Sydney Snoeck's last comment on my previous post deserves a post of its own.

Sydney says"

I agree that a lot of your politicians are not doing a good job (to say it diplomaticaly). But it also strikes me (as an outsider) that whatever is done in this country it is criticized.

The SM Mall of Asia is not good because it is a huge ugly box. I agree, but you find them everywhere in the world. Those ugly malls were not invented by Sy senior. He just imported the idea. In the meantime it is good for the economy (and of course for Sy's bank account)and there are additional positive (not only negative!) changes for the neighbourhood. (See what happened in Ortigas with MegaMall)

Ok, those Pasay lights are not beautiful. But beside those lamps (which I consider a detail), can't we find something positive to tell? Is this neighbourhood better than before? Are we moving in the right direction?

Do you remember (one year ago) the Plaza Calderon in front of the Binondo Church? There was a little park (?)full of squatters where the statue of Pipin is located. It was a scary place. Now they cleaned the whole Plaza Calderon. It is far from perfect and with the same money it could have been done in a better way. But it is MUCH MUCH better than before. Do I hear a voice of praise somewhere? (I don't think this was done to please foreign investors.)

What about Rizal avenue between Plaza Fair and Recto? Is this not better looking now?

What about some stretches along the Pasig river? Even the water seems a bit cleaner...

I came in Manila for the first time (as a short time visitor) in 1989 and I live here since mid 2003. And I saw many positive changes in this city and I really have the impression efforts are done to make this city a better place.

It is far from perfect. There is still so much to do but don't forget it is not a small city of 100.000 souls. You have more people in Manila than in the whole of Belgium (population of Belgium +-10 million)


torn said...

It shows how low the bar is Manila when we are supposed to be eternally grateful that some traffic island has been spruced up. In contrast to Sydney, I think that the embellishments are actually overpraised — look at Plaza Lawton, which was quite well done, but what is it? Just some tiny plot of land around which the wrecking balls continue to swing.

Sydney, how can you describe those hideous lights as a “detail”? Urbano, I actually live on baywalk, for part of the time anyway, and I can tell you it is a mixed picture. Yes, it is safer, but it has also been concreted over, it is full of commercial establishments, and the noise from karaoke bars and other “entertainments” keeps residents awake. And the sputnik lights …

frayed said...

I agree with torn. The problem is once something as ugly as those lamps are put in, once a historical building is destroyed, a part of the city dies. There's no going back. It loses its identity and the very reason it attracted people in the first place is lost too. Malate used to be a charming district, full of quaint structures. But with this "detail" of filling the whole area with an overkill of (modern? or just plain ugly) lamps, its charm is now gone. Most of the original businesses have moved, and the new ones that have come in are just generic establishments found anywhere. No more identity. I believe this "detail" is partly to blame for the demise of Malate.

You go to any pretty city in the world. Hanoi, for example. They attract tons of tourists BECAUSE they have kept their identity. No tacky lights, no billboards of mayors.. and business is good for them.

Hopefully one day, a more sensible mayor will restore its beauty but it will probably be too late...

Sidney said...

To Frayed: We should not be overly "romantic".
I remember arriving in the Philippines in 1989 as a backpacker (I stayed in Malate Pensionne)and the whole neighbourhood was full of "girly bars". The little park in front of the Malate church was full of squatters and homeless people. Even now Remedios circle could use a facelift. I have nothing against beggars and homeless people but a city should provide shelters for them.
I am also nostalgic of "My Malate" of 1989... but I need to be honest and acknowledge the improvements.

Sidney said...

And yes... there is now a Starbucks in the middle of my charming little hotel (Malate Pensionne) :-(((((((

You can't stop time... :-(((((

frayed said...

Sidney, you said it. It would be great if they provided shelter for the homeless, provided medical care, etc. Things that are much more important than superficial "improvements" meant to gain votes. Enough of these weekly fireworks (which probably cost millions - money which could've been spent more wisely), ridiculous lights, etc. REAL improvements should be made like serious cleaning up of the city, environmental protection which the mayor seems to totally disregard because he's busy concretizing & "beautifying" Manila. It's all for votes.

Some places do choose to develop in a more aesthetic way. Us? 7 different kinds of lamps in one square. We cannot stop time but we should be able to stop tacky dvelopments. It's almost like a game - see how many different styles of lamps we can put in one area. In most civilized cities, there is a board or committee which approves & decides on plans for city devt. In Manila, there's the mayor and his lot who decide among themselves (and make a lot of money along the way). No thought for long-term improvements. Just short-term Gain.

You cannot stop time but you can still seriously improve a city (no matter how 3rd world). Read up on Jaime Lerner of Brazil, Larry Beasly of Vancouver (Urbano wrote on this), Penalosa from Bogota. They had genuine concern for genuine changes for their cities, not superficial, self-serving ones.

torn said...

The latest on Mayor Trinidad's lights. After a day of not particularly heavy rain on Saturday half them were out. Looked much better actually.

Sidney said...

To Frayed & Torn: How can I not agree with you? You are for 100 % right.

I will make a very silly comparison. Let's assume you need to choose between no food at all, a meal at the local Mc Donald or a healthy meal in a 3 star restaurant. We will all go for the 3 star restaurant. But if you can't find a healthy meal in the city, I will go for the hamburger. I guess you will probably choose no meal at all.

Yes, I am already happy when they do something (unless other majors).

Yes, they could have made something exceptional out of Malate. They should have attracted the art galleries, the artists, the cultural centers, the antique dealers, the hip designers. Renovate the old houses with their gardens, etc.
No high rise.
It was the perfect place to do it. You could have had SOHO in Manila!

But can I blame the art galleries if they all want to go inside the SM Malls? Can I blame the owner of Malate Pensionne because he sold his soul to the devil (starbucks) for the money? Can I blame the antique dealers that they don't renovate their houses while the real estate companies are already salivating and planning the next high rise?

Yes, I agree 100%. It is a very very sad situation!

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