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DMCI’s Torre de Manila and Laudato si’

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Three days before the 154th birth anniversary of Dr. José Rizal which falls today, Filipinos were treated to glad tidings. The construction of the Torre De Manila condominium, rightfully dubbed by concerned Filipinos as “Terror de Manila” for photobombing the scenic background of the Rizal Monument at the Luneta, was issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) by the Supreme Court (SC).

“SC issues TRO against further construction of Torre de Manila; orders oral argument on June 30 at 2 PM” the SC Public Information Office said in its official Twitter account.

While this may just be a temporary victory, it was still welcomed with glee, especially by heritage advocates. It is still a victory nonetheless, considering the fact that this eyesore of a building by DMCI Homes keeps on growing and growing each day, conveniently ignoring the cease and desist order issued by the National Culture for Commission and the Arts (NCCA) last January that was based on existing heritage laws.

Don’t we all miss this scene? © John Tewell

This blogpost will not attempt to discuss the ins and outs of this issue as it has already been exhausted by several media outlets, opinion makers, and blogs since tourist guide and heritage activist Carlos Celdrán revealed this heritage crime to the public three years ago. As an ordinary netizen myself, I’ll just content myself to reading comments online (as usual) about this positive turn of events.

This so-called “Terror de Manila” is as unpopular as the more terrifying Bangsamoro Basic Law. The stream of comments expressing rage against the construction of this condominium as well as the joyful comments when news of the SC’s TRO broke out is overwhelming  so much that to encounter a comment expressing sympathy towards the building is simply too jarring not to ignore. One such comment in the Philippine Daily Inquirer caught my attention:

“The fact remains that the building was approved by the Manila Zoning Board. Now that the construction is stopped and probably not be restarted, I would like to ask those responsible for the demise of this building-1. Who is going to feed the workers and their families whose sole employment is probably this construction? 2. Who is going to reimburse those who already paid for the condominiums, money earned from blood and sweat? 3. Who is going to reimburse the expenses of DMCI ( DMCI is not privately owned. There are a lot of stockholders, myself included.)? I would appreciate very much if the senator, Knight of Columbus, Carlos Cedran, NCCA and so called conservationist answer those questions. Can we feed the hungry with the statue of Rizal or his image. We have more urgent problems than disfiguring the view of a statue.”

The issues raised by the commenter seems representative of everything that is pro-DMCI/Torre de Manila. Although acceptable to some quarters (and there are very few of them), all his points are still invalid. And this is the objective of this blogpost: to answer this comment point by point (let Celdrán and the NCCA tackle DMCI themselves because I’m way out of their league anyway):

1) “The fact remains that the building was approved by the Manila Zoning Board.” — But the fact also remains that the Manila Zoning Board violated Republic Act No. 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009) on the grounds that “it mars the sightlines or visual corridors of the Rizal Monument, a declared National Cultural Treasure of the Philippines and a sublime symbol of the Filipino nation.”

2) “Who is going to feed the workers and their families whose sole employment is probably this construction?” — Didn’t the commenter realize that the Torre de Manila project does not offer permanent employment to the masons, carpenters, and other laborers involved in the construction of the said building? In case the construction pushes through and the building gets done, so is the employment of those lowly laborers. After the project, DMCI will have totally forgotten them for sure.

3) “Who is going to reimburse those who already paid for the condominiums, money earned from blood and sweat?” — DMCI of course. It was their fault from the very beginning. They can afford to make several more torres de Manila and make them disappear with a snap of a finger, considering the fact that they are one of the country’s top conglomerates (2014 total revenue in millions: ₱56,561.0 | 2014 gross profit in millions: ₱18,265.7).

4) “Who is going to reimburse the expenses of DMCI” — Same answer: DMCI can pay itself for its misdeeds, and for all we care. Even with the downfall of Torre de Manila, and DMCI eventually declaring a loss because of it in their annual reports, the reality remains that DMCI will still be around for the next couple of decades… that is, if people will only listen to Pope Francisco’s recently released Laudato si’, a powerful encyclical tackling the destruction of the environment caused by senseless consumerism… pretty much what DMCI has been doing for years (re: Isla Semirara), don’t you think?

