Open up historic sports complex to public instead of selling it
The city government of Manila wants to sell the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex (RMSC) to a private developer that has plans to turn the place into a commercial and business hub. In a city where the poor are starved of recreational facilities, this is one place they can’t afford to lose.
Consider, for example: To escape the oppressive heat of the slums, many of the city’s poor jump into the dirty waters of Manila Bay, and even into filthy canals at the risk of getting sick or being infected with an illness. To play basketball, they cordon off streets, thereby messing up the traffic.
If the RMSC were to open its gates to the public, then even the poor can swim and play in dignity and safety. For sustainability, minimal entrance fees could be charged. Scientific studies have established the connection between sports and health, whether mental or physical. Since our officials want to eliminate drug use, they should look into the connection between sports and health.
The RMSC is considered a masterpiece by the standards of Filipino art deco and it reminds us that, back in the 1930s, Manila was one of the world’s premier cities. But heritage conservation is not only about preserving a site because of history and art, it is also about finding new uses.
Transforming the RMSC into a people’s sports complex will open other possibilities. It could be the venue of a yearly sports festival to bring together Manila’s different districts and neighborhoods and instill among its residents a sense of belonging and oneness, and civic pride. By attracting people from all over the city, it could draw potential customers to the nearby Harrison Plaza, which the city wants to see revitalized. And by giving ordinary citizens access to its sports facilities, the RMSC may yet become a source of future Olympic champions.
FERNANDO ZIALCITA, Cultural Heritage Studies Program, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ateneo de Manila University
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