Zoning Photobomb

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By Roberto P. Alabado III

Planning Perspectives

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

CHILDHOOD memories of Luneta Park will always focus on photos at the Rizal Monument. We were tiny compared to the majestic statue and obelisk of Rizal. The obelisk will always point to the heavens while the statue will always seem to be floating with blue skies at the background.

Something unimaginable has happened in Manila and may have repercussions in the preservation of our historical sites. The Manila local government has allowed a major development project, a DMCI condominium to be specific, to be constructed behind the Rizal Monument. Just imagine a major spoiler or a photobomb on the background of all future pictures of our beloved monument of our national hero. Gone are the blue skies and clouds in the background but it will be replaced by a jutting building for the elite.

For me, that is the height of being sacrilegious to the patriotism of the nation and aesthetics of the city of Manila. Manila was planned by Daniel Burnham with all the visual aesthetics and layout of Paris and other great cities of the world. Now politicos will just destroy the grand vision of this great urban planner.


Mayor Estrada does not believe in patriotism instead justifies his approval it by saying that jobs for the poor are more important than protecting our heritage - such wisdom from a politico with no vision and no respect on the greatness of the Filipino.

With the present level of appreciation of our historical sites, one would not be surprised on the sad state of our monuments. How little our local governments invest in our history.

In Paris and London, monuments serve as reminders of historical events, conquests and triumphs of the nation. Be astounded by the grandness of the Arc de Triomphe of Paris, standing about 50 meters in height, where various avenues of the vast city converge in that huge rotunda so all people will see the greatness of their nation. The Nelson’s Column standing at 51 meters at the Trafalgar Square in London reminds people of the victory of England’s greatest naval battle.

Here in the Philippines, plazas are dedicated to the national hero to remind everyone of the greatness of Rizal. But I think greatness should be exhibited also in a visual manner. Why do we make life size statues of our national hero? It was his ideas which galvanized revolutionaries to action with aspirations of freedom and democracy.

Are these ideas just ordinary as we are or were these ideas of a giant heart and mind that inspired not only Filipinos but other nations alike in their struggles against imperialism? If so then monuments of Rizal should always be larger than life.... maybe at least two or three stories in height to symbolize his greatness as well as an everyday reminder that we live under his watchful eyes and give inspiration to us to ever follow his teachings and principles.

Monuments cannot not be limited to heroes alone. Each municipality should think of its distinctiveness or uniqueness as a community or culture and translate these into symbols that will inspire its citizens as well as provide outsiders with an endearing symbol to differentiate it from the rest.

Excuse me po but these symbols are not the political colors that are painted on the various government projects of politicos. Those are political colors and they just serve to be divisive to the local community. I am reminded the lyrics of a The Rolling Stones song - no colors anymore, I just want to turn them black.

Let the monuments be local heroes that are dear to the people or community but these also should be backed up by a small museum to explain the exploits and achievements of the local heroes to serve inspiration to our youth.

Let us take for example the monuments dedicated to the World War II heroes and veterans. The one here in Davao City is to my opinion does not truly represent the WWII heroes and veterans. The statue is too small to create a feeling of awe and inspiration to the blood, sweat and tears that these heroes and veterans have shed for the freedom of our beloved country. The obelisk itself looks like a hairpin rather than a landmark. If only we had the funds, let us make the soldier look like a 10 meter WW II soldier rather than a modern soldier to make it an imposing monument. If symbolism is your taste, I would like to see an awe-inspiring giant sculpture of an M1 Garand, a kris and a spear together to symbolize the unity of the Filipinos in the bloody struggle for freedom throughout history.

Enough of these dreams of mine.

What good would these dreams be for our local towns and cities when the national monument of Rizal will lose its relevance because of a photobomb of a condominium building behind it? Yes I agree that the structure is some distance from the Rizal Monument but there should have been a zoning based on the aesthetics of the monument. This will be similar to the flight path of the airplanes. All buildings along the flight path designated by CAAP follow certain restrictions to preserve safety. Likewise, a visual path of the monument must be zoned to prevent photo bombs to preserve historical aesthetics. The developer has just proven that profit supersedes patriotism and aesthetics. Sad.

Aesthetics in zoning has never been considered here in the Philippines. We allow ugly billboards to cover the scenic sights of our countryside. We allow dilapidated buildings and structures to deteriorate thus affecting the attractiveness of the community for investment as well as in face value. Monuments and parks lack maintenance.

When symbols of our moments of greatness in history are disrespected, then where will our future be?

Ang di lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay di makakarating sa paroroonan. rpalabado@gmail.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 07, 2014.


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