FVR fuming over Tagaytay mess

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I’m mad myself over this, as Tagaytay, the idyllic, dreamy unique place of your childhood, indeed, has become a mess, with traffic in the last holiday season as worse as EDSA and the ridge stinking more and more with garbage.

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One thing I admire, but sometimes complain about our former President Fidel Ramos, is that he’s been so much of a statesman, and a gentleman that he seldom criticizes an administration since he stepped down in 1998. This actually has been the practice in the USA and most Western nations, as it leaves a bad taste in the mouth for a former head of state to put down an incumbent.

So, in the rare times Ramos hits publicly an administration, or a part of it in public, you can be sure that he’s angry and fed up. Ramos in his first column for the year in the Manila Bulletin (Jan. 4) dispenses with his usual happy-new-year greetings, and its title shows how mad he is: “Tagaytay City: Sad example in nation-building.”

He narrates why he got so angry:

“All of our hardy clan, whose members range from age 87 to 20, had looked forward to our reunion in Tagaytay, and to be able to savor its incomparable scenes, enjoy its cool weather and breathe in fresh Philippine mountain air. For the first time in years, in fact, all children and grandchildren were present in the Philippines.”

“Last week’s sortie to our favorite mountain city, however, was a frustrating and disappointing experience largely because of massive traffic jams along the long stretch of the Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay road both ways, and related difficulties in reaching the People’s Park in the Sky, which is supposed to be Tagaytay’s crown jewel.”

I am seething precisely because of the same frustration.

Yes, this is Tagaytay City, with SMDC’s condominium towers by the main road.

Yes, this is Tagaytay City, with SMDC’s condominium towers by the main road.

On January 2, it took me four hours to travel from the Ayalas’ Solenad-Nuvali commercial center in Sta. Rosa City to Tagaytay City. I counted only two traffic policemen in that entire stretch. The thought crossed my mind that the Tolentinos – the current mayor is Agnes Tolentino, sister-in-law of Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino – may have the knack, or the jinx, of creating horrendous traffic in any place where they have been assigned as the official in charge.

But traffic is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the mess in Tagaytay City is concerned.

The title of Ramos’ column – “Tagaytay is a sad example of nation-building” is an understatement, if not a misleading one. How can one even talk of “nation-building” in the case of Tagaytay when it has practically been a fiefdom controlled by one family, the Tolentinos for half a century? The patriarch, Isaac, was mayor for 27 years, succeeded by his son, now MMDA head Francis, and then followed by his younger brother Abraham. When he reached the three-term limit in 2013, his wife Agnes, a doctor, assumed the post.

There isn’t a sidewalk for tourists, and you see them actually risking life and limb having to walk by the road. There are just three bus stops along the main road on the ridge. Many of the restaurants by the ridge stink, as the ravine has become one big garbage pit. There is anarchy by the ridge as houses and restaurants build whatever they want – blocking the view of the Taal Lake. “The People’s Park in the Sky, the highest point in the area, which used to be Tagaytay’s major attraction for thousands of tourists,” Ramos wrote, has deteriorated into a “dirty, smelly and ugly kind of place.”

But, of course, there is Tagaytay College, providing free tuition for children of the city’s residents, which somehow ensures votes for the Tolentinos in every election. Agnes Tolentino won in 2013 with 18,145 votes, giving her an edge of 4,722 over Boying Remulla. What a travesty of democracy: every three years, about 18,000 Filipinos put into power this clan that has ruined, and will continue to ruin, what is an irreplaceable nature site of immense beauty owned by 100 million Filipinos.

I applaud Ramos for hinting that the Tagaytay mess reflects how much of an illusion our purported democracy is, pointing out that the rich are unbothered by what’s happening as they can afford exclusive vantage points in the area, such as the Highlands Golf Club and the Mountain Spa.

What I am particularly sad about, because the consequences would be irreversible, is the frenzy of property projects along the main road, with the owners and developers showing no concern over the aesthetic value of a nature tourist site and with the local government obviously having no master plan for the city.

