Driving up or down EDSA, the main road transport artery through the Philippine megalopolis of Metro Manila, is like navigating a badly-designed website. The huge billboards that line the iconic thoroughfare competing for the attention of motorists and their passengers are monuments to the aesthetic sensibilities of Filipinos. Manila, after all, is the cultural capital of the Philippines. As such, the beauty or non-beauty of Metro Manila reflects upon the character of the Filipino.
What then does EDSA tell us about the Filipino? On the basis of the billboards that line it, perhaps a few phrases come to mind:
– Vain and narcissistic
– Starstruck and celebrity obssessed
– Sexually repressed
– Confused sense of identity
– Brand conscious
That’s how much one would gather from the structures flashing the obnoxiously large photoshopped images of underwear-clad fair-skinned celebrities sporting their best it’s-all-about-me or come-hither looks in their faces, with the mandatory overstated brand logos juxtaposed prominently to make extra sure the whole point of it all is not missed.
The proliferation of these billboards and the shape and form that their content has taken is an exquisite laboratory of Darwinian natural selection. It is a spectacularly colourful outcome of a fierce competition for the Filipino consumer’s eyeballs, much the same way that our once magnificent rainforests and the majestic canopy formed by its tall hardwood trees was shaped by a mad scramble to compete for a view of the sky and the energy-giving sunlight that comes from it.
So whereas, the Inquirer.net Editor laments that she may “never see a tree at all” until these billboards â€œfallâ€, perhaps seeing Metro Manila’s “billboard blight” under a different light might help. In a sense, these billboards have become Manila’s â€œtreesâ€. And instead of the sunlight trees compete for, it is the line of sight of the glazed eyes of commuters and motorists stuck in traffic that these modern-day urban trees race to grab.
Which brings us to the point of this article. The point of this article is that the whole issue about obnoxious and, allegedly, “obscene” billboards has inspired the lyricist in me; thus:
Pity Metro Manila
It’s for so long been a killa
Seep into aircon rooms
From vehicles barely roadworthy
That spew their exhaust without worry
What we need in this sad city
Is a bit more eco-tenacity
Alas but to aspire to such beauty
Is to understand Da Pinoy’s apathy
As there is nary a goal to be
A city made lovely by a tree
So I may never see a tree at all
Until Manila’s billboards fall
But perhaps to escape this billboard blight
It might help to see these under a different light
The tree that no longer takes root in our city
Now exists as a mutant monstrosity
Behold the creature given life
By the nature of Filipino vice
When it comes to aesthetic taste
The Filipinos’ never fails to lay waste
The billboard blight we name with irony
Now reflects our character with fidelity.
A brilliant piece of Filipino poetry brought to you by benign0, lyricist extraordinaire.
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