“Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.” – Jonathan Swift
“I’ve been to the Philippines, but only in Palawan. It was goorrgeeous! You should go there!” A foreigner I met once in one of my travels encouraged the other foreigners who were with us that afternoon. He couldn’t stop praising the beauty of the island. Being the only Filipina in the group, I naturally felt proud. And then he said, “I actually went to Manila one time. The traffic was insane! It was chaos out there! Kinda messy too.” He didn’t elaborate further, and I was glad that he no longer did. As someone who lives in Metro Manila, I know too well what he was talking about.
Congested traffic – what’s new? Improvements to public transportation are being introduced such as more modern buses, but generally, the situation has remained the same. In addition, we still have problems concerning garbage disposal, pollution, flooding, neglected sidewalks and bridges, informal settlers, the destruction of heritage buildings, just to name a few.
Everyone knows the plagues that ail Metro Manila, and yet the same problems occur every year just the same; it’s only the leaders who sit in the city halls who do change. Lack of political will, the absence of cooperation between the leaders and the citizens, a corrupted system may all be the main culprits, but quite possibly too, the absence of a strong vision. What do we really want our cities to look like? To be like?
Often, many social projects are short-term, and are coterminous with the leader in charge. When that politician is replaced and another is elected, a completely new set of projects are carried out, and the previous administration’s – even if its projects are actually effective – are no longer continued, which actually wastes a lot of time and resources.
Some projects are also not studied carefully first before executing them. For instance, constructing numerous footbridges in one stretch of road only to remove all of them in the end because a new MRT line is soon going to be built can be considered neither efficient nor practical.
Government projects should be done with the citizens in mind and how these are going to affect the whole system for years to come; actions should not be based solely on convenience. When it comes to providing infrastructure and social services, “YOLO” should not be the guiding principle of leaders. Think long-term, please!
Recently, a video has gone viral on social media, and it invites people to envisage a new Manila, a better one. Aptly titled, Redesign Manila, this video, according to its creators from Go Motions Productions, “aims to showcase and invite Filipinos to re-imagine and revive beautiful Manila.”
While not all may see the Manila in the video as the best version of what the city could be, what is beautiful here is not the video itself, but the challenge that the production team has posed to the people who view it. It dares people to think of a better situation, making others see that it is a possibility and that people should not simply accept the way things are at the moment. There is a call to IMAGINE, to create a VISION, and that is what is important. Albert Einstein could not have said it any better:
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
Now, whether that imagination that the citizens and leaders of Metro Manila have conjured will remain a fantasy or not, is all up to us.
For more information on Redesign Manila, visit its Facebook page.
Other sites you might find interesting:
On pedestrian welfare: Walk Manila
On Heritage Conservation: Metamorphosis, Escolta, Heritage Conservation Society, Heritage Conservation Society Youth