The second and the third point will be mixed up here. Please see my previous post (Part 1).
I’d love to share with you F. Sionil Jose’s first three paragraphs from his Philippine Star column, Hindsight (2015):
“I left my hometown, Rosales, in eastern Pangasinan in 1938 to enroll at the Far Eastern University High School. My coming to Manila was a boyhood dream fulfilled and I have retained so many fond images of this city, what it was like in those quiet days of the Commonwealth. No soaring monoliths punctuated the skyline — the tallest buildings were the Great Eastern Hotel around Carriedo, the Avenue Hotel on Rizal Avenue and the City Hall tower —all of them scarcely 10 storeys tall.
Rizal Avenue from Doroteo Jose all the way to Blumentritt was lined with trees. No traffic jams choked the streets — hundreds of horse-drawn calesas jostled in them instead, with buses, streetcars and American cars. The Pasig where we swam after school was alive and green. Sure, pockets of slums were visible but all were clean.
The other week, I visited the old familiar places and realized with sorrow and dismay that my Manila has decayed so much, it has become Asia’ s ugliest. In Santa Cruz, Sampaloc and Tondo — the old wooden buildings are falling apart, and the new postwar constructions are grimy with soot. And the sidewalks have all been taken over as living space. Filth is everywhere; indeed, Manila streets are not only dirty — they are also dangerous. The neglect is everywhere, even in Chinatown where there is so much construction. And the most glaring anomaly of all is the old moat around the Walled City, a golf course that should be a green park for befouled Manileños.”
“My Manila.” Like Sionil Jose, our national artist, I have also come to love Manila. But it is not the Manila of Sionil Jose which was really a beauty. Please do your own research on how Manila looked like before the war and it would generate a really awful-nice-feeling – it seems so familiar yet so distant. Now, “My Manila” unlike Sionil Jose’s, is soot filled, crowded, full of concrete buildings and dark alleys, thugs, drugs, snatchers, porn video hawkers and all. The thing is, I know they exist, (I grew up with street riots at night, now you hardly hear of any, thanks DOTA kids miss the fun), but you know they did not become part of my everyday life – except the soot. It’s a matter of which place you go to after all. If you frequent sleazy places, then sleaziness will be part of your life. To put clearly, I am not painting a sordid Manila more than accepting what happens to be breeding in it, good or bad.
But what is the point here? One’s education, as Sionil Jose so indirectly says, does not stop in one’s school. A young kid’s environment shapes his education probably more than what his school can provide. Aside from the presence of several nasty things in Manila that are unhealthy for student life – take not we don’t have “spring break” yet – sound architecture and urban planning must come to the fore to provide the best education possible to our young ones. Architectural structures, structure social life.
Avenida for example no matter how the government tries to rehabilitate it remains a dingy place. Because it is dark. It has attracted cheap motels, petty crimes, prostitution and porn dvds.
We know this by experience, that places that are not spacious, when roofed by flyovers, LRT and MRT railways, skyways and so on, become dark and the social structures beneath these bridges change.
What we need in Manila are open fields, world class public parks, an unobstructed view of the sky, cleanliness, nature parks, preservation and rehabilitation of old Manila architectures (that are educational in themselves), preservation / rehabilitation of the houses of our national heroes, world class public libraries, more local museums and better historical landmarks – and a myriad more. One should not take these lightly if we would like to form generations of Filipinos who would love their countrymen and country. We have to provide history and spaces for reflection.
Like the Church, our educational institutions must be considered sacred grounds. While the best universities in Europe move heaven and earth to preserve the best environment for learning, why have we continued to neglect it?
There are so many reasons why we should be against another flyover along Lacson. Not just for UST, not just for the Dominican School run by the Dominican sisters, not just for the charity hospital that has served several generations of Manilenos, not just Lacson ave where once St. John Paul II passed – but for the rest of our educational institutions to be treated with respect and dignity short of the divine. Government officials should think ten times over before changing the landscape of an educational institution. Any construction, in fact should even be for schools.
Develop Manila as a university town and preserve and improve its residential atmosphere conducive for learning. The seat of the nation’s power must also be the seat of education. Ramon Magsaysay high school, UST, FEU, UE, FEATI, Holy Spirit, San Beda, La Consolation, San Sebastian, CEU, UM, Letran, LYCEUM, MAPUA, Manila High, PLM, Albert Elem. School, UP, La Salle and many other schools, colleges and universities have also made what Manila is now.
In sum I place my wager on this: a long term well studied urban planning involving several cities of Metro Manila will definitely alleviate traffic congestion; develop Manila as a university town and an historical hub. This is a wager, a wager that someone who is in power, who has vision, who has love for country would listen.
Let us pray for these. For Our Manila.
Jose, F. Sionil. “Hindsight: Felino A. Palafox Jr.: Visionary architect.” The Philippine Star. March 21, 2015.