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.

Butchart Gardens: The Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Canada also provide a park with thousands of flower varieties. Not only does this educate people about the plants and crops but it also gives national pride to the locals.

Vancouver: Vancouver, Canada has various park trails and treks with different difficulty levels. It natural for them to commune with nature as they enjoy the small parks and open spaces scattered throughout the city

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.

Banff, Canada: Aside from parks, Banff, Canada boasts of its pristine turquoise lakes from melt water of glacial ice. Tourists and locals alike can canoe in one of these lakes and enjoy the majesty of its surrounding mountains. This experience definitely is one that leaves a long lasting memory that money cannot buy. Are there such experiences in Manila? Perhaps.

Central Park New York: Central Park in New York has a ridiculously huge amount of open space at the heart of the bustling city. The park is kept clean and serves as a breather on weekends for the locals of fast-paced New York. This park is ALWAYS used and New York is not complete without a stroll in this park. Is a tourist’s visit incomplete without a stroll at Luneta Park? I am skeptical.

Trafalgar Square: Trafalgar Square in London is a fine example of a well-used plaza right smack in the heart of the city. This plaza is filled with people, local and tourists alike on ANY given day. It is a space that serves the public and provides quality of life. However, people here are equally responsible for the trash they leave and bring with them. This, in turn is their social responsibility.




  • Aircon sa mall..

    Parang magulo masyado sa labas…mainit at polluted, walang covered linkway na tuloy-tuloy mula mrt station to mall to park… pagdating sa park wala din naman pwede mapanood.. or maging libangan… maganda cgro may public artwork/exhibit. pwede magselfie! Or fountain or lightshow… habang nasa ilalim ng puno… pero dapat punong-puno ng puno… para palage may silong kahit san maglakad… dami potential sa atin… marikina river, pasig river… manila bay… cgro pwedr icompare un potential ng maynila sa singapura atbp mainit na lugar kasi halos pareho klima… mainit sa atin.. kng pwede or kaya natin gawing garden city ang maynila… ndi kasi cgro inviting ang public parks sa atin.. maliban sa panahon baka seguridad din.. ndi ren cgro accessible..kulang cgro connectivity ng naglalakad at nagbibisikletang masa.. pero potential talaga meron tayu! Urban, Landscape architects, artists and architects.. at sana mga tayu ren mismo… sana kaya naten!

    Un nga lang…aircon is da best!

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