Why on earth was Henry Sy (or was it the Jr., the CEO?) of SM Development Corp. allowed to build 10 ugly condominium towers along the main road, making Tagaytay’s skyline looking like a typical sight in the congested metropolitan Manila? (see accompanying photo). Are the Sys intent on ruining Tagaytay just as their SM City ruined Baguio?

In many mountain and seaside tourist spots in Greece for instance, there are strict limits on the height of buildings, so that as far as practicable the views of the sea and the mountains are unimpeded from the main road. In Santorini, for instance, which is a bit like Tagaytay in that it faces a volcanic caldera, the local government’s strict regulations on building heights have turned its towns into such beautiful places that they themselves have become tourist attractions.

What stirred my anger even more was Ramos’ report in his column that he had even created a Presidential Commission on Tagaytay-Taal in 1993 that was “empowered to formulate short- and long-term plans for the Development of Tagaytay City and its Adjacent Municipalities.” Ramos said that the 20-year and 10-year plans were made. Where are they now? Did the Tolentinos even bother to study them and undertake consultations with the community for their implementation?

I haven’t heard or read Ramos as vociferously critical of any politician as he is of the Tolentinos of Tagaytay:

“Complaints against Chairman Tolentino and family have been exposed in various broadsheets… ‘New MMDA Chief Faces Plunder, Graft and Other Charges’ by Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star, 4 Aug 2010)… At the time of the two Tolentino mayor-brothers, it was strongly recommended to Malacañang that these complaints amounting to criminal neglect be looked into immediately and not taken lightly – if only to protect the integrity of President Aquino III, whose supposed basis for appointing Francis Tolentino as MMDA chairman was that P-Noy and the latter were Ateneo classmates.”

And I haven’t heard or read Ramos as critical of this administration as he is with regard to its culpability for the Tagaytay mess:

“P-Noy’s administration has failed to push solutions to the problems of Tagaytay, particularly the sustainability of its unique natural beauty. Is a deteriorated Tagaytay part of the legacy that younger Filipinos will inherit from Aquino III and the Tolentino dynasty? To end up looking like EDSA – which is our biggest parking lot – are Tagaytay and EDSA good examples of Daang Matuwid – or Daang Ma-Trapik?”

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33 Comments

  1. I’ve been living in tagaytay for almost a decade now and I’ve seen how everything deteriorated. Bottomline: this won’t be possible without the help of certain people. So let me acknowledge:

    1. the Tolentinos-Yup, God’s gift to Tagaytay. Indeed, you did your jobs well. Pwedeng pang sitcom ang buhay ng mga rulers na ito about how to screw up an idyllic land. Hey, I’m not saying that they earned from all these “progressive” moves. I’m not even saying that like their “vision” of Tagaytay, the amount they’ve received from all the construction would reach to high heavens. No sir. What I’m saying is, can you please, just please, minimize the greed to the earthly level?

    2. Henry Sy- Sy….maybe the face I can’t forget? Yes, dears, there is a Santi Claus and he spends the whole year in the arctic heavens which we popularly know as SM. And this heaven is ruled by a man without beard who, when he’s not on duty (as Santi), is known as Henry Sy. He is the reason why we are bent on working our asses just to get what we need in one of his millions of malls. And yes, maybe, just maybe, when we retire, we can have P3-million plus pesos in our bank accounts so we can have a 20-sq. meter place in a tower-of-babel-like structure in Tagaytay. Heaven is changing its name to SMDC. Yes folks, you can have a chance to buy your own place in the afterlife. It will soon be made available via Savemore outlets.

    Hail Henry. Hail the Tolentinos. God save Tagaytay!

    • Hindi lang Tagaytay. Yung palibot ng Taal lake napupuno na rin ng kung ano anong development. Walang ginagawa ang DENR. And also the local governments in the area.

      Regarding the traffic mess, the added problem is that there is no law which would prohibit the construction of any infrastructure within a prescribed off-limit distance from the center or side of the road. Sure, they are widening the main roads but they allow stores to be constructed at the very edge of the widened road. Motorists who stop to buy something from the stores naturally park their vehicles on the road. Only in the Philippines. Hopeless.

