The Truth Is… The Pinoy Masa Loves Ugly Things and Uncivilized Surroundings

From Paolo Alcazaren on Facebook: “The illustration shows a comparison between sidewalks (and the public realm) in a civilized city and the sidewalks as used (actually abused) in Metro Manila. In civilized cities the sidewalks are for people – pedestrians. Name the (ab)uses of sidewalks in mad Metro Manila? (there are more than five abuses)”

Thinking about how Baguio City was originally planned by Daniel Hudson Burnham and then considering how ugly it looks today has convinced me that although most Filipinos look like they no longer live in the jungle, they still pretty much behave as jungle dwellers.

Houses were pine trees used to be.

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This is pretty much reflected in the way Baguio City or old Manila looks.

Manila and Baguio were designed and planned out beautifully.  Then, over the decades, it became jungle-fied — Filipino-style.  More recent examples of how beautiful or at least clean and orderly places are jungle-fied are Clark and to a certain extent, Subic after Dick Gordon was booted out by former President Estrada.

More pictures in

Here’s what you will see in most Philippine cities that will make you think you are in a jungle:

Instead of jungle vines, we have black spaghetti.  We have all sorts of animals running around everywhere — cats, dogs, rats, drug-addled street children, psychotic vagrants, diseased beggars, and whatever else.

We don’t have proper spaces to walk-on and if there are, they are pretty much like uneven, winding jungle trails.  This is partly so because house and building owners either encroach on sidewalks, or vendors take up space, or private as well as public utility vehicles park on them ,or utilities set up their posts/meters where people ought to be walking.

And, yes, our people behave like jungle dwellers.  You can see them pissing and shitting in the street.  Walking around half-naked in their underwear. Instead of living up in caves or trees, our people live on boxes on stilts over dirty rivers and streams.

Although, you won’t encounter jeeps and buses spewing black smoke in a jungle.  Perhaps that’s the only difference.

Oh yes! The jeep!

Tourism brochures from the Philippines will attempt to portray the jeepney as a cheerful and charmingly kitschy form of transportation.

But when you arrive in the Philippines and get out of NAIA Terminal 1, you will soon find out that most jeeps look like rolling trash-heaps.

In the context of SM Baguio and the rest of session road, I think people who had gotten accustomed to the random jungle-like mash of wires, grimy sooty bill-boards, and beat-up frontages actually got somewhat of a shock when they saw something new and clean looking.

I know, SM architecture still reminds most people of shoe-boxes.  But hey, the fact that a shoe-box looks better than the typical Manila or Baguio frontage says a lot about how ugly these things really look.

44 Replies to “The Truth Is… The Pinoy Masa Loves Ugly Things and Uncivilized Surroundings”

  1. I have a property in baguio and am sad that an architectural jewel has been trashed , partly because of a lack of forward planning, and largely because of corruption.
    The mayor is a disgrace and typical of self interest in the city fiefdoms which all resemble cesspits. Hustlers, hookers and beggars abound.
    Maintenance and renovation ignored.
    It clearly does not help that the vast majority are just trying to survive on a daily basis and are so accepting of their environment and so subservient to the corrupt incompetents who take the decisions.
    Davao falls into the same category. A barbaric moron running a city like a police state.
    I am currently relocating a company to singapore. Despite the cost advantage here, they could no longer tolerate the business culture or corruption and lack of innovative thinking/dynamism in the workforce, or in city hall.
    Quality is an alien concept.

    1. Sometime ago, that “barbaric moron” disappears every time that warlord from central mindanao comes in a convoy with fully armed bodyguards on board.

    1. Beautification projects and pro-environment laws have already been implemented. However, nothing happened. I remember Baclaran was cleaned out and the vendors driven away by Bayani Fernando and they installed new fences, streetlights, etc. After a few months, it was back to its old, dirty self with plenty of fences sawed off and lamp posts stolen by “entrepreneurial” squatters.

