Now that the buzz was created, the Netizens stirred into an outrage fad, the subjects of the brouhaha forced into a pathetic response, and the “input” from the intelligentsia collated, comes the time to step back, take stock and reflect on what it all means. Very few people sympathise with Makati City Mayor Junjun Binay and his sister Senator Nancy Binay which is quite understandable because just about every Filipino is sick to their bowels digesting the banal bullshit Filipino politicians routinely feed them.Yet, in the overall scheme of things, it does not really matter whose “side” you are on. To outsiders, the Philippines is just another primitive country where the silliest problems begging the most obvious solutions routinely go unsolved for decades — even centuries. And if we look closer at the real issue at the very root of all this, we might find the more long-term and fundamental solution that has been begging to be implemented for years.
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A lot of us make this most recent example of the profound social dysfunction that afflicts Philippine society all about The Rules. Where there are community-accepted rules, the thinking goes, all who are part of said community are subject to these regardless of rank. But then if we step back further, perhaps we forget that the very existence of the rules at stake here are, by their very nature, like a house built on sand. What, after all, lends legal bases for the summary blockading of an entire road network that is part and parcel of the overall city road network?
Many of us who’ve had to endure the inconvenience of having their driver’s licenses surrendered to a security guard at the gate of an “exclusive” subdivision we are entering as “guests” can attest to the utter ridiculousness of the whole notion. The silence of the North Forbes Park and Dasmariñas Village associations (employers of the private firm Right Eight Security agency that oversees security in the area) perhaps is a clue to how legally-precarious this notion is — that a vast swath of A-grade road network within a traffic-gridlocked metropolis can be kept inaccessible to the public in order to keep an infinitessimal sector of the society secure and insulated from the problems of the larger community that hosts them.
Residents of these exclusive villages will justify the privilege of closing off and fortifying their neighbourhood against the bigger community by pointing out that the Philippine police lack the resources to secure their personal assets. But then stop and think about what this position on the matter of inadequate police resources means. Inadequate law enforcement is a public issue. More importantly, it is a community challenge. For all the platitudes and pretentious demonstrations of bayanihan exhibited by residents of limited-access enclaves in times of crises, at the very heart of their routine lives is a blanket refusal on their part to participate in the overall community as a matter of general habit.
Perhaps elite Filipinos’ predisposition to living in gated communities is likely a legacy of colonial rule. Mexicans, considered to be Filipinos’ cultural twins in the United States, suffer the same scourge. Gated communities in Mexico are a result of the huge income gap existing in the country. A 2008 study found that the average income in an urban area of Mexico was $26,654, a rate higher than advanced nations like South Korea or Taiwan while the average income in rural areas (sometimes just miles away) was only $8,403. This close a proximity of wealth and poverty has created a large security risk for Mexico’s middle class. Gated communities can be found in virtually every medium and large sized city in Mexico with the largest found in major cities, such as Monterrey, Mexico City or Guadalajara.
But just as it is in Mexico, it is quite easy to profile social and economic class on the mere basis of physical appearance in the Philippines. It is a generally-accepted (though something not talked about in public forums and polite company) fact that wealthy and socially-upscale Filipinos tend to be fairer-skinned. Less socially-upscale Filipinos tend to be darker. This is not surprising considering that much of the wealth of the Philippines is still held by the descendants of former colonial nationals — ethnic Spanish and American people and families — as well as descendants of highly-enterprising North Asian migrants. Indeed, even today, a new wave of migrants from Korea are making economic and cultural waves — buying up property, investing in businesses, establishing prosperous communities, as well as spreading and embedding their culture. Suffice to say, Koreans are also fair-skinned.
It is no surprise, therefore, that skin-whitening cosmetic products sell like hotcakes in the Philippines. It is because fair skin is widely-considered an essential upward mobility enabler. That this is so is evident in the Philippines’ showbiz industry, where fair-skinned personalities utterly dominate.
Looking at it this way, it is easy to spot, on the basis of physical appearance, people who “do not belong” in upscale premises, such as rich residential enclaves like Dasmariñas Village. The sorts of people residents of these village would rather not see loitering about their neighbourhoods stick out like dark spots on a yellow flag anyway. Security cameras will easily pick them out. Hook this data up to Facebook and its facial recognition technology will plug them into its vast database. Security agencies can even send them friend requests.
And so here is the point:
Why bother gating and fortifying wealthy subdivisions like Dasmariñas Village?
Modern technology now allows what Dasma security guards have been doing for decades and their Guardia Civil forerunners have been doing for centuries.
Perhaps it is time we give back Dasma, Forbes, Bel Air, Udraneta, San Lorenzo and Magallanes roads back to the general motoring public of Makati City. That way, the issue of crime, security, and police quality truly becomes a community issue regardless of social class and ethnic background.
“I can buy your friends and this club” — half-Aussie Pinoy celeb Anne Curtis
[NB: Parts of this article were lifted from the Wikipedia.org article “Gated Community” in a manner compliant to the terms stipulated in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that governs usage of content made available in this site.]
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.