Sunday, March 22, 2015

Aesthetically challenged


My March 22, 2015 column.
We know there is no accounting for taste, but one wishes our leaders would try to get good advice from people who know better. This is particularly important when it comes to public structures and fixtures that are expected to be there for a long time and are seen by many everyday.  I am tempted to also include the recent trend at Malacanan Palace and in other venues, which involves putting up some tacky backdrop during official state functions, but I guess we can ignore those installations of plastic doves and bahay kubo since they are mercifully put up for just one-time events.
Those of us who had to pass by Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City everyday of our lives had to contend with those hideous marshmallows-on-sticks street lamps for many years until most of them finally and thankfully gave way to the elements.  Unfortunately, many of the red and white streetlamps in Manila along Quirino Avenue are still there even if most of them have degenerated into eyesores – most do not function anymore, have broken glass cases, and are in various stages of decay, twisted this way and that.  Remnants of many other ugly streetlamps still litter our thoroughfares nationwide – many of them carrying political logos and insignias (think B for Binay in Makati, or P for Petilla in Leyte).  There ought to be a law that regulates the design and construction of streetlamps in this country.
Worse, our leaders insist on building more hideous structures and contribute even more to the continued uglification of our surroundings.  It is already bad that there is squalor and decay courtesy of poverty, pollution, and the general lack of interest in sustaining a healthy environment; must our leaders aggravate things?
Our leaders cut down perfectly healthy trees on the center island of Senator Gil Puyat Avenue in Pasay and Makati a few months ago to give way to a road widening project.  The end result is that Gil Puyat is now wider but still hopelessly gridlocked at peak hours because the main problem is still there – the four major bus terminals that choke traffic.  Just one bus trying to maneuver in or out of a terminal already brings traffic to a complete standstill for a few minutes– imagine what happens at rush hours when 20 or 30 of these buses compete for passengers, space, and time.  Worse, our leaders did not provide for pedestrian crossing so there’s mayhem anytime of the day.
In the past, people could at least take some physical and psychological comfort from the greenery that used to be there.  There used to be a mini-forest and what passed off as mini parks in the middle of the avenue.  They have taken all of these down and replaced them with the most horrid of all fixtures – huge pots in hideous pink and brown.  So from Roxas Boulevard all the way to Dominga Street just a little beyond Taft Avenue, one is assaulted by the sight of these ugly cement pots sitting on top of pillars.  The pots are being planted with young ficus trees that for the next few months and years, will look scraggly.  Yes, they fell down fully-grown beautiful trees so that they can install ugly pots planted with miniature trees.
This kind of thoughtlessness, nay, boorishness, is unfortunately prevalent in our country.  Everywhere one goes we can actually see examples of how lack of aesthetic sensibility is foisted on the citizenry by some despot seemingly unacquainted with the concepts called simplicity and elegance.  In other countries, a construction site is kept from public view by walls painted over with splash of colors that bring joy and visual relief to onlookers.  Metro Manila’s main thoroughfare is dotted sporadically with “artworks” that invite derision, anger, or at the very least, confusion – as in “what’s are those supposed to be?”  I have nothing against dark, brooding, abstract artworks; I collect some myself.  But on our major thoroughfares where people need something to distract them or lighten up their disposition while being stuck in traffic or while inhaling toxic fumes?  In construction sites all over the Metro, there are not only no attempts to hide the ongoing destruction, the efforts to pick up debris and clean up the surroundings are pitifully kept to a minimum.  Our public structures – terminals, waiting sheds, train pillars - are covered in grime. 
The sad part is that our leaders don’t seem to care.

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