it really sad that the local government of Manila has failed to identify what the city is capable of. In a bid to be like Makati or Quezon City or the other cities in Metro Manila, they have allowed capitalists to enter and build business structures around the city – in the process destroying the heritage sites.

Manila could have been a great city had it stuck to a well-thought out development plan. She could have been an old university town filled with various universities and cultural sites. They could have concentrated on that – developing a vibrant, safe and pollution-free (or lessened) university belt. Sadly, even though there are many universities in the area, the students live in fear of petty criminals and risk their lives in vehicle-infested roads. Slums surround the campuses adding to the pollution and derelict view of the area.

Parks – pocket parks – are virtually non-existent since those that exist have become home to homeless people. The only lung in Manila left has been virtually forgotten. The once grand architectural wonder buildings have been discarded – left to rot until they are eventually destroyed to make way for “better and modern” ones.

Comprehensive_Land_Use_Plan_of_the_City_of_Manila
The Comprehensive Land Use Plan of Manila City Legend: Green – Parks; Dark Blue – University Zone; Red – High Intensity Industrial Zone; Yellow – High Density Residential Zone Click image to view clearly Source: Wikipedia

I am saddened that my children may never see Manila with her cultural heritage intact. I, myself, am sad that what I see are mere vestiges of a once glorious past.

Shall I stay on the sidelines? But what can I do?

A visit to these derelict sites, which I’ve always planned but never do, is, I believe, the start.

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Movie Review: The Bourne Identity..oops! Legacy pala.

After such a long time, I watched a movie in the big screen again. Not that I am no movie buff, I just don’t seem to find any necessity watching films in the big screen when I can easily download them. Then again, Bourne Legacy was a different story because it was shot in Manila. I was excited how they will depict the city in the film. Not being a fan of the previous Bourne movies, I was at a lost when the film started. I literally don’t know what was happening. But I hang on, waiting for the Manila scenes to take place.

The two main casts – Rachel Weisz and Jeremy Renner in the streets of Manila.

Almost 2/3 of the film was already done, and still no Manila. I was beginning to get bored especially when Rachel Weisz started talking scientific jargon. As a biologist, I’m suppose to understand some of the terms – I do – but then it was too technical even for me to appreciate. I tuned out of that conversation. But I was aghast at how Manila was inserted in the story line. The virus was manufactured here? I didn’t know what to make out of the logic presented. But since I tuned out of the entire conversation, I really didn’t know the logic behind Manila being the virus producer.

And so the characters went to Manila. Yey! At first, I was impressed with the nighttime aerial shots. It was as if the film was in Bangkok or some other high-end Asian City (but then I recalled some Hollywood films did used Manila as a stand-in for those locations). I was also almost at the edge of my seat when close-up shots of Manila were presented. From the taxi ride from the airport to the scenes in the factory and the rented room, it all screamed Manila to me. During the chase scene, I felt that it was a Tagalog movie I was watching, with all the Tagalog dialogue I heard. It was in fact unnerving to hear the occasional English conversations of the main characters.The Manila geography was a bit off for me – I mean who in the Philippines would seriously believe Manila was laid out like that? But then again, for the many foreign viewers, or even those who don’t know Manila all too well, they will most probably excuse the geographical liberties.

Just when the scenes were getting good, the film had to end abruptly. Just when I thought that finally, they have come to the Philippines and we can see some real action, it ended. The hyper chase scene that dominated 1/3 of the film was all there is to it. Nothing more. I was literally left hanging. I can’t believe the credits were rising; I can’t believe the lights turned on. I can’t believe the film was over. I kept expecting something else to happen.

To me, it felt like a very bad, forced ending that would communicate – again badly – that there was a sequel to look forward to. I felt that the entire film was something that they made just so they can make another Bourne installment  and make money out of it. In fact, I think they tried to work up all the hype over nothing! Of course, I was happy Manila was featured in the film, although mostly it was the slums they showed and nothing too flattering to the Philippines except the last shots in El Nido, Palawan. Then again, who would really recognize that the end shots were in El Nido? Will anyone ever think those were actually in the Philippines after what they saw in Manila? I certainly hope so.