      So yes, the masa is the problem. Filipinos are disciplined when somebody is watching us. However, once the watchdog turns his back, we go back to our base instincts of screwing up everything everywhere we go. You can observe this while driving along EDSA – when enforcers are present, the buses follow the yellow lane. Once the enforcers are gone, they act like they own the entire road.

      1. “So yes, the masa is the problem. Filipinos are disciplined when somebody is watching us.”

        I always thought of us Filipinos as being undisciplined spoiled brats expecting somebody else to follow us to clean up our mess.

  2. The Baguio City where I grew up and got to know and love are all just memories for me now. Seeing how it transformed from the once dew covered, pine scented city to a now house covered mountainous area always gives me a bad aftertaste. As far as I see it, its the governments failure to prevent or minimize urban migration. The small city can only take so much people.

  3. GenSan I think was also designed by Burnham. All one can see are only traces of the original. To top it all, some smooth operators were able to sell that wide track of land right in the middle of the city. That is a government property reserved for parks and playgrounds and is part of the design.
    Davao City is no exception. Zoning and land use seem to depend entirely on the dictates of the squatter and their political patrons. The streets are not pedestrian friendly because of inadequate sidewalks. The watershed that nurtures the one of the best water in the world is slowly being destroyed. Baguio and Manila are not alone.

  4. I think the truth is that this is a consequence of bad gogernance and incompetent leadership. Even the ‘masa’ became unwilling parts of this mess and not the cause of it.

  5. I disagree with this artcle. It’s not about that. It’s about the city or government lack of regulationns or unable to impose regulations on what is allowed or not allowed.
    In the neighboring city in the US where I live, it could have been an ugly site due to the nature of the mix cultures mainly people fom Philippines, Nigeria, Vietnam, Ethiopians etc. living in the area. Because of the city’s strict ordinance like you cannot just build a fence to occupy the sidewalk, hanging outdoor clothes is prohibited, loud music, starter stores etc. they come in with huge penalties and fines. Judging from these group of people who are accustomed to have their free will, they have no choice but to follow.
    If you impose the same strict regulations in these ugly cities in Manila, then things should get better. When I visited City of Taguig, I am embarrassed to litter because its so clean and tidy. I was actually looking for a garbage can to throw my candy wrapper. If you have a cleaner environment, people’s attitude change for the better.

    1. I agree with you. Political will is what the cities in our country needs. Smoking regulation, alcohol ban and traffic management in Davao work well because the local government is really looking into those. The problem also is the personality based in managing the city. City planners should be empowered over the local officials.City planners should be managing the execution of CLUP and not be dictated by the mayors and congress reps.

      1. Other countries managed to civilize their whole population. Its only places like Hitler’s Germany that tried to take the easy way out, and pin it all on some unfortunate portion of society, before even giving them an opportunity.

        A while ago I saw a well-to-do person collecting his doggie from the dog spa. In the trailer of his gas-guzzling big, black sports utility vehicle, he loaded his little pooch, and his maid (in cheap cotton uniform), like two little piggies off to market.

        As a foreigner that summed it up for me: The poor in this country have dog-status. To me that looked so ugly and cheap, in a way that a traditional nippa-hut in a field with trees, and a rice-field int he distance never could.

  6. @ Paul Farol

    Ugly is a relative term. Your wife might think you’re not ugly, but your neighbors think you are ugly…and seriously, I think your neighbors are right. Show me pictures where you live and I’ll tell you what you are.

  7. Plant more trees in the urban areas. Make our cities clean and green. Put the industries in the provinces to depopulate Metro Manila.

    1. As what CNN says, going green is more than just planting trees.

      What urban areas need in the Philippines is a person-to-person connect that goes beyond conventional (and almost communistic) perceptions of “environmentalism.”

      Yes, depopulation of industries is part of that, but what it just translates to is transferring dirt to another place. Industries can stay in Manila, but they need stricter regulation from both within and without.

    2. That’s the typical mindset… Plant more trees and “voila!” we’ve solved Climate Change.

      It’s pretty much like the thought that seems to pervade the Project 182 movement.