In closing, the commenter ended his refutable questions with a more valid one: “Can we feed the hungry with the statue of Rizal or his image. We have more urgent problems than disfiguring the view of a statue.”

True, heritage conservation cannot put food on the table for the hungry poor. It cannot directly solve economic problems. But do we always have to forego heritage for profit? Is it always money above heritage, money over culture? And whose benefit would all this profit be for, anyway? Progress for whom? For the stockholders of DMCI, of course. It is obvious to the discerning reader that the commenter is concerned more about his stocks and was simply mentioning the plight of the Torre de Manila laborers to gain sympathy. And mind you, heritage has been in dire straits for the past few years. Left and right, tangible heritage buildings are fast disappearing (remember last year’s “September Massacre“?), all in the name of profit. In spite of that, did it even alleviate the sorry conditions of our less fortunate fellow Filipinos? No, it did not.

Speaking of economy, the Aquino Government has been harping this 7% growth in GDP for the longest time now, but it has not even trickled down to the most downtrodden in society (the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program should not even count because it is an outright bribe for future votes for the Liberal Party). In the same vein, will Torre de Manila’s completion benefit its construction workers for the long term? The answer is a confident no.

And since I mentioned Laudato si’, this encyclical of Pope Francisco could have never been so timely because DMCI perfectly fits in its scathing statements against consumerism, about the “relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment” (its Semirara Island project), “apathy” (its arrogant insistence of continuing Torre de Manila), “the reckless pursuit of profits” (violating existing heritage laws in exchange for big moolah), “excessive faith in technology” (fast-tracking the completion of the building inspite of NCCA’s cease and desist order), and “political shortsightedness” (former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and/or current Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada allowing its construction in the first place).

What will this nation become of one day? A nation of malls and condominiums?

As aptly stated by Senator Pía Cayetano: “It is high time that we, as a people, take the protection of our history, culture and heritage more seriously as these make up the intangible ideals that bind us as Filipinos and define our national identity.”

It should be remembered that the Turkish government was able to demolish the multi-million Onalti Dokuz buildings because they were rising right behind the minarets of picturesque Süleymaniye Mosque, a major tourist attraction. So what is stopping us from doing the same: apathy, greed, or both? Just tear down Terror de Manila already. It will be the perfect birthday gift for the National Hero.

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Nature and tourism: think about it (Earth Day 2015)

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Undated aerial view of old Sariaya. © Saint Joseph’s Academy Student Canteen.

Look at all this extensive forest cover behind the town of old Sariaya in Tayabas Province! Do we even still have such scenery in that province, let alone in the rest of the country? The photo’s in sepia, but I could imagine how awed the photographer must have been to see a world blanketed in and endless sea of green at the foot of Monte Banajao.

Sadly, this scene is no more.

I only get to see scenes of towns standing beside huge forests in movies filmed abroad. But in our country, it’s deplorable. I remember scaling one mountain in Batangas years ago and was aghast to find a ramshackle house in the middle of an upland forest there being maintained by a family with kids who still go to school every day. And the house’s surroundings have been cleared off for farming. That was almost a decade ago; I start to wonder if they have neighbors there now. Our country has lost so much forest cover because of capitalist activities. Back then, one could really say that our country was really paradisiacal. But when rapid commercialization crept in at an alarming pace, only a few places, many of which are now privately owned, are left to enjoy.

In my opinion, nature is what attracts tourists the most. All else is secondary. Therefore, aside from tangible heritage, our natural surroundings are what our country should value the most. Our government should learn how to strike a balance between industrialization and environmental protection. A well-conserved forest cover side by side with built heritage will definitely bring our country to places in the tourism scene.

¡Feliz Día de la Tierra!

