Walls to hide poor from ADB are temporary, but walls that ring the enclaves of the Philippine elite are permanent

Most Filipinos are Third Class citizens in their own country. Consider this: Makati City and its prosperous cousins, Ortigas, Alabang, Greenhills, Fort Bonifacio, and Rockwell among others are world-class reality suspensions. If only we could put all of them in an island and make like another Singapore with the rest of the country treated as its bread, fruit, and cheap labour basket. It is a closer reality than one thinks.

Entering one of the satellite residential enclaves of these capitals of commerce is just about as challenging as securing a visa to visit America. The security outposts of any of these “villages” are the equivalent of consulates and embassies where every visitor is looked on with a presumed intent to make trouble. “Visitor’s visas” are granted in the form of passes that are obtained in exchange for a temporary surrender of one’s driver’s license (which you have a legal right to decline). “Multiple entry visas” are extended for a fee of up to Php1,000 for a year’s access privilege (of course on the condition that you are endorsed – call it “petitioned” – by a resident). Even the neighbourhood parish church reserves prime weekend wedding and baptism slots for residents.

These enclaves are served by their own guest workers that are subject to rigorous security control procedures – body and luggage searches – the works. They levy their own taxes in the form of association dues on their residents; money far better spent than the taxes ordinary Filipinos pay the national government. Public service is first-class: a security force better-equipped, trained, and disciplined than the national police force, grade-A asset management, first-world environmental policy (within the perimeter at least), and community-spirited (among themselves) residents who support and are compliant with the rules and regulations of the association.

Look further out at the “indignation” over the Philippine government’s amusing efforts to hide Manila’s wretchedly impoverished from the eyes of up to 5,000 dignitaries attending the 45th annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila and the context of fortified gated communities and first-world wannabe promenades for the well-heeled that dot the metropolis puts all that in perspective…

In April, the Philippine government built a fence on the bridge along the highway that runs from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to the convention center, where the meeting is being held, [Human Rights Watch (HRW)] said.

Draped over the fence are tarps with signs promoting tourism in the Philippines as well as the ADB meeting.

The Aquino government defended its decision to build the fence. The president’s press secretary, Ramon Carandang, said that, “Any country will do a little fixing up before a guest comes,” according to the Associated Press


[Photo courtesy Taipei Times.]

According to Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino, “We need to show our visitors that Metro Manila is orderly. We owe it to ourselves”.

Indeed, the walls put up to whitewash Manila’s true character from the ADB dignitaries are temporary — but the fortified walls that surround the residential enclaves of Manila’s elite are permanent. A key feature of what Filipinos aspire for is all about striving to make enough money to insulate themselves from the rest of their “less fortunate” compatriots and the squalor they generate. It is only in the poorest subdivisions that you don’t you see armed guards manning key entry points.

The approach of creating islands of “modern living” on seas of chaos and underdevelopment taken by the industrial complex of residential land developers and municipal planning teams is very short-sighted. It, for example, created the ‘choked main national road’ phenomenon that manifests itself in virtually all Metro Manila boroughs from Quirino Highway in Novaliches and Katipunan Road in Quezon City to the Alabang-Zapote Road in Las Pinas and the Aguinaldo Highway in Cavite. Much of the congestion on these roads come from all the cul-de-sac layout type subdivisions feeding into these roads while not maintaining any road links among themselves.

Such is a reflection of a lack of concern for the growth and development of the overall community. The attitude that spurs such development direction seems to be rooted at the residential unit level exemplified by the average Filipino household, obsessed with cleanliness within the premises, but totally oblivious of garbage piling up in the surrounding streets and raw sewage bubbling up from clogged drainpipes.

The banal hypocrisy of Filipino society manifests itself clearly in the moronic rhetoric of the “workers’ struggle” of the Philippine “Left” which many Filipinos who, themselves, live in these gated enclaves presume to subscribe to. They enjoin the “socially aware” to exhibit “solidarity” with the poor “masses”. Makibaka sa mahihirap na manggagawa! — “Be one with the poor workers!”; never mind that it is quite obvious that the poor have more to learn by making baka with the rich than the rich making baka with the poor. What do the rich have to learn from the poor other than to gross themselves out (before quickly reverting to a more politically-correct “look of concern”) upon learning that the poor eat pagpag? In contrast, the poor have much to learn from the rich — specifically the lost art of creating and accumulating wealth.

