Filipinos are madly in love – as in hard core. In this chapter of our analysis of Filipino dysfunction, let’s touch on the Filipino’s love affair with concrete.
If there’s one thing OFWs will pour their hard-earned money into – it’s gonna be cement, truckloads of it! Why not? Well, development from the Filipino perspective is overlaying our natural forest cover with our favorite material – concrete.
The Filipino’s over-infatuation with concrete has gone out of control – covering entire islands, valleys and hills, pumping it into every square foot of property they can lay their hands on like some indiscriminately firing trigger-happy maniac.
An aerial view of Boracay, once an island of rich natural foliage, will reveal that it is now being eaten up alive by over-development. And up north, Baguio’s hills will soon be rivaling Bohol’s except that they are colored gray instead of their once lush green. Not even the greatest mall chain in the country, tycoon-rich as it already is, could resist downing those stately decades-old pine trees that lined up SM Baguio’s vicinity (the very ones low-landers go up to Baguio for) to make way for their expanding concrete empire.
The threat of cement-fueled development has come to the point that a Filipino history site would occasionally showcase some very pristine exotic places in the country but would not give away the location (secret!) – leaving undisciplined Pinoy readers just salivating to find out.
It is ironic how in our effort to attract tourists to come to our country to enjoy the abounding natural beauty, we turn it into a disgusting choking concrete jungle in the process of providing facilities and services, as if we had a national death wish for P.I. to look like some surreal overcrowded cemetery. Benign0 calls this uniquely Pinoy “gift” of turning anything of value/beauty into rubbish as the “reverse Midas touch.”
In contrast, Australia’s most urbanized areas showcase a good balance of greenery and man-made structures. Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are like cities that sprouted out of a still vibrant tropical forest, with the foliage of grand imposing trees everywhere and gardens even on top of buildings to the eye’s delight.
Model Urban Zones
I’m a big fan of turning the Philippines into a Singapore-class state. So to get the ball rolling, I have identified several contiguous zones in Luzon that more or less model what the Philippines on the whole should strive to look like. Other cities/municipalities should seek to follow their lead in creating a good balance of man-made structures and greenery:
- Baguio South East: Camp John Hay, Burnham, Wright
- Clark Freeport
- Subic Bay Freeport
- National Capital Region (5 sub-zones):
- North: Quezon Circle, U.P. Diliman, Ateneo
- West: Intramuros, Roxas Blvd.
- East: Ortigas, Greenhills
- South1: Makati CBD, Bonifacio GC, NAIA
- South2: Filinvest, Ayala Alabang
- U.P. Los Banos – Mt. Makiling
Interconnecting Highways: TPLEX, NLEX, SCTEX, SLEX
With some exceptions, you will notice that many of these zones are modeled after American-style urban planning: Lots of refreshing breathers and open spaces between buildings, instead of trying to cram everything so densely in a small area.
Many movies nowadays provide some cool concepts of the zoning setup: Try watching Brick Mansions, In Time, and Divergent. If we can’t keep the entire country from turning into a choking eyesore-filled concrete jungle, at least we should leave some piece of it for a few enlightened Pinoys (like us here at GRP) to enjoy.
Less Cement – The Better
We can actually do away with a lot of cement in our environment. For one, enclosing our entire private properties with walls is not the best way to go.
Go to the U.S. or Canada, and you will see entire neighborhoods with exposed green lawns for all to see. If there is any property divider, it’s just a minor wooden fence, or a row of bushes. If you need security, a zone-wide approach is a better strategy. Subdivisions should have the security at the entrance gate – thereby not requiring residential lots to have individual enclosing walls. Hidden cameras and patrolling security are also effective.
Many cities/municipalities in Japan allocate large areas of their land to serve as a green communal park to balance out the relentless urban sprawl. Filipinos don’t seem to know the word balance, with cities/municipalities indiscriminately approving permits for gift-dangling developers, regardless of the overall urban plan (if there is any).
There are also technologies available to lessen the amount of cement we use. Did you know that hollow blocks are no longer used in houses in many countries? It’s time to graduate from our “ito na kinagisnan namin” mentality. We are in a typhoon-prone region; so we should get the most structural strength per unit volume (PSI) of concrete used. One company in the Philippines already offers a low-cost typhoon-proof solution.
Do we need to see the day when developers in their greed to make money will use the fine white sand of exotic Molocaboc Island to mix with cement and pour concrete over anything left green standing in our once picturesque natural Philippine landscape? Before this country self-destructs with its people going nuts with cement fever, can someone try to heed a simple advice? – Let’s bring some solid control to this national obsession over concrete.