Sans history and green spaces

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Alice Bustos-Orosa

Alice Bustos-Orosa

On weekends, it has become a typical scene to watch joggers in early morning runs filling up kilometers of roads along the vicinity of shopping centers and college campuses. It was no surprise then to learn that the UP Diliman Oval has become a runner’s paradise in Quezon City with thousands flocking on weekends for their regular run. It’s even more interesting how marathons have been held on skyways and otherwise busy city thoroughfares. Perhaps, for many fitness buffs, it has simply been maddening to look for wide, open, green spaces to run and breathe. I suppose that as the consciousness for healthy lifestyles becomes more ingrained, the need for open spaces becomes more imperative.

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These days, there are so few places in the city where you’ll even find a pedestrian sidewalk. Where most foreign cities strictly adhere to the 60-40 percent rule on concrete and green spaces, we often push the boundaries for these. It seems so impossible now to even have green spaces amid busy cities like New York’s Central Park or London’s Hyde Park. These parks that seem like little forests among skyscrapers and concrete structures certainly add charm to these remarkable cities.

Nowadays, most real estate firms brandish their new developments as townships that integrate natural landscape with residential options. It may be so that the benefit of living in newly built and well-planned communities, though a bit more pricey, is the instantaneous appeal of open and wide spaces for active living and exercise enthusiasts. Just look at how new communities in the South like those in Sta. Rosa Laguna or Alabang have attracted a select following.

But not only are our cities missing out on green spaces. We’re missing out too on skyscapes where you can actually still see the horizon and building roofs without the huge distractions of billboards and gigantic tarpaulins blocking your view. No one would even dare think of obstructing the picturesque cityscape and skyscapes of Paris, Tokyo or even Hong Kong. I wouldn’t be astonished to know that Filipino architect’s must be so disappointed when his masterpiece is obscured behind 10-meter high steel billboard structures.

So too have our cities disregarded heritage buildings whose facades could have matched the most treasured buildings in Europe. I guess if at all, we’re still fortunate to have kept our historic churches intact.

On a recent drive around Manila, we were caught by the view of the old Luneta Hotel on Kalaw Ave. across the Rizal Park. The hotel was recently re-opened as a boutique hotel. Originally designed by the Spanish architect-engineer Salvador Farre, the hotel is the only remaining example of “French Renaissance architecture” French Renaissance architecture with Filipino stylized beaux arts in the Philippines to date. For years, I would also look longingly at the old, abandoned Admiral Hotel on Roxas Boulevard, imagining how beautiful the building would be if renovated. Fortunately, the developers who later on bought this property kept the original structure of the hotel façade then, built a skytower behind this.

Is it that we’ve lost a sense of history? Or have since lost a longing for natural beauty? Or perhaps it’s just me, with a misplaced sense of nostalgia. Even so, I hope to see the day when our cities soon become havens of nature, art, and history once again.

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