Why is Manila an ugly place?

June 6, 2019

 

AS ONE born and raised in Manila, I concede much of the city as hideous and dirty. This is ironic and sad since we were once dubbed as the “Paris of the East”, a testament to how my city was once beautiful and aesthetic.


We had Beaux-Arts buildings dotting the cityscape that have since been replaced by condominiums and hideous grayscale buildings dating from the 1960s. What remains of those Beaux-Arts edifices are rotting into disbeauty, awaiting demolition and replacing by unaesthetically pleasing structures. Telephone wires also dangle everywhere, as you can see below.


Sadly, no efforts on part of local governments are exerted to restore and preserve these old buildings. Once real estate developers bribe mayors to allow their demolition, there’s no stopping it. You can only watch and weep as these gorgeous buildings become rubble.


As for our streets, American architects originally planned for Manila’s main thoroughfares to be laid out like in a grid pattern akin to that of New York. But that plan never came to fruition, though the grid layout exists in the suburbs.


Moreover, Metro Manila is divided into seventeen cities (specifically sixteen cities and one municipality, which I’ll call a city for brevity).


Unlike Tokyo and London which are led by one mayor despite them being divided into wards and boroughs respectively, ours are each led by a mayor. Seventeen cities, seventeen mayors.

 


With this current setup, no uniformity of ordinances here exists. One city may have very strict laws enforced against littering, and the other not strictly enforced. To illustrate, the roads of Marikina are spotless. You can’t see piles of garbage and litter on the streets. But the opposite is true in Old Manila.
Frankly, if you were to ask me, Manila won’t transform into a beautiful city anytime soon. Efforts to do so require changes that disrupt the status quo. If Duterte directs Congress to file a bill seeking the amalgamation of Metro Manila into one huge city led by one mayor, it will only be stalled. Obstructionists will reign supreme as always to our detriment.
 

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