Housecleaning and beautification needed | Inquirer Opinion
High Blood

Housecleaning and beautification needed

12:31 AM July 17, 2012

With this piece I may be branded a “philistine” who has an unliberal view of art. Nevertheless, I fully share the thoughts and sentiments of columnist Neal Cruz in his letter to Metro Manila Development Authority Chair Francis Tolentino (Inquirer, 6/4/12), or whichever agency was responsible, regarding the added “uglification” of Metro Manila (MM) caused by those paintings under the Cubao flyover and on the San Lorenzo fence.

I did try to give the mural under the Cubao flyover the benefit of the doubt after listening to the dissenting opinions of my husband and two sons (both graduates of the UST College of Fine Arts, one with a master’s degree in visual arts, and the other, a major in advertising). I looked at it from a distance to view it in perspective and to try to feel the minds and hearts of the artists. But after several reviews while driving through Edsa, what I felt was boredom and then a creeping sense of embarrassment for the city.

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The mural shows a continuous system of large pipe fittings that connect to a tiled portion of the underpass wall. Is that how MM comes across to the artist’s eye, as a toilet connected to a pozo negro? Could the artist be giving our city public works officials and planners something to think about by symbolically suggesting how MM impresses people like him? I remember how, years ago, the actress Claire Danes, while filming here, vilified Manila as dirty, stinking, and full of rats and cockroaches, and how then President Erap banned her from ever returning. I also wrote to this paper then that perhaps Danes just needed a spanking and a washing of her mouth with soap. But I also suggested that we should not be balat-sibuyas (onion-skinned), and, rather, turn her negative comments into positive by doing the necessary physical improvements in this “city of our affections,” to borrow the words of the late great writer, Nick Joaquin.

To whoever approved those ugly murals: We have enough ugly social realities in MM that beset us every day. Please have those murals changed right away into more inspiring images that can be found all over our country, as suggested by Mr. Cruz. This is not just for tourism purposes but also to serve as an education and source of pride for commuters, many of whom may not have the chance to travel and see the Philippines’ natural and cultural beauty and bounty.

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Idea: Painting heart-lifting murals may be made a project or thesis of art students in universities. Will Boysen (or civic-spirited

offices/institutions) still be willing to sponsor?

And while on this subject of making MM physically appealing, may I call the attention of certain offices and institutions on the following ideas:

Meralco and PLDT and other telecommunications companies: Please untangle the mess of dark, dirty and intertwining cables hanging on the sides of streets everywhere. “The Bourne Legacy” shot here was able to make use of them, but now that filming is over and Manila will soon be shown to the world for the mess it is, it’s time to fix it in order to lure other filmmakers to show a neater, if not prettier, city.

MMDA and mayors and councilors: Please reposition those sidewalk lampposts, which are a confused salad of taste and/or lack of it. Some look like they should be in children’s parks or a circus. Others are stylish but incongruous to their location. Still others are disproportionate to the size of the sidewalks and buildings, or haphazardly positioned behind trees or signboards. Yet others need new bulbs. Happily, some lampposts, like those on the España stretch, look  elegant and especially suited to the heritage site that is UST, which has similarly classic-looking lamps in its campus. Why can’t we have the same consistent design at least in all the major MM avenues?

Also, invoke the civic conscience of estate owners and help them with the means to plant shady (fruit) trees, or repair and repaint their old buildings, from which they can only stand to profit both materially and aesthetically.

National Commission for Culture and the Arts, National Historical Commission, and trade and tourism departments:  Identify heritage sites like buildings and houses in MM and engage with or advise owners on how to repair, redesign and furnish them based on the period they were built and how to make them culturally and financially useful (e.g., turn them into mini-museums, cultural offices, libraries, student music bars/canteens or curio shops). Idea: Can these be used as practicum for students of fine arts and tourism?

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And can the façade of the Paco train station still be integrated in the design of whatever is to be built there? I also hope the GSIS building is not torn down but rehabilitated. These are examples of two heritage sites of the classic art deco era, which has been a major influence on our architects, artists, designers, etc.

Finally, calling all mayors of the nine MM cities: Please let your beautification committees plan together and don’t leave the decision-making to the city councilors and their purchasing officers. If they must spend our taxes for housecleaning and beautifying MM, they must do so cooperatively, judiciously, rationally and, of course, with an educated taste for what is true, good and beautiful (but not necessarily expensive).

Ma. Corazon C. Despabiladeras, 65, continues to serve as communication and editorial consultant after retirement from DevCom and advertising work. She now devotes her time to writing children’s storybooks angled on character formation, love of country and environment care.

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TAGS: cubao flyover, featured column, MMDA, murals, street art
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