To transform Metro Manila | Inquirer Opinion
Saturday, August 18, 2018
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To transform Metro Manila

Toward the climax of World War II, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler commissioned a young architect named Albert Speer to transform the city of Berlin into a sprawling metropolis that would serve as the capital of the Fuhrer’s thousand-year German Reich.

Dubbed “Welthauptstadt Germania” (World Capital Germania), it was envisioned by Hitler as a megacity truly monumental, one that would set a new standard for construction and architecture at that time.

It was perhaps “the most ambitious planning scheme” of the modern era, according to a report by The New York Times,

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The Nazi architect designed a metropolis that would not only serve as the center of business and political activities of the Reich but also reflect the Germans’ national history, arts and culture.

There was to be a collection of structures — all decorated with Nazi symbols — intended to glorify German civilization.

Welthauptstadt Germania never became a reality following Nazi Germany’s capitulation to the victorious Allied forces, but the ambition and scale of this planned metropolis continue to fascinate me.

Thus, my fantasy of a renewed version of Metro Manila is largely inspired by the Fuhrer’s plans for his dream city.

Fast forward into the future. Let us say that 30 years from now, the Philippine government has miraculously managed to transform Metro Manila into one of the most livable in Southeast Asia.

It is now an impressive megacity that commands the respect of the world not only because it is now the center of economic activities in the Asean region, but also because, like the ancient cities of Babylon and Rome, it is where our nation’s history, culture and arts are magnified.

Tourists and residents alike find it hard to believe that three decades ago, the city of Manila was overcrowded, polluted and, to put it bluntly, lacking the beauty expected of a capital of a great nation.

In this renewed metropolis, Manila takes its place perfectly as the symbol of the Philippines’ success. Its streets are now clean and free of garbage and obstructions, and its Pantheon-like government monuments and structures are invariably impressive.

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Unlike before when Manila attracted the lowest number of foreign visitors as compared to its Southeast Asian neighbors, the makeover has quadrupled the number of tourist arrivals in the country.

Not only do these foreigners indulge themselves in the world-class hotels, theme parks and restaurants available everywhere in the capital, they also appreciate our country even more after visiting the museums, theaters and cultural centers that showcase Filipino culture and identity.

Indeed, foreign tourists can no longer look down on Filipinos and the Philippines after learning the rich history of the first democratic republic in Asia.

On the other hand, the cities of Makati, Pasig and Mandaluyong, as well as Quezon City are now the manifestation of the Philippines’ status as a newly developed nation.

In Asean’s de facto regional center for trade and commerce, these cities are now widely regarded as a gold mine and a land of opportunities for job seekers both local and from our Southeast Asian neighbors.

A newly arrived job seeker walking on these cities’ busy sidewalks for the first time would be overwhelmed by the massive skyscrapers.

Also noteworthy is the fact that there is no traffic congestion to endure anywhere, thanks to an efficient and modern interconnected subway train system built by the government around the metropolis.

Adding to commuters’ ease and comfort are wider roads equipped with elaborate traffic lights and surveillance cameras that work 24/7 and, not to forget, underpasses complete with escalators and walkalators that facilitate the safe passage of commuters and pedestrians alike.

In a country that is vulnerable to natural disasters, the transformation of Metro Manila is not merely about grandeur, beauty, and the accomplished aim to impress.

There is this old saying: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” With that in mind, the Philippine government, when it was reminded of the devastation that Tropical Storm “Ondoy” wrought on Metro Manila back in the year 2009, one of the critical projects that the Department of Public Works and Highways prioritized during the initial years of this “Metro Manila total makeover” was the construction of an efficient flood control system.

Similar to what the city of London built in the River Thames, the DPWH built numerous flood barriers in critical and flood-prone areas of the metropolis.

Thus, when a typhoon poses a threat, the Metro Manila government will simply have to wield the levers to activate the barriers and the residents can sleep peacefully without fear of flooding.

Let me end my narrative by quoting Jane Jacobs who once said that “[c]ities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

In writing this essay, I was impressed with myself on how fast I could come up with a remodeled future version of Metro Manila.

But as I proofread what I had been writing for hours, I realized that in reality, building this utopian version of Metro Manila would not be as easy as how I narrated it.

For Metro Manila to reach the level of development that I envisioned, the participation and effort of the government and the public sector are imperative. While an individual like myself can fantasize all I want about an infinitely impressive urban utopia, it just doesn’t work like that.

Cities are composed of people, and these same people are the ones that have the power to change their society.

* * *

Virgilio Angelo G. Gener, 27, is a graduate student of urban and regional planning at the University of the Philippines and a professorial lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila University.

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TAGS: adolf hitler, Albert Speer, Metro Manila, Urban Planning, Virgilio Angelo G. Gener, Welthauptstadt Germania, Young Blood
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