  2. Daniel B. Laurente on

    The are many adjectives that could be use to describe those who administered the mountain ridge city place. But mostly probable is the absence of creativeness, ignorance in developing the place into advance tourism area. Aside from the existing panoramic view of the entire landscape it could develop it into a more captivating, salivating place for tourists local and international to visit and stay. Creativeness and good vision for better future are best assets before profits and greed because one leader having these kind of quality for sure brings more prosperity among the locals, visitors from all walks of life and mostly as described by Mr. Tiglao belongs to 100 millions Filipinos and inherent right for everyone as a Filipino citizen of the country not only for the selected few.

  3. Marami ang nanghihinayan sa TAGAYTAY…..BAD ZONING ang city planning.. Kung ikukumpara sa maraming cities in the USA, BRAZIL, Australia and SINGAPORE, malaking sayang ang COOL WEATHER of Tagaytay kung walang mga JOGGING PATH provision, wider sidewalk and TREES …..poor strategic planning..tragedy.

    KAILAN matutulad ang TAGAYTAY sa Academic Oval in UP Diliman (last remaining forest cover in Metro manila) where wildlife birds (Tagak, Tikling other species), snakes and bayawak still exist…

    TULONG TOLENTINO / MMDA..

  4. What to do? We dont have zoning, we dont have planning authority, if we have, they are nowhere to be found or not functioning. Remember what one Ayala’ Land executive boasted on TV that they can do whatever they wanted. Blame the LGU’s who are the master in this country who can make things happened in their own turf and greedy developers who know how to bribe local officials. They dont care about what is good or bad in this country. What is important is their full pockets.

  5. Vicente Penetrante on

    That is the price of progress. Man builds. He alters nature. And he brings traffic, noise and pollution.

  6. this is nothing new. everything in the country is deteriorating. Just as most of the commentaries wrote, its the peoples fault as in the people power who suppose to turn things around but did not happen. Baguio is another tourist spot that is deteriorating due to lack of maintenance and laziness and inept leaders. What about FVR himself? lol, during his term he really did not accomplished much except travel around the world, considered the most traveled president in history of the nation. Yet he even neglected the AFP modernization being a West Point grad and spent most of his careers in the military. Actually the AFP modernization fund from the real estate sales in Bonifacio went missing under his watch. I myself gave up my plans to retire in the Philippines reading all of these corruption, smelly cities, crime, sub standard infrastructures, etc. Lastly look at how they mismanaged the international airport, and the LRT. Its the Filipino way sadly. This will take a generation to change or even never. Philippines is a failed state. It is the black sheep of ASEAN while its neighbors prospers the Philippines gets deeper into the sink hole. Just look at how Vietnam is slowly overtaking the country and soon Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos will join to overtake the country.

    • Daniel B. Laurente on

      Most probably the reason why Philippines did not decide to modernize its AFP was because of the bilateral agreement and defense treaties between USA and Manila. Not only Philippines hands are tied up well to this treaties but the financial constraint involved. Even during the time of Marcos and earlier administrations didn’t try to modernize because of the treaties. Just my point anyway.
      previous to ration

    • jesus nazario on

      Tell us how a solution can be found without knowing the problem. Is this a newly discovered theory of yours ?

    • he probably meant the problems were already identified and we should not focus on these but rather seek for any solutions to mitigate these full blown issues.

  7. Tagaytay is slowing rotting and the development is out of hand were greed is the name of the game, cityland, alveo of ayala, SMDC and robinsons are all at fault for building high rise condo which it ruins the charming and idyllic of the past glory days of quiet, serene nature of tagaytay. too much development made tagaytay another nature disaster in the making.

  8. Tagaytay has only one major road network and it is only two lane so as the road to sta. rosa. This is a result of no long range plan. No plan could only result to failure.

    • jesus nazario on

      And Tolentino who graduated as mayor of a one-major-road city was promoted to head MMDA incharge of many highways as wide as 10 lanes ? Only by P’noy.