Lights out: doing our small share for the environment (Earth Hour 2015)

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Earth Hour 2015 has just concluded. For one hour, from 8:30 PM to 9:30 PM, people all over the world were encouraged to turn off their non-essential electric lights as a symbol for their commitment to the environment, particularly in combating climate change. My family chose to turn off everything: lights, electric fans, etc. Our kids were thrilled to see our humble apartment unit lit up only with candles because it’s not every day (or every night for that matter) that they get to experience a modicum of flickering light in the darkness.

Moments after turning off the lights, I looked out the door and saw that our neighbors’ houses were still all lit up. I was amused to find out how apathetic our neighborhood was toward calls for environmental activism. Either that, or me and my family were simply well-informed (one concerned neighbor even rushed to check us out to see why we were in the dark), not to mention very engaged in environmental issues.  We are indeed true blue netizens after all.

So I’m dressed up like an 80s guy with my very short shorts. Cute.

We haven’t had our dinner yet when the time to turn off the lights was about to begin because Krystal and I arrived late (I always had to fetch my daughter in San Pedro Macati from her Saturday flamenco class). There was no other choice but to eat our dinner in a romantic candlelight setting with dancing shadows all around us. And one good thing led to another because Yeyette had time to reminisce and share to us her childhood memories in her idyllic hometown of Abra de Ilog in Mindoro Occidental.

During her youth, Abra de Ilog had no electricity. The municipality began to receive electric power only in 1987. So that means that she and her family endured many years of gas-lamp-lit evenings. But those were happy nights spent with her beloved grandparents —both deceased— and sister (their Caviteño father was a traveling DAR officer while their young mother was still finishing her studies in Batangas City). As do most of their town mates, they ate their supper quite early: between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM. Those were usually hearty dinners because their grandfather was a happy farming fellow and their grandmother was the loudest at the dinner table. They all shared stories about what had transpired during the day, about what Yeyette and her sister Kathleen did in school, how their Tatay Baríng’s farm was doing, how their friends and neighbors were faring, etc. Occasionally, they frighten each other with ghost and asuáng stories to complement the cold air (much of Abra de Ilog is forested). Amidst all the happy talk, shadows produced by the gas lamp at the table and candles in other parts of the house were dancing all around, the shrilling calls of the cicadas outside was an orchestra, and the occasional tokay gecko (tucô) blurts out its nocturnal croaking.

My wife’s family did not immediately go to sleep after dinner. They still had time to enjoy the cool forest breeze coming from the mountains in front of their ancestral home. They enjoyed chatting with neighbors. And sometimes, Yeyette and her sister played patintero with their friends. The best part of all those peaceful evenings is when they gaze upwards to the sky lit up with countless stars, their población‘s only source of light.

My wife had an awesome childhood. And I always remind her of that. Our children never got to enjoy such moments because we’re now living in a different part of the country where it’s highly urbanized. Heavy fumes from vehicles and factories shield our view of God’s marvelous starlit sky. Earth Hour reminds all of us to value not only our environment but also to remember and cherish the simplicity of bygone days.

Vandalism in Mount Batuláo!

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Now THIS is an OUTRAGE!

The vandalized boulder you see in the two photos above is not an ordinary boulder. It is one of those iconic boulders you encounter in Monte Batuláo’s breathtaking peak (Camp 10). Tapos ganitó, binaboy ng mg̃a tarantadong itó, masabi lang na nacaratíng silá sa taás ng Batuláo.

And who did this desecration two days ago? Thankfully, the idiots were stupid enough to leave more evidence of their environmental CRIME.

Click on their names below to get to their Facebook accounts:

1. Janet Páyad

2. Robert Paul Ador

3. Ermel Atendido

4. Eduard Palima

5. Erland Fajardo

6. Mark Anthony Abarracoso

7. Rocy Flores is one lucky scoundrel because I couldn’t find his (or her?) Facebook account.

To you who read this, I encourage you to send these filthy animals some “love”.

