Concrete Evidence of Filipino Unbridled Urban Development

Filipinos are madly in love – as in hard core. In this chapter of our analysis of Filipino dysfunction, let’s touch on the Filipino’s love affair with concrete.

If there’s one thing OFWs will pour their hard-earned money into – it’s gonna be cement, truckloads of it!  Why not? Well, development from the Filipino perspective is overlaying our natural forest cover with our favorite material – concrete.

The Filipino’s over-infatuation with concrete has gone out of control – covering entire islands, valleys and hills, pumping it into every square foot of property they can lay their hands on like some indiscriminately firing trigger-happy maniac.

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An aerial view of Boracay, once an island of rich natural foliage, will reveal that it is now being eaten up alive by over-development. And up north, Baguio’s hills will soon be rivaling Bohol’s except that they are colored gray instead of their once lush green. Not even the greatest mall chain in the country, tycoon-rich as it already is, could resist downing those stately decades-old pine trees that lined up SM Baguio’s vicinity (the very ones low-landers go up to Baguio for) to make way for their expanding concrete empire.

The threat of cement-fueled development has come to the point that a Filipino history site would occasionally showcase some very pristine exotic places in the country but would not give away the location (secret!) – leaving undisciplined Pinoy readers just salivating to find out.

It is ironic how in our effort to attract tourists to come to our country to enjoy the abounding natural beauty, we turn it into a disgusting choking concrete jungle in the process of providing facilities and services, as if we had a national death wish for P.I. to look like some surreal overcrowded cemetery. Benign0 calls this uniquely Pinoy “gift” of turning anything of value/beauty into rubbish as the “reverse Midas touch.”

In contrast, Australia’s most urbanized areas showcase a good balance of greenery and man-made structures. Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are like cities that sprouted out of a still vibrant tropical forest, with the foliage of grand imposing trees everywhere and gardens even on top of buildings to the eye’s delight.

Model Urban Zones

I’m a big fan of turning the Philippines into a Singapore-class state. So to get the ball rolling, I have identified several contiguous zones in Luzon that more or less model what the Philippines on the whole should strive to look like. Other cities/municipalities should seek to follow their lead in creating a good balance of man-made structures and greenery:

  1. Baguio South East: Camp John Hay, Burnham, Wright
  2. Clark Freeport
  3. Subic Bay Freeport
  4. National Capital Region (5 sub-zones):
    1. North: Quezon Circle, U.P. Diliman, Ateneo
    2. West: Intramuros, Roxas Blvd.
    3. East: Ortigas, Greenhills
    4. South1: Makati CBD, Bonifacio GC, NAIA
    5. South2: Filinvest, Ayala Alabang
  5. U.P. Los Banos – Mt. Makiling

Interconnecting Highways: TPLEX, NLEX, SCTEX, SLEX

With some exceptions, you will notice that many of these zones are modeled after American-style urban planning: Lots of refreshing breathers and open spaces between buildings, instead of trying to cram everything so densely in a small area.

Many movies nowadays provide some cool concepts of the zoning setup:  Try watching Brick Mansions, In Time, and Divergent. If we can’t keep the entire country from turning into a choking eyesore-filled concrete jungle, at least we should leave some piece of it for a few enlightened Pinoys (like us here at GRP) to enjoy.

Less Cement – The Better

We can actually do away with a lot of cement in our environment. For one, enclosing our entire private properties with walls is not the best way to go.

Go to the U.S. or Canada, and you will see entire neighborhoods with exposed green lawns for all to see. If there is any property divider, it’s just a minor wooden fence, or a row of bushes. If you need security, a zone-wide approach is a better strategy. Subdivisions should have the security at the entrance gate – thereby not requiring residential lots to have individual enclosing walls. Hidden cameras and patrolling security are also effective.

Many cities/municipalities in Japan allocate large areas of their land to serve as a green communal park to balance out the relentless urban sprawl. Filipinos don’t seem to know the word balance, with cities/municipalities indiscriminately approving permits for gift-dangling developers, regardless of the overall urban plan (if there is any).

There are also technologies available to lessen the amount of cement we use. Did you know that hollow blocks are no longer used in houses in many countries? It’s time to graduate from our “ito na kinagisnan namin” mentality. We are in a typhoon-prone region; so we should get the most structural strength per unit volume (PSI) of concrete used. One company in the Philippines already offers a low-cost typhoon-proof solution.

Do we need to see the day when developers in their greed to make money will use the fine white sand of exotic Molocaboc Island to mix with cement and pour concrete over anything left green standing in our once picturesque natural Philippine landscape? Before this country self-destructs with its people going nuts with cement fever, can someone try to heed a simple advice? – Let’s bring some solid control to this national obsession over concrete.

