THEY look like empty coffins now.
Some two months ago, they were planters, lining up a stretch of A. Soriano Avenue (formerly Aduana Street) from the Maestranza to Fort Santiago, each holding two big flower pots that each in turn was a home to a perennial plant, leaves green and slightly swaying in the summer breeze.
On Wednesday this week, all 37 of them (yes, we counted) seemed to have been practically stripped of reasons why in the first place they were put from across the Banco Filipino building to just past across the National Treasury.
A few of the 37 of the planters had fallen victims to vandals, and gone were the plants from all 37 of them.
The Mona Lisa syndrome will eventually get these havens for the perennials, you know, they will just lie there, unattended by no one, and they will die there, unlamented also by no one.
Indeed, the road to traffic management and urban beautification is paved with good intentions.
But, apparently, the World Bank was clueless when it supported managing and beautifying the stretch and we wonder if anyone from it knows where in the world Intramuros is.
Well, what you don’t know won’t hurt you.
The idea, also apparently the World Bank’s, was that the planters, made from pine wood (palo china) would be placed here and there to also prevent illegal parking of cars and other vehicles along a hundred meters or so of Andres Soriano Avenue, in the process making traffic flow faster.
Also, the thought was that with the traffic under control, people, especially tourists, would stroll down the streets of Intramuros.
No, they would not, not when the Walled City remains dark, blighted and unkempt, not when you don’t see any policeman around at almost any time of day, not when the few restaurants there seem to think that they are Michelin-rated.
Surprise, surprise, but the area is hardly a witness to gridlocks, from as far back as the 16th century to the present, and so the parking-and-traffic to do is one big oxymoron of traffic management and, okay, urban beautification.
Fine, but the best laid plans of mice and men can go helter-skelter if hoopla was the only driving force for the green, touristic project, and thanks but no thanks to climate change.
For one, the planters, heavy as they may seem to be, can be lifted easily by those who, by hook or by crook, want to park their cars along the stretch that some people thought they had turned into no-man’s land.
For another, there seemed to be no one from the people behind the project acting as minders of the planters and the plants after they were, well, “strategically” arranged so many meters apart from each other.
Think of those tree-planting activities by the government and the private sector that see no trees growing to maturity because, after the speeches and the planting are done, the saplings are left on their own, with no one watering them again after the cameras stop clicking.
Ningas-kugon describes the joint venture, supposedly with the Intramuros Administration, to make the area pedestrian- and tourist-friendly.
Meanwhile, some of the planters are slowly being dismantled by you know who is as good a guess as any.
What was the World Bank thinking when it embarked on the planters project?
Nothing, probably, other than forgetting to put its money where its mouth was.