The sort of fascinating mindsets and behaviours that enclave living creates among the beautiful people of the Philippine Elite came to light in the aftermath of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Ondoy in 2009. I wrote about these observations back then…

There is something amusing in seeing well-heeled folk packing relief bags in makeshift warehouses and loading them onto trucks (again I thank Facebook for that). Many of these are people who come from households where domestic servants may outnumber their employers almost two-to-one. Wouldn’t it have been more efficient to simply deploy their servants to those centers to do the manual work while they themselves focus their energies (and core skills) on tasks that deliver bigger, more far-reaching, and longer-term bang (such as getting on the phone to chew out the politicians they routinely fund and hobnob with for neglecting public infrastructure for so long)?

Perhaps all that tacky self-promotion enabled by modern technology hides a more ancient underlying psyche — guilt. Just as feast all year fast for one week is the Filipino motto behind the Easter Holidays (“Holy Week” as Filipinos call it), “helping out” when disaster strikes is what absolves the resource-rich of a way of life characterised primarily by NIMBY-ism (“not in my backyard”).

I’ve fasted/self-flagellated this week.

I’ve contributed/done “my part” today.

What’s the difference between the two? Simple answer: Nothing. They are the same. They both relieve personal guilt over an inability to ingrain doing things properly into our routine way of life. And neither addresses the harder question: What happens next?

So we may huff, puff, and tweet about temporary walls blocking the squalor of Manila’s majority residents from beautiful peoples’ eyes. Ultimately, however, we simply highlight what a bunch of hypocritical chumps Filipinos really are.

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39 Comments on “Walls to hide poor from ADB are temporary, but walls that ring the enclaves of the Philippine elite are permanent”

  1. That’s poverty reduction in action. Sweep it under the rug– the less you see, the less poor your country is.

    They did something like that in Marikina before. They hid the ugly structures behind a wall that resembled a “European” setting. Now, because of the new flyover there, the wall is useless in hiding the ugliness.

    I guess the best solution to poverty is to stop pretending that you’re solving it. Get people on board that task. Hiding from the problem won’t do anything. Stop with the feel-good approach.

    I remember donating to a well-known foundation that’s actively involved with the poor and their unsafe dwellings. During the event, I couldn’t help but feel that the proponent sort of treats those people like “pets” for a “guilt-reduction” session.

  2. We must blame the Marcos administration for doing such things. He started the covering of ugly spots which he made and up to now we are suffering from it.

      1. Yes. Marcos did what Manila is currently now, a dirty region which the current administration is fixing.

        1. LAWL. Manila became much worse when Cory’s day. Oh, even the constant brownouts helped a lot.

          TROLL. 😛

        2. So you say that this administration is “fixing” this problem???
          Dont make me laugh you stupid sack of crap!

    1. That reasoning does not justify the actions of our current government, especially that we all know how much his family hates the Marcoses. The current admin has all the power to stop this practice yet they do nothing.

        1. Marcos stole billions is what the media tells you. He spent 20 million in his 20-year regime while Cory spent 1 TRILLION in her 6 years.

          You have blind hate, sir.

    2. No use blaming somebody or something for that matter. This mechanism is already overused by the sleeping president. Let’s not dwell on blaming somebody for something.

      1. So you mean that we will let the crooks go away? No way! They must be blamed for what they’ve done.

        1. Nice opinion, bro. 😛

          Marcos was a crook because he was pointed as one by media pundits but let’s not go after Cory for her crookery while in office and what her family has done as well because she is well loved by autists like you an everyone else because she bore the ‘Aquino’ name.

          Because only fools are gullible enough to believe Aquino magic and hype, much like everyone with a last name has a label to them.

        2. @fishball

          Marcos was or is still being blamed today for crimes he allegedly did. Go blame him if that gets you somewhere.

      1. His stolen billions is still unrecovered and is hardly hidden that’s why the Filipino will never forgive and forget Marcos.

        1. So where are the ‘stolen’ billions that you are talking about? Please state us FACTS and not empty rhetorics ok? 😛

        2. And hey, will we forgive Cory and her crookery? Yes, you love MEDIOCRITY. 🙂

        3. Hmm, it looks like we have another VBA here. Sorry troll, your arguement will never be valid here.
          Go home and f**k yourself.

        4. @Anonymous: I think he went silent and walks when I told him about Cecilio Arillo and can’t accept the fact that what he is all saying is pure hearsay and LOL EVIL Marcos.

          Fact is that he’s an idiot.