11 Replies to “Concrete Evidence of Filipino Unbridled Urban Development”

  1. Forgive them father, for they know not what they ask. Building laws and codes can never be updated and enforce here without the military imposing martial law for the following reasons. 1. Filipinos will always build the houses the cheapest way possible, which is not the new modern ways. 2. Filipinos do not have government inspectors to certify a building for safety before, during and after the building process. 3. Filipinos do not care about safety regulations such as having space between houses, fire sprinklers, or even pest control.

  2. This is the Power of the Oligarchs, at work. They turn everything into money making venture. They do not care about our Natural resources.

    Forests are turned into concrete jungles. Green lush vegetations are developed into malls, for profit.

    This is the Aquino era legacy: “The Reign of Greed…” Just look at their Hacienda Luisita; and their exploitation of their tenants/serfs. You do not look far, about the greediness of these people.

  3. Balance, one of the words that is not included in a Filipino vocabulary. We are so happy of what the Oligarchs thrown at us. The buzzing new malls, new stores and a tone of wastefulness that they would like to call “ingenuity”. As I recall lack of entertainment especially in the province results for most common couples to well, reproduce or have fun? As a form of well having fun… 😛

    Cities lacking parks, recreation areas, playgrounds for the kids none is being built. Well except for the malls when they cramp everything in it or in a golden gate community with towering walls. As if they love to be confined in a four cornered walls like a casket.

    We just loved Artificial and superficial, something that just smells right. A decaying country, more or less like a zombie.

  4. ‘TEH REVERSE MIDAS TOUCH’, yes…that just about sums up the entrie culture and society. Filipino’s can ruin anything !!! it is the type of claim that is good if your trying to destroy ISIS or terrorists but when it comes to a tropical once former paradise,uh..NO ITS A CATASTROPHE.

    That is pretty much what the entire country is: A CATASTROPHE. it is sad to see, but when people arrive at NAIA, after getting scammed before they even reach the curb out front of the airport, getting into a transport vehicle and going into Manila,YUCK, any sane person could not be blamed for simply turning around and leaving as fast as they can.

  5. Tagaytay is turning into a mini Fort Bonifacio/Global City, and as a result, is becoming warmer.

    Yes, I do like the layout of Mt. Makiling residential community. It lacks maintenance, though.

    There is no infrastructure or mechanism in the Philippines to enforce residential zoning or specs. It’s as if you need to buy an entire mountain or island, and preserve it. That’s sort of what Highlands Tagaytay did. They’re more or less secluded from other communities so that they have the entire hill to themselves without having to deal with eye-sore structures or noise pollution.

    One of my first observations in the Philippines is the absence of any yard in residential properties. I asked, “do Filipinos hate soil”? It’s so absurd that the typical house occupies the entire lot with no easement between properties.

    Corruption is so rampant, prevalent and dominant that it’s just difficult to see improvement through public governance.

    1. >> do Filipinos hate soil?

      I think they actually do. It’s fascinating watching Filipinos scrape their yard clean of anything that might preserve the soil or enhance its fertility, rake it into a big pile, and set fire to it.

      Farmers achieve pretty much the same effect with endless aggressive plowing and banned chemicals.

      And if all else fails … dump concrete on it!

  6. Well, how about visayas and Mindaneo? You can’t just connect these islands through expressways.

    My wife is from Cagayan De Oro so we spend there currently three months per year. The other nine months we are abroad. In CDO I can currently spot three potential urban zones. One includes the whole Limketkei CBD, the future SM CDO2 Premier and the Ayala Centrio Mall. However, this area lacks green recreational spaces. It might develop in the future towards the coast or neighboring mountains.

    The second one is known as uptown. It lasts from the Pryce Plaza Hotel to the former Lumbia Airport. It includes whole Pueblo De Oro, SM City and all surrounding subdivisions. However, more gardening and landscaping has to be done along the main road. A third area might develop around Rodelsa Circle. This area is widely unused or temporarily used. Plans have been presented but nothing happens. Problem seems to be the halted construction of the Paseo Del Rio hotel. In the future this area may include Gaston Part, St. Augustine Cathedral and the old city hall.

    Cobcerning urban development in general, I would split the developed countries in two groups. The first consists of Europe, Japan and South Korea, the second is USA, Canada and Australia. The difference is the average commuting distance. The American concept can’t cope with high density of population (USA: 32 Persons per square kilometer, Philippines: 337) So it might be better to consider a modified European model.

  7. This guy has an elegant solution. He makes reinforced fire bricks using river silt (which would otherwise clog up rivers) and rice husk ash. His website has been up since 2009 so I presume he’s still in business.

    I much prefer this over concrete. Not only is it cooler, architects would actually have to think of ways to actually make the structure work in the neighborhood instead of just indiscriminately pouring concrete into forms.

    Thats my main issue with concrete. Its lazy to build with… No wonder Juan Tamad likes it so much.

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