      Save a bunch of trees and the “evil of corporate greed” will be kept at bay.

      Or put another way, putting a lot of energy and hysteria to “save what is left of the trees in Baguio City” will help balance out ecology.

      The second one is even funnier considering all the people whose livelihood depend on unsustainable farming practices that covert hundreds if not thousands of hectares of pine forests into over fertilized and pesticide soaked vegetable patches.

      To be sure, building designers are now crowing about “greening” rooftops and that is also laughable as a means of “greening” a building.

  8. We have a growing population. We need more space. As we whippersnappers say in the Net: derp.

    It’s not as if I want to wake up to a day with visual, auditory, and olfactory assaults to my very sense of being; it’s just that we [insert excuse here].

    (No, we don’t lust after the sight of wide-open rat-infested manholes, the smell of uncollected garbade, and the din of rusted remnants of Sarao jeepneys: it’s that we don’t have the money to put up with scruping up our spaces, we can’t visualize a better anything that involves actually staying in this country –God forbid that that happens with my sons and daughters — I WANNA GO OUT, NOW PLEASE NOW — and we don’t fucking care because our ass will fly off to Paris or London after college.)

  9. Paul,

    I went up to Baguio recently, after 14 years, and it just feels like Quezon City already. A lot of cars, a lot of houses placed wherever there’s space, a lot of small stalls everywhere other than the market, and the changed climate. The climate’s not as cool anymore.

    Oh yeah, SM Baguio is an eyesore. 😛

    1. Our local leaders think its cool to make Baguio look like some lowland city forgetting that Baguio in its own way is way much different. The weather, the terrain, the pine trees, etc. The so-called developments are just pang porma, no substance.

  10. Like I’ve always said, sometimes I think this country is damaged beyond repair considering both government and citizens are all fucked up like crazy, with both sides blaming each other and refusing to change for the better, thinking that they are perfect people………

  11. I also think sometimes that if ever the apocalypse comes, Flips will be one of those to be wiped out from the face of the earth ‘cuz you know the Flip attitude: they only prepare at the last minute. But oh well, I think it’s alright for them por gad is wid dem.

    Okay, butthurt Flips gonna hate……

  12. You got it right on the kisser. These are the very things I’ve observed and fumed over countless of times about the Philippines! It’s so sad how we’ve managed to fudge up our nation soooo bad and how unruly everyone’s become. Biggest pet peeve of all time – PUBLIC URINATION and spitting on the streets. Like where the hell did we pick that up!? Nakakahiya ang Pilipinas.

  13. Most of Filipino behavior has remained at the level of the caveman and forest savage. Education on truly civilized and ethical behavior has not reached most of the masses in the rural areas. Then they get to the urban areas and makes them dirty with their habits. That’s why education is very important. Problem though is kung matigas ang ulo ng mga tuturuan mo.

  14. This is a ridiculous assumption of how the”MASA” loves ugly things and uncivilized surroundings. What happened in the country is everybodys fault. When I was growing up I would walk from Bambang to go to FEU, and back from school at night, walking on the clean sidewalks. Whose fault is it that sidewalks are so congested and dirty now? Wasn’t there a law that prohibited people to sell on the sidewalk? Wasn’t there a law not to squat on any land owned by absentee owners? The MASA would like to live in civilized environment, but there is no progress for poor people, there are not enough jobs or the pay are even below minimum wage. Most of these people living in substandard housings have relatives working abroad. What do they have in their homes? The latest on electronics, TV, Camcorder, cellphones, meaning they want to have the best.