        5. @fishball
          how are you going to recover something that was never proven to have existed. where you there when he laundered the money? people like you believes in stuffs like this because it is what the media wants you to believe, when are you going to realize that everything the masses believes is simply what the media is showing them.

        1. It didn’t save us from the Marcos dictatorship. It grew even worse. I suggest you should read “Greed and Betrayal” and “A Country Imperiled”; both are from Cecilio Arillo. Cory ruled as a dictator, worse than Marcos.

    3. To assign blame solely on Marcos is simply silly. People who live in Manila are also to blame. You might also like to put your focus on local gov’t. If you remember Lito Atienza, he openly discouraged family planning, right? So if the squatters in Manila multiplied, you can assign some blame on him din.

      If we were still in under Marcos, what you said would be perfectly understandable. But, how many administrations have passed since then? People might say that it was worse off after Marcos. Kaso sobrang tagal na nya wala. A lot of things could have been done already. Yun lang.

      1. It was Marcos who also did the infrastructure for Manila. But the people should be blamed instead of Marcos. Dysfunctional culture, in fact.

    4. I’ll leave this here:

      Oh, what happened? Do you feel lost? Why not try a bit of soul-searching? Don’t think you’ll find anything, though. Every time something goes wrong, you turn around and place the blame on someone else. It’s not our fault. It’s not your fault. In denial, you simply resort to looking for another more convenient “truth” in order to make yourself feel better. Leaving behind in an instant the so-called “truth” you once embraced. Should someone like that be able to decide what is “truth”? Should someone like you even have the right to decide? You’ve done nothing but abuse your freedom. You don’t deserve to be free! We’re not the ones smothering our country. You are and the rest of the yellow nazi zombies.

  3. In a TV interview, one affected resident said “pakiramdam ko hindi kami kasali”. ADB exists to help mainly developing countries improve if not uplift the lives of their respective citizens. The view of poor people is not alien to the thousands of visitors who came for this ADB conference. If one is clever enough, this view could moved or inspired of the delegates to work double time for a more effective ADB. It should have sent a message how far ADB has gone after 45 years.

    But what can we do when hypocricy overtakes those in power. Now the question is, how much was spent to put up and remove these temporary fences? The Government seems not to know where to put its overflowing resources.

  4. It’s like sweeping the trash under the rug…the Filipino poor are like trash. Noynoy Aquino and his administration do not want the world to see them.

  5. Kailangan sila ng gobyerno during election time. Kaya anjan pa rin sila, lalo na sa 2013. Mas madali kasi silang lokohin.

  6. p-noy constructs a ‘potemkin village’ – a sham to impress. nobody is buying it anymore.
    a sham presidency for a sham democracy and shameful politicians

    1. I hope this sham of a president gets ousted or impeached soon. This severe incompetence of his “governance” really making it worse for us filipinos.

  7. Shades of Imelda’s off the wall solution; hide the squalor from the prying eyes of the international media and the foreign dignitaries in attendance. Showing no originality at all, having copied Imelda, PNoy’s henchmen had the gall to mask the problem by cordoning the area with those infernal ‘More Fun in the Philippines’ tarpaulins, a tourism slogan lifted off a 50’s Swiss tourism ad. No doubt they have opted to take the easy way out. This propensity to resort to lies is fast becoming the hallmark of this administration; witness the pronouncements of DTI, NSO, and BSP on inflation and the Palace’s increasing reliance on survey results to buoy PNoy’s flagging performance rating, and you’d conclude that this government is running on empty, empty words that is.

  8. bakit parati nalang sinisisi si marcos pati perang kinurakot daw niya pero ang nabalitaan ko ay nakuha na ang pera at dala na ni salonga at nanakawsa kanya ng nasa new york sya .bakit hindi ninyo tanungin sa salonga at cory mas grabe pa ang kurakot na ginawa ng ibang presidente na pumalit sa kanya gaya ng mga pinapatay daw ni marcos eh si cory din ay maraming pinapatay at kita pa sa news natatandaan ba ninyo ang rally sa malakanyang at sa hacienda luisita marami rin na napatay kaya tigilan na ninyo si marcos ,si arroyo marami ring pinapatay ,tigilan na ninyo si marcos baka pag naalis na si pinoy sa pag ka presidente gusto ba ninyo na sisihin din si cory sa mga pinapatay nila patay na si cory tigil na yan isi[pin nalang natin kung papaano natin maaayos ang pinas

  9. Our overall state sometimes makes me wonder if we should get Joma Sison into the Office of the President for a few years.
    I sometimes wonder how that would turn out.

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