But overall, story being considered, I did not really like the film. I was in there to watch out for the scenes shot in Manila and that was exactly what I got. Nothing more. No enigmatic story to pique my brain. No intelligent conversation to make me rave about the film. I got what I went there for and that was it.

Did it meet my expectations? My expectations for great shots in Manila, yes. I knew they were not aiming to shot the glorious tourists spots but they did justice to the city. My expectations for a great film with great story telling and dialogue and characters, no. Basically, it was all hodgepodge to me.

Since the film obviously has another sequel – the way they just cut it out in the middle blatantly speaks so – if it is no longer shot in the Philippines, then I would definitely not watch it in the big screen; MAYBE (and not even sure about it) just download it. Because of my disappointment, it was no surprise that I came out of the theater without really catching on the title of the film – even to the point that I posted a status update saying: bitin ang Bourne Identity.

This is why I hate watching movies in the big screen. Sometimes, you can never be too sure of your money’s worth.

This post was supposed to be made when I watched the film during its release last Sunday, but I never got around to it. But thanks to the date function here, I can alter the published date. Hehe.

 

The Lure of Manila

Often times I am led to wonder how life would be different had I ventured forth in Manila and sought employment there. Many times I still like to think back on the what if’s of my career path. What if I haven’t left Manila? What if I applied for a work in Manila? What if I worked in Manila? Would life be different?

Of course it would! Instead of the relaxed jeepney ride I go through daily, passing through rice fields and inhaling fresh air, I would be subjected to the highly stressful bus/jeepney/MRT ride passing through rows and rows of buildings, through hours of traffic, squeezing through throngs of people and inhaling polluted air. Instead of waking up two hours, sometimes even an hour and a half, before work time and having lots of time to spare for breakfast, preparation and travel, I would be waking up 4 to 3 hours before work time and be rushing through the day, eating while travelling.

Yet there is the promise of a higher compensation and the threat of higher living costs. There is the promise of greater career glory (more internationally known companies and brands) yet the threat of being too far away from the top and thus a slave of lower management.

But the biggest difference for me – a very big defining factor actually, would be the way Manila has been hit by typhoons recently. And the scary outcomes of such.

Continue reading “The Lure of Manila”

ondoy yet again

Reading people’s wall post in Facebook and other’s personal blog entries, I see the reality of the devastation Ondoy has wrought our country, particularly Manila and it’s adjoining places. The calls for volunteers, the postings of where relief points are located, the desperate posts attempting to locate missing loved ones and the personal narratives of the horror some had to undergo during the hours of the typhoon that may go down in the annals of history as one of the worst ones to ever hit the country, for me, adds a personal tone to the otherwise straightforward news I hear and read.

Philippines Flooding

ondoy1Every second I read what actually happened in Manila – the water levels rising to the second floors and sometimes to the roof; the ultra-jam packed train stations with some stations shutting down due to lost of power; the mass of stranded people – hungry, desperate and worried; I can’t help but be thankful of the decision I made some months ago – the decision to stay in the province, partly permanently, and uproot myself from the Manila I have become deeply rooted to. Yet deep down, together with the gratitude I feel is a longing to be there – with my friends in Manila (and there are a LOT of them) and help out in whatever physical way I can – giving out relief goods, offering shelter if I have one, being part of rescue operations themselves. Furthermore I worry about how they are, how they are faring, how their houses are, how their relatives are. I watch every Facebook post, every yahoo group message, every text message like a hawk awaiting to see what happened or what is happening to my friends. I can hardly believe that less than a week ago I was in Manila and everything seemed just like the way it was before. Now, I’m afraid things have changed. Manila will never be the same again. 

I hope that what transpired will teach us some lessons. Every disaster is an opportunity to learn, if anything else. Somehow, this goes to show that we should never be lax in our mitigating measures for incidents like this. Hopefully, in the future, such an incident will no longer repeat itself for if it does, then pity to us indeed.

ondoy3

The Fresh Rural Air

I was walking in centro yesterday morning. I was on my way home after my shift. I was struck by the cleanliness of the air and the utter freshness of my surroundings. It had just finished raining and the environment appeared to have been cleansed of its previous day’s debris. If only one could preserve air, I would have done so at that very instant, This was downtown Metro Naga we’re talking about yet the air smelled as clean and as fresh as any farmland.