I’ve been to Batuláo’s peak only once and that was many years ago. Yet the  spellbinding beauty of its surroundings makes me feel as if I just climbed there yesterday. That’s how unforgettable the place is.

And now this?! I never thought that these bozos from View Park Hotel had the tendency to revert into cavemen-like behavior.

To the management of View Park Hotel: what do you intend to do about this? Because each time we pass by your place, or even just hearing your hotel’s name, we will always be reminded of this vandalized mountain boulder of majestic Monte Batuláo.

*F*I*L*I*P*I*N*O*e*S*C*R*I*B*B*L*E*S*

Special thanks to my mountaineer cousin Paolo Raphael Balicao and his group for sharing these photos. May the protection of our mountains against brainless scums such as those from View Park Hotel be every mountaineer’s advocacy and responsibility.

Save Laguna de Bay!

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The same video with an English transcript is available here.

Tropical storm Maring pummels San Pedro, La Laguna

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Habagat and tropical storm Maring. A terrible combination.

This is probably the worst flooding I’ve ever witnessed in the Sampaguita Capital of Filipinas since we moved here in 2004. So when the torrential rains weakened late this morning, I decided to take a walk (or should I say, wade) around the young city. It was a detestable sight.

San Vicente Road underneath San Pedro bridge.

Floodwaters entered many homes.

Calle Mabini at the Población.

Futile dredging.

¡Sigue, lañgóy pá!

National highway. Right goes to Población; left goes towards the San Pedro bridge leading to Muntinlupà City.

The murky waters of the San Isidro River (upstream) taken on top of San Pedro bridge.

Boundary.

San Pedro’s public information officer and local historian Gaudencio “Sonny” Ordoña (white cap) leading a team of rescuers.

Cameraman from GMA News.

The railway below San Pedro bridge. It was engulfed by the rampaging waters of the San Isidro River twice this morning, destroying the shanties of these people.

A variety of filth is impeding the flow of the San Isidro River!

😦

And now my feet and legs are itching like mad.

CLICK HERE for more photos. In the meantime…

‘Maring’ may turn into typhoon before heading to Taiwan — PAGASA

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4:31 pm | Monday, August 19th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines — Tropical storm “Maring” (international name Trami) may still intensify into a typhoon before it leaves the country’s area of responsibility on Thursday morning and heads for Taiwan, according to the country’s weather bureau.

Luzon would continue to feel the effects of the habagat (southwest monsoon) being enhanced by Maring, until Wednesday, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said on Monday.

The weather bureau said the habagat dumped the most rain from Sunday morning to Monday on Cavite Province and on Manila in the National Capital Region.

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/469103/maring-may-turn-into-typhoon-before-heading-to-taiwan-pagasa#ixzz2cP9vUwbU

There you go.

2011 Filipino Of The Year — The Filipino People!

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For the second time, FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES and ALAS FILIPINAS have unanimously chosen the Filipino People to win the 2011 FILIPINO OF THE YEAR! The decision is very simple: because once again, the Filipino people has joined hands in helping out their fellow Filipinos in Northern Mindanáo (Cagayán de Oro and nearby towns such as Iligan) who were victimized by the flash floods caused by Typhoon Sendong (and deforestation) last December 16. Thousands of people lost their lives. Countless more lost their homes and properties. Northern Mindanáo was almost an apocalyptic scene right after the typhoon left. Hopelessness seemed to reign supreme.

But like what happened two years ago, almost the whole country immediately came to rescue their southern brothers through various donations online as well as online petitions and campaigns seeking for more assistance. This is a proud moment for the Filipino, known for its bayanihan spirit.

Nevertheless, more help is still needed. Northern Mindanáo is still reeling from the devastation of the flash floods. More help should pour in. Can we revive the region? Yes we can! And we are already working on it!

Please click here on how to help the typhoon/flash floods victims.

Congratulations to the Filipino people! May we all have a happy and prosperous new year!

*******

2010 FILIPINO OF THE YEAR
2009 FILIPINO OF THE YEAR

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