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Discovering Manila’s ‘gated communities’

/ 10:31 PM November 13, 2013

I am often invited to attend medical meetings sponsored by pharmaceutical companies held in plush hotels or restaurants in Metro Manila. I enjoy attending such meetings where I get to listen to well-known experts lecturing on the latest concepts about drugs or diseases. Aside from the sumