A city’s rebirth

Marawi lakecannot be just based on money, the people of Marawi have made clear (link). A natural sense of Heimat (roughly: home and heritage) is tangible in the statement of the Ranaw Multi-Sectoral Movement: “A city symbolizes its people. Built upon the aspirations and dreams of its people. Nurtured by and reflective of the identity of its people. We are not building a city from debris. We are rebuilding a city from history and from memory.” This sounds so very different from the mentality in Manila, which did not care enough about its legacy destroyed during World War 2.

Soul and tradition

“a city is not merely the sum of its buildings. Not merely an occasion for economic gain.” the statement also says. Metro Manila, for the most part, seemed to me at least 90% based on money.  “This is an invasion of a different kind. This one threatens to rob our soul.” the Maranaws say. Strange that Manilans did not notice or care about that kind of invasion just after World War 2.  Maybe only a few people really cared for Intramuros back then. But escaping into a wasteland of malls and subdivisions with nothing but commercialism and glitter does not seem like a solution.

German cities were practically all rebuilt, as much as was possible, from history and memory – even from plans that were hidden in caves to preserve them. People cleared wartime debris with shovels by themselves in small groups. While it is also true that many German city centers look similar due to quick rebuilding after the war, with the same chain stores and a non-remarkable architecture, there was an effort to rebuild, or to at least match the new with the old. Munich was rebuilt well. But that was because a sense of identification was there. Also part of the hard to translate Heimat.

A people adrift?

But what are people without roots, without any home? Just workers and consumers maybe. Or worse, not caring at all. Not caring if the dirt accumulates in the rivers of the city where one lives. Not one’s home really. Because one cares for one’s home. What do people without a true home in their hearts care for? To survive first, to get rich after that. They might not care if those who used to live next door to them when they were still poor and struggling are victimized by tokhang. They might not care who occupies their country as long as their economic lot is good and they feel safe.

Many families and regions have their sense of home – it isn’t as if colonialism destroyed everything among mainstream Filipinos, meaning Christian lowlanders. Whether it is ancestral homes that some clans have, or certain fiestas and saints, or churches. Quiapo Church and its living Nazarene tradition. The great churches of Albay. Or UP Diliman, the home of my childhood, which grieved over an old but beloved shopping center recently (link). But of course there was a lot of migration recently, from provinces to the cities and abroad. Part of the fabric of tradition may have ripped.

What future?

The pride of the Meranaw, their resolve not to sell out, is something that I feel deepest respect for. So unlike many especially in the cities of the Philippines who just care about malls, stuff, trends. My SUV is bigger and shinier than yours. Make way for my Ferrari, do you know who I am! No? Just went to buy the latest Dolce Gabanna. So what if I am the mistress of Mr. Ugly Toad? Haha! Most Filipinos lived in bahay kubos in 1910. Only a few rich had these ancestral homes. Now what? Many have uglier places now and take drugs to feel better, while some are rich beyond all belief.

And the protest against Chinese mega-casinos planned on Boracay has been weak – except for those directly affected on the island. This is no longer about the Spratleys, where only few Filipinos live. “The blueprint of this city is in the hearts and minds of the Meranaws” said the people of the lake. WHAT national blueprint do Filipinos have in their hearts and minds? Hopefully not like in Cambodia, where Chinese casinos abound (link) but “most Cambodians.. are seeing little benefit from this investment.” But would Filipinos even care? Maybe, like so often, when it is too late.

Or will they just be “resilient” – meaning adjusting to nearly anything. Chinese become dominant? Well, everybody will probably just whiten their skin like Persida Acosta! Enough of masquerades. Might be that many, even most, Filipinos have to find their way home inside themselves first of all. Then it might still not be easy to fix and rebuild so much that is damaged. But then it could be done without pawning the future of generations to come, without condemning them to being like slaves. “With fierce determination to keep our people free and dignified.” say the Maranaw. Much respect.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 1 April 2018

6 thoughts on “A city’s rebirth

  1. Beauty, order, remembrance, guest vs host, solidarity, attraction, love, way west, investment, heimat and Princeton St./Cubao/Luna/Baguio; soul & tradition, people adrift, future; geographical moorings relating to an expanded self-valuation; …

    These are the themes that were evoked (stream of consciousness) as I read the article above; all tied to places that impressed me at various times in my life, especially symbolized by the Baguio of my childhood.

    Like you describe these are now being neglected, replaced and forcibly taken away in favor of things foreign.

    • Foreign borrowings are not a bad thing per se. Europe’s cities are full of mutual borrowing. Munich has a lot of Italian-style buildings as Bavaria’s kings once strove for prestige. There is a Japanese pavilion, almost Zen-like, in the English garden of Munich. And a Thai-style pavillion in the Westpark, once a Federal Garden Show – usually they hold them near projects as part of urban improvement, lots of people from the nearby projects hang out there but at least they have a place for recreation, better see nature than just concrete all day, then maybe drugs to feel good?

      Total commercialism leaves hardly any space for legacies, too little space for recreation – especially parks as nature is known to have a uniquely relaxing effect on the mind and soul. Legacies as an anchor point in the mind, a memory of what once was, a reminder for continuity.

      It is even worse if loss of memory is forced upon people. Frankfurt for example is highly “Americanized” – very commercial, skyscrapers etc. – but the people there mainly embraced it as the city always was a center of commerce. Munich, more conservative, refused in a referendum all new skyscrapers taller than the cathedral. Some buildings already planned had to “flatten” their architecture, those already built were not touched – there is a high degree of distaste for retroactivity in German legal practice, which is a good thing in terms of predictability.

      My favorite German columnist Heribert Prantl has mentioned some reasons for some stuff including speculation on rising prices of lots and buildings, and has suggested taxing the earnings on price differences – in addition to ground taxes already collected over here in Germany.

      In the Philippines the speculation is even worse I think – if I recall the talahiban between EDSA and Agham Road / North Avenue which later became a huge urban poor colony, later a mall was built beside SM North, but it seems the land stayed unused for decades due to speculation. That squatters somehow make creative use of unused land is not even something one can fault them for. Trouble is that in the Philippines with its even more cramped area in relation to population, there is too little zoning, too little effective protection of nature – see Boracay – and such..

  2. http://www.sunstar.com.ph/baguio/local-news/2018/03/28/mall-hotel-proposed-burnham-park-595827

    A COMMUNITY mall has been proposed for Burnham Park in Baguio City. City Councilor Edgar Avila, committee chairperson for Urban Planning, Lands and Housing, has begun a series of consultations on the Burnham parking issue, opening doors for proposals for the park. The City Council gathered stakeholders to the first of many consultations on the construction of a parking facility at the old auditorium at Burnham Park. Alexander Cruz, chairman of XRC Mall Developer Incorporated, submitted their P800-million unsolicited proposal for a long-term lease under a PPP to construct at their own cost a multi-level parking that can accommodate 500 cars and 15 tourist buses, commercial mall with a pasalubong center and at least a 100-room hotel. “We will construct, operate and manage the project efficiently at no cost to the local government of Baguio.”..

    ..Urban planner and Architect Jodi Alabanza, who also attended the public consultation, said high-rise structures at the Burnham area deviates from the original design of the park. “It will destroy the character of Burnham Park,” said Alabanza. Alabanza advocated to utilize other areas for multi-level parking spaces citing the vacant lot at the DPS compound for the facility or explore the La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay areas to use instead. “I have long said that the carrying capacity of Baguio has been met and we should utilize the BLISTT,” added the urban planner. The UC master development plan was prepared by Arch. Robert Romero described the parking facility to be “Beside Picnic Grove 2 would be a tourist bus parking areas with a green parking building that would cater to parking requirements at the Athletic Bowl area. This building will also have concession areas like a convenience store, Wi-Fi center, drivers lounge, etc. restaurant and a green roof for promenade and viewing decks. This parking building can accommodate 300 cars and 20 tourist buses.”

    • https://www.facebook.com/sylvia.eveningstar/posts/429474457491124

      From Marawi, an outcry from Drieza Abato Lininding and the Moro Consensus Group

      We Challenge TFBM (Task Force Bangon Marawi ) to produce documents (not just photos ) that prove that we, affected residents, gave our consent to BMCRRP and the China-PH Consortium for ground zero or MAAs (their plan not ours ) and to make public the plan if they are not doing any illegal acts.

      And for them to make public the name of the groups or individuals (politicians or not) who allegedly support this idea — for us to validate if they are indeed residents from the main affected areas and are not misrepresenting us.

      TFBM should be gently reminded that presenting the plan to a few chosen residents does not equate to consultation or approval of their plan for Marawi. This is clearly an imposition on us and their plan is completely alien to our wishes to return and rebuild our homes with or without government assistance.

      TFBM can be likened to, or no different from, the terrorist group who occupied Marawi — unilaterally and forcefully imposing their plan without seeking our consent and respecting our rights.

      We condemn TFBM lies thaat made us believe these past few months after the liberation of Marawi that we cannot yet return to our homes for security reasons (clearing of UXOs). Now their plan is unveiled and obvious — to flatten and evict us from our ancestral homes and lands and give them to private developers. These acts can be considered a Crime under International Humanitarian Law.

      We also warn all those private developers (Chinese and local firms) including business groups interested to invest in the main affected area to replace us from where our houses stand. They will surely face legal repercussions if they push through with their plan without our consent or approval. We will not take this lightly. We will fight for our birthright guaranteed by the Constitution to the end.

      Drieza A. Lininding
      Chairman, Moro Consensus Group

    • http://opinion.inquirer.net/112225/pagkakanya-kanya#ixzz5BkOFSSNu – by Gideon Lasco

      Filipino homes are clean, but our streets are dirty; the reach of our concern, just like our walis tingting, does not extend too far beyond our gates and fences. “Tapat mo, linis mo,” the motto says: You clean what’s in front of you — and we have been happy to take it literally, disclaiming responsibility for places we do not regard as ours.

      Thus, you would see people opening their car windows and casually throwing a plastic wrapper on the street. Not my concern, their actions imply.

      Thus, you would see beaches and mountains littered with trash especially in the aftermath of holidays, like the recent Holy Week. Not my backyard, they seem to say. Of course, if those pieces of trash happen to ruin their photos, they would remove them — if not with their hands in vivo, then with Snapseed post facto. Photographic backgrounds, just like dwelling places, must be kept clean.

      Perhaps a lack of awareness is part of the reason people are so irresponsible when it comes to the environment; a lack of awareness, for instance, that animals terrestrial and marine can choke on plastic — and that ultimately all the environmental damage we have wrought will come to haunt us. Before modernity, everything — e.g., banana leaves to wrap suman and puto bumbong—was mostly biodegradable and the damage that plastic can do has not yet seeped into our consciousness.

      But I suspect that another reason has to do with our centripetal notions of social responsibility. We value cleanliness, but only within our vicinity. We value beauty, but will act on this sentiment only when we are involved.

      Beyond environmental conundrums, this narrowness of thinking affects other aspects of our public engagement. Roads are seen not just as sites for littering but also as parking spaces, or playgrounds. Obstructing traffic? Never mind. What matters is our car has a place to park. Unwilling to give way to others, even for a few seconds, drivers block intersections and cut lanes, making heavy traffic as much about culture as it is about infrastructure.

      Crucially for our time, issues with fatal consequences are subject to a similar attitude. For instance, the war on drugs. As with polluted streets, many do not see extrajudicial killings as their concern; it is as distant to them as the hunger many of our countrymen experience daily. Not my community. Not someone I know. Personally, I feel safe. All of us actually value human rights—of the people who matter to us. That is why even the President calls for due process for himself and his son, while seemingly denying the same to others.

      It should come as no surprise, then, that various struggles—from those of the displaced lumad and the disaffected Marawi residents to those affected by the TRAIN law and Boracay’s imminent shutdown — receive little attention beyond those who actually experience their consequences. “It’s their fault for not being careful,” some say of vendors disoriented by the new P5 coins, blind to the economic significance of such numismatic confusion, and to the reality that we live in the same cities—but very different worlds.

      What can explain our “collective selfishness”? Has our archipelagic geography mapped on to our fragmented thinking? Has our colonial past socialized us to be suspicious of others? Has the project of nationhood, built on unrequited hopes and broken promises, made us cynical of solidarity?

      Looking at our troubled history will help us answer these questions. But we must also look ahead—and ask ourselves what we can do to build empathy for people we do not know but with whom we share a future. Cannot the common good be at the heart of our ethics and our politics? One thing is clear: We are held back by pagkakanya-kanya, our version of selfishness that includes our families, friends, hometowns, regions, and affiliations, but no one beyond; a selfishness that leads to indifference, the same indifference that allows us to look at others and, without articulating it, tell them: “Your struggles are of little concern to us.”

      Or, and just as equally hurtful to our nation-in-the-making: “Our struggles are more important than yours.”

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