Park Bench People
November 12, 2016
Text and Photos by Nikki Boncan- Buensalido
If you had foreign guests visit Manila, just Manila, where would you take them? (Don’t say Boracay and Tagaytay because that doesn’t count as Manila.) You might make a mental rundown of places to visit and things to do and you realize that you will inevitably have to add a mall tour to their itinerary. Bummer.
So why is it that in other cities like London, New York, Barcelona or Vancouver, to name a few, you can go on days or even your whole stay without setting foot in a mall? They have parks, museums, hiking trails, flea markets, long-running shows on Broadway and West End, repurposed buildings, public squares, nearby beaches, etc. Why have we built a culture around malls?
In London for example, once the spring and summer season starts, people flock to courtyards of museums, nearby community parks and plazas for picnics, get togethers. They welcome the sun for most of this season by basking and frolicking in it practically the whole day. In Vancouver, home of “The Great Outdoors”, the city has national parks, wildlife lookouts, forests, hiking trails off of certain areas. Or in New York, an endless variety of Broadway shows, museums and flea markets are accessible to everyone. Central Park in New York and Hyde Park in London are both centrally located at the heart of the city, providing a diverse array of opportunities to attain a healthier lifestyle, social life, leisure and relaxation.
These cities also offer free museum entrances for visitors to learn about their culture, heritage and their national treasure. They are proud to share what they have to their visitors. Moreover, they provide public spaces and opportunities for people to converge and get together. The visitors use even courtyards in between these buildings. Children idyllically splash about in water fountains while parents casually talk to other parents. In plazas such as Trafalgar Square in London, or Times Square in New York, people utilize these spaces climbing onto interactive steps, monuments and pillars. Isn’t this the quality of life that everyone deserves? To have the same amount of freedom such as this though, also requires a certain amount of responsibility from the citizens.
Now what about Manila? Is Luneta Park or Plaza Miranda at par with what other countries can offer? Do our flea markets provide interesting finds that pique one’s interest? Are our museums worth visiting and is getting there accessible most especially to tourists. What can our tourists associate with within the city?
Malls are one of the biggest income generating entities in Manila. Developers have come up with a million and one ways to continually expand and add huge malls with relatively all the same concessions and surprisingly, these malls are full even on weekdays. There are many possible factors that possibly hinder the community to come together in the way other citizens of the world do, like the weather, or the pollution, responsibility to cleanliness, and maybe even fellow citizens. Perhaps, this is a call to developers to place value on other projects that also help build communities besides malls in order to promote the betterment of quality of life. I believe that through exposure to certain kind of experiences one is able to develop more sophistication, open-mindedness and social responsibility. Once exposed, this might even be a seed planted towards improving our lifestyles, and our personality as a People. On the other hand, maybe as citizens and members of the consuming public should be able to respect, appreciate and take care of places like these. The way I see it, having these spaces are not rights they are privileges.