  9. If you got a new administration in tagatay & they started a clean up programme, that would cost money & would put people out. If you started prosecuting people for dumping their garbage they would go against you. So what im saying is if you put a new administration in power & start implementing changes it affects the people & then the people wont vote for you again. Its that simple in this country. They love laws until they affect them then they hate them.
    In our HOA they bought laws in for our sundivision, like no speeding, having your lights on when driving at night, no loud motorcycles, but they dont enforce those laws as they know the people will vote against them for what they see as punishing them. So the filipino gets what he deserves.

  10. What is happening in the Philippines these days is clearly a deterioration of the natural
    political economic and social landscape of the country as a result of the stupidity of the Filipino people for electing incompetent and equally stupid individuals as presidents, starting from Cory Aquino, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and finally Noynoy Aquino. But do not blame these people because they did not force themselves
    into the office of the presidency. Blame the Filipino people.

    • With those names given, I guess it IS still Gloria who has the better economic and political grasp of the nation’s pulse. Maybe, there was thievery during her time but which administration did not suffer from skimming of public funds? But then, Gloria’s programs and platforms have resulted in better economic fundamentals that the present megalomanic and schizophrenic boy scout masquerading as president is inheriting and trying to grab credit for. If only those Regional Development Councils have an understanding of the power that they can do, they could have uplifted their respective jurisdictions in no time and simyon will just be a redundancy.

  11. I visited the country last year to witness the horrible traffic condition
    anywhere I go. MManila’s traffic is unimaginable I swear will
    never come back forever. Philippines is a failed state in all aspects.
    Corrupt leaders and disfunctional religions and its people are all
    behind this mess.

    • You’re totally right blaming the people for their miseries. They keep voting for known corrupt politicians who pockets peoples money for themselves & nothing left for social services or projects to make the country better.Pinas will never be better because of the majority of Pinoys thinking…..Other Asian countries are progressing while Pinas is sinking rapidly…..sooo sad but it’ was a good thing I left although I still have relatives who from now & then will ask for financial help.

  12. Isa bagay ang hindi ko gustong marinig! Own by 100million pilipino!sinong pinagloloko ninyo!!
    Lahat lang ng mapera at mayamang foreigns ang halos nagbakod ng lahat ng lugar Doon ang datingLugar na walang bayad ay ngayon ay hindi muna mapupuntahan!
    Kinamamkam nanilang lahat!!

  13. I recall there was a talk a while ago of Mrs. Ramos running for Mayor of Tagaytay. The Tolentinos are the Binays of Tagaytay.

    • Hintayin na lang nating sumabog ang Taal volcano at siguradong wasak lahat yang mga Condos ng Ayalas, Sy at iba pang mga ganid. Pera pera kasi ang umiiral sa mga nakapwesto.

  14. When he ran for president, I was a rabid Pro-Noynoy (I guess because he promised to convict GullOORRYYAA and Mike Arroyo) but talaga naman, Noynoy has failed.

    • I don’t understand why people blames Noynoy…..it’s actually the people that needs to be blamed….they’re the one voting for these immoral politicians although they’re known to be corrupt. Pinas will forever be a 3rd world country because of the citizens mentalities.

  15. It’s not just in Tagaytay…It’s not just the people in Tagaytay.

    People of SMall minds insist that they build right next to the main road because they can or are “entitled” to do so. Those who have the authority to allow it have even smaller minds but end up with a bit more of a bulge in their pockets. People with the smallest minds are those who patronize the work of the SMall minded people of both kinds. People of SMall minds don’t have enough in them to really care about anything other than themselves. What they want they get. they call it having “more fun in the Philippines”.

  16. P. Akialamiro@yahoo.com on

    Perhaps, there is no such thing as EIR (Environmental Impact Report) in the City and, if there is, “money”, definitely, took over “beauty”. What else is new. “n da Pilipins”?

    With this kind of “mess” gradually destroying the attractive places in the country, pretty soon, we might be hearing: ” It’s more fun outside of the Philippines”!

    • I guess the succeeding president should order the demolition of those structures if they are found to be violative of environmental and zoning regulations and heritage concerns such like Joseph should order the demolition of that mall in Manila that was built on the site of the former Cinerama because underneath is a natural earth fracture – a estero that was just covered through their incestuous relationship with the mayor’s office.