As I See It

Those ugly paintings in the underpasses


Beginning Monday, traffic in Metro Manila will ease while those on the highways going to the provinces will begin to get worse as the annual migration from the crowded cities to the vast open spaces and fresh air of the provinces progresses during the Holy Week. This human migration is as regular and as predictable as the annual migration of the great herds of wildebeests, zebras, impalas, buffaloes and elephants in Africa.

My granddaughter, who endures the daily traffic jams to her school, was surprised one Good Friday when I took the family to a Visita Iglesia to selected churches in the metropolis and she found the streets almost empty.

“Where have all the vehicles gone, Lolo?” she asked.

“Right now, they’re strung out on the highways going to the provinces,” I replied. “The traffic jams have been transferred there.”

“Is that what happens every Good Friday?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Can’t the President make every day Good Friday so there would be no traffic every day?” she asked in all innocence.

“Great idea,” I said, “but unfortunately he can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Powerful as he is, that’s not one of the things he can do.”


“Because…” I knew that when the little girl started asking that one word, I couldn’t win as many other grandfathers had found out before me. So I distracted her with the story of Jesus to change the subject. She sat in the car quietly, thinking.

“Does Jesus go to the provinces, away from the city during Holy Week?” she asked suddenly.

“No, He doesn’t. He’s everywhere,” I said.

“So why do people chase Him to the provinces every Holy Week?”

I knew I would never have the answers to all her questions so I stopped by a tienda at the side of the road and bought her some ice cream. With her mouth full of ice cream, she wasn’t able to ask questions.

* * *

Who commissioned or authorized or approved those murals on the sides of the underpasses on Edsa? The paintings show nothing but brown plumbing pipes and tubes such as you see on the undersides of buildings, the most unsightly sights of any building. That is why ceilings are put under them to hide them from sight. So it is hard to understand why these ugly plumbing fixtures were chosen to be the subject of the paintings on the sides of the underpasses. Other underpasses are being cleaned to prepare them for more of these paintings.

I don’t know who the painter or painters are, nor who gave them the idea, nor under whose responsibility the project is. Is it under the supervision and control of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, the Department of Public Works and Highways, or local government units? Were small studies of the paintings shown to whoever had the last say on the project and did he approve them? Why?

I saw a small painted sign on a mural that said it is a project of Boysen Paints, so it is a good guess that the paint was donated by Boysen. And it would seem that Boysen has an excess supply of brown paint. Boysen is a good quality paint; I use it myself for my house. But why a monotonous brown on the underpasses? If you mix together all the colors of paints (red, green, blue, yellow, violet, orange, etc.) you come out with brown. So this is probably the reason—to use all the excess paints.

What the underpasses need is light, plenty of it. (So do the pedestrian overpasses.) The underpasses and overpasses are so dark that a pedestrian can be held up or raped there without anyone witnessing the crime. Lights have been installed in the underpasses but they are not enough. The underpasses are still so dark that entering one of them is like entering a cave or a tomb.

As for the pedestrian overpasses, they are so dark that many pedestrians are afraid to use them at night and would rather risk being run over on the street below rather than risk being robbed or raped on an overpass. Indeed, there are many incidents of holdups in these overpasses. My own elder granddaughter, a teacher, was robbed of her cell phone and money on the Philcoa overpass.

If the sides of the underpasses have to be painted, why not use light colors, instead of various shades of brown, to help brighten up the place? And instead of the ugly plumbing fixtures, why not paint happy scenes of the countryside to entice tourists, local and foreign, to visit our tourist spots? Why did the painter choose to paint the ugly side of the city? The Department of Tourism should have a say on this.

If you see vast fields of grain with nipa huts, carabaos and egrets, and clouds of mayas flying over the fields, and cottony clouds over blue mountains in the distance, won’t you be enticed to go to the province and savor the good life? Life is hard enough in the city, why make it more depressing by showing the ugly side of it? I don’t see the purpose of these brown plumbing devices, which depress the motorist as he enters the dim confines of the underpasses.

Will somebody please stop making an already ugly city uglier by flaunting the city’s ugly plumbing through these ugly paintings?

* * *

KAPIHAN NOTES: Today being Holy Monday, there will be no Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel and no lunch at the Pan Pacific Hotel. The Kapihan and lunch will be resumed next Monday, April 9.

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Tags: holy week , Lent , Philippines , Religion , Tradition , traffic , Transportation

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