    Even squatters have televisions in the homes, electricity(stolen), some water. and actually complete household stuffs. Did government know they are squatters, why did they become so many, like a nation of squatters? Not that they are afraid to evict them, they just want their votes. If there are public housing that can be rented to low income people, there won’t be squatters. If there are enough jobs, and jobs that pay good and not to worry being laid of after 6 months, people will probably try to be a little decent the way they look and appear in public. There was a time the transportation were mostly jeepneys, that was how I was able to go to work at the Manila Daily Bulletin. in one of my visits to the country, I tried to take a jeepney, no taxi would give me a ride “masyado daw malapit”, i almost died riding the jeepney, the smell of gasoline fumes was suffocating me. I got down at Cityhall and walked as far as I could going back. There was finally a driver who gave me a ride, lucky driver, the P50.00 taxi fare became P550.00.

    Filipinos are normally very clean people, I can vouch for that, in my 6 years going around the different provinces, living with poor people, I have yet to see unsanitary conditions that the people liked. Of course people will pee on the sidewalk, there are no public facilities for restrooms. Yet, isn’t this supposed to be BAWAL? wHY not arrest and fine those people? Again, ordnance not being imposed..


    1. my observations as an outsider is that filipino are clean in their person and small personal space….the rest of the country though can go f*ck itself is the attitude

  15. In the squatter relocation areas where we do our work, the shanties have all the new gadgets you mentioned. Our info is distributed on DVDs now because of that.

    With OFW remittances, people just think money grows in trees, and don’t save.

    Such is life.

  16. I don’t think the “Pinoy masa” loves ugly and uncivilized surroundings. I think they just don’t realize (or don’t want to realize) that their lives can be better. But of course, that entails hard work and self-discipline, two traits a typical person in the slums has yet to learn.

    1. > I think they just don’t realize (or don’t want to realize) that their lives can be better.

      I don’t think their lives can ever better. Take a builder’s laborer, for example. In their lifetime they will only ever be disposable fodder, working below minimum wage for the duration of a project.

      In other countries he will have basic accreditation, livable minimum wage, workers rights, union and disposable income that could be invested in self-improvement. In Australia the “tradie” is even celebrated with masculine, working close social status.

      In the Philippines: No matter how hard he works, it will only ever be a hand-to-mouth existence. May as well wash down his manok-grade rice and dried fish with a bottle of cheap Tanduay.

      Some realize that while their own lives will never be better, they can do something for their children, if every last suffering breath is dedicated to them.

  17. I dont think this is the masa’s fault, it’s the people who are in charge of public works and highways. You need a permit to put up signs for stores, yes? There should be safety among things suspended overhead. It’s not the masa’s fault. They are victims of the people behind making this happens, and they are the ones in government. Get real, Paul Farol. When a mayor in marikina apprehended the people to clean up the streets, they did. It’s not their fault, if’s the leadership.

  18. I have to say that it’s the leader who has to take the first step.

    In my class, we were having our notes checked, the student assigned to sign them didn’t give any instruction to line up so all the students were crowding around her chair. I got frustrated with all the pushing and shoving so I just sat down waiting for everyone to be done, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one frustrated.

    But when I got the chance to be the notebook checker, I required all my classmates (loud and clear) to line up their notebooks by piling it under the notebook before theirs, and they were happy to oblige.

    1. Filipinos are great at compromise when people are looking. When they are not they throw trash on the streets. Make racist comments, cheat and steal. Definitely uncivilized for the most part. Maybe 30 percent civilized while the rest still barbarians

  19. I agree with this article. We can go back to where part of our basic domestic sensibilities originate. You see a bahay kubo with a silong of chicken, pigs or domestic animals. Once the family meal is done, the pispis from your plate either goes thru the bamboo slats to the silong or out the batalan for the animals to feast on.

    1. What i mean is, walis nang walis malinis sa loob ng bahay, pero lahat ng marumi, tapon sa labas, kesehoda.

  20. There is no respect for law and order in the Philippines because there is no enforcement of the laws. Simply look at how people behave as they drive. People break the laws because they know they will not be caught and if they are caught, can usually bribe there way out of it. I am glad to see that people are getting fed up and are finally expressing their outrage at the dysfunctional government. I have been told many times that getting angry is very impolite. Many feel it is easier to get used to a problem, rather than fixing it.

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