It made me remember my recent trip to Manila, wherein I was once again subjected to its polluted surroundings. Somehow I couldn’t quite imagine how I managed to survive in the years I’ve lived there. The air was now suffocating to my untrained senses – I have long grown accustomed to the freshness of the rural life that I have quite forgotten the atmosphere of Manila. The experience made me all the more grateful to be working and living in the province. Maybe I wouldn’t really switch places after 2 years.

That recent trip to Manila also gave me the opportunity to come into close contact with the afternoon rush hour. Imagine being squeezed tight in the MRT train at the first terminal station. And imagine the horror of approaching, station after station, filled with numerous passengers all trying their best to get inside the train. I swear I heared the PA system at the train stations pleading for passengers to no longer choose MRT as their mode of transportation! To think that MRT started its 24/7 operations that day and still the number of passengers were horrifying.

And so I am thankful, immensely, despite the small salary, that I get to work in an environment free of polluted air; an environment that the only thing akin to rush hour is the mad rush to be the first passenger alight the shuttle bus – which can really sit ALL the passengers, except in some rare instances of miscalculation.  And despite all my apparent misgivings and talks about boredom and job fulfillment, I am thankful for where I am now, Indeed I am.

CRIME and poverty

CRIME

Prison

In the five years that I’ve resided in Manila, I am thankful that I’ve never had the unfortunate experience of being face to face with crime. Perhaps the nearest thing I’ve witnessed to be criminal were the aftermath of a raid done by MMDA on Philcoa sidewalk vendors during one late night – and I was supposed to have been in the middle of the bustle if I had decided to make my purchase from those sidewalk vendors than brave the long line of the nearby Mercury Drug Grocery store.

manilaYet I’ve heard tales of my friends about how they’ve lost their cellphones to snatchers with the most horrific being one wherein they were attacked by muggers while aboard a UP-SM North jeep. I’ve read and heard of stories about students being shot while on campus, girls being raped and thrown in abandoned grassy creeks, of innocent students being mugged while crossing the overpass late at night and countless other horror stories of crime committed by the Manila criminal society. I have heard their stories, witnessed the telltale signs in their bodies and properties but I have never – for once in my entire life in Manila – encountered a single criminal soul. I have braved the twist and turns of the Binondo streets alone – a place I am utterly unfamiliar with – and though I have seen suspicious looking individuals, the most harrowing experience I could speak of were merely snide remarks and insults – nothing that is at all criminal and worthy of police attention.

Some might say I’m lucky. Some might say I’m fortunate. I say I am blessed and well-protected.

Yet the fact and reality of crime still remains in my consciousness and I forever remain vigilant about it. Even now that I live in the province, where one might argue the crime rate is relatively low compared to Manila, I am still on guard. For I’ve been told that criminals here are more aggressive – not really taking time to consider who it is they would rob or assault. I have a friend who told me he was mugged once and when he eventually gave up his cellphone, the mugger was disappointed with the cellphone’s model that the mugger even had the nerve to insult my friend. The cellphone was a very old and dilapidated Nokia 3315. That’s why if I was vigilant while I was in Manila, I am doubly so now that I am in Naga.

An article I read in Peyups.com today brought into mind the reality of the criminal society of the Philippines. There were times that this criminal society seemed to have existed, for me, in a fantasy world of evil since I have never really encountered any of their members. Yet that article, in a very well-written showcase of words, brought this reality into more detailed attention in my consciousness than all the newspaper articles I’ve read or the television news segments I’ve watched about the escapades of the criminal constituents of the country.

The article had greatly captured the feelings of one who’ve had one too many brushed up with Manila’s ruffians that fear had forever been instilled in her heart and in her mind. And the greatest part of the article was the author’s stand on why such things happen in our country and why they will forever remain part of our society.

Poverty.

poverty

The affliction that has been afflicting us since the dawn of time; since we’ve become slaves of colonizers and neo-colonizers alike; since we’ve lost all sense of self-identity and have become enamored with the culture of foreigners.

