I live in the Philippines – specifically, in Manila. The nation’s capital. Once, it was hailed as “The Pearl of the Orient Seas” by those who came to see it for the first time, amazed by the natural beauty and the potential of this city by the bay. Of all who wished to claim the Philippines as their territory or colony, the Spanish and the Americans influenced the beginnings of our nation greatly, and were critical in making the potential a reality.
The Americans wanted to realise this potential, going as far as having one of their great architects and urban planners – Daniel Burnham – create a master plan for the city of Manila. The plan called for a railway system and waterway transport to ferry citizens to opposing ends of the city, to complement an intricate network of roads coupled with a zoning plan aimed to make the city stand the test of time and urban growth. They wanted to make Manila the most beautiful city that can be imagined, and Burnham designed Manila mostly with Washington D.C. in mind.
Daniel Burnham’s Plan for Manila (c) From Wikipedia
Sadly, this plan was never put into reality. The beauty is gone – all that remains is the madness. Maddening traffic jams plague rush hour. The roadways are clogged with vehicles, the waterways clogged with garbage and human waste. Without a zoning plan, residences and industrial/commercial buildings are next to each other, making cars, trucks and heavy equipment share the same roads and just about anything can be put up beside the main roadways, making them susceptible to obstructions and traffic build up.
Time has not been kind to our city, but mostly because we as a people have not been kind as well. Imagine if our leaders and our co-citizens have been kind, considerate and obedient, we would be living in a city with a caliber among most modern cities in the U.S.
So many what-ifs.
It might be too late. We are paying for the mistakes of our fledgeling leaders, who wanted no part in executing a plan made by an American and rushed into making sure their leadership marks are made, who most probably let their pride take over their sensibilities. They wanted a city of Filipinos planned for and built by Filipinos.
Now we have that. All we can do, we who have inherited this city, is to think of what-ifs or if-onlies.