Poverty.

We’ve been its slave for decades now, maybe even centuries. Thousands of politicians, from the smallest barangay captain to the highest position on the land, the President, had attempted to alleviate it, but to no avail.

Poverty.

The root of all evil and all other afflictions in our country – malnutrition, overpopulation, unemployment, illiteracy, pollution, and most of all CRIME.

When will we ever solve this one? When will we ever be rid of it?

poor

I agree with the author of that Peyups.com article that it is not the criminal’s sole fault that they could not see that the people they are robbing or assaulting are themselves, struggling with their own kind of poverty or are themselves impoverished yet had merely chosen to alleviate their suffering through legitimate means. Indeed it is not those criminal’s fault that they had to turn into the illegal just to survive in this world. They are after all just by-products of an older generation of criminals who taught them the criminal way to survive in this jungle. Who knows if they could have been decent citizens of this land but because of the dire circumstances of their lives they’ve been forced to become hardened criminals.

jail

Who indeed is to blame for all of this? Is it them? Is is the government? Or is it us, as a nation and as individuals?

We blame them because they don’t try to become decent. They don’t try to find decent jobs and earn decent living. They don’t try to reform. They don’t consider others’ situations or predicaments.

We blame the government because they corrupt what should have been public funds aimed at improving public lives. They do not stick true with their promises of better lives and improved conditions. They are just full of themselves and all they really care about is their own personal gain.

But then again how can a starving man with a starving family to feed even think of decency in the light of his grumbling stomach. For a lot of people morality or conscience is almost non-existent when faced with the reality of his harsh environment. And then how can politicians really carry out their idealistic reforms when by the time they assume office, even the most decent ones become swept away by the rampant corruption of their colleagues? You see corruption is so deeply rooted that even the most honest men become eventually snared into it.

poverty_philippines

And so we take a look at the real root of the situation – what have we made of ourselves as a nation, as citizens of this country? How do we really perceive our society? Hopeless? Beyond redemption? Destined for the pits? Something we would gladly forsake and leave given the opportunity to seek greener pastures?

What do we perceive of our race or our identity as Filipinos? Something to be proud of only when Manny Pacquiao wins a fight but something to totally despise of when we learned that we have yet slipped a notch higher in the world’s list of most corrupt nations or become part of the world’s most dangerous countries? Can we not have a better sense of patriotism or nationalism? One which would lead us to critically analyze our government officials or the people we elect into office? One which would make us vigilant of guarding the outcome of our votes – not just when they are being tallied but when they really materialize into the officials we’ve voted for and hoped to have their reforms and plans realized.

congress

Yes, most if not all our politicians are trapo, but some of them I believe are just forced to be trapo because if they don’t then they wouldn’t really have any chance against their real trapo counterparts. And so in the end the choice is still left to us, to decide which of them we would really vote for – to discern which of them is really worthy of our hope.

And hopefully, the person we do elect into office, any of the public office that is, is someone who could, even for just a fraction, make us feel safe in this crime-ridden land due to impoverished lives.

manila vs pili

manila has a certain charm for me. i know i ran away from the pollution and the heavy traffic and the rush hour and all the pressures of the urban life but still there is a part of me that would long for a taste of manila life every now and then.

i know it is not the things i ran away from that attracts me to it. i believe what i find charming is the lack of a dull moment in manila. it seems the city is awake 24/7 and there is no fear of being stranded anywhere due to lack of transportation. living in the heart of urbanization for 5 years then suddenly making a complete turn around to live in a rural spot does indeed highlight a lot of differences.

but i guess the greatest charm manila offers me is the thought of independent living. living here in bicol places me under my parent’s roof and within their easy reach. not that i am complaining. i love having someone cook for me and do my laundry and look out for my daily needs. i know how difficult it was looking after one’s self when one is living alone. i know how difficult it could get when one is so tired from a day’s work only to return home and find out there is laundry to attend to and there is food to cook.

so i guess for now i am content where i am. manila is charming. yes she is. and every now and then i will be returning to her – experiencing the charm she offers. but for the meantime, the rural lifestyle is working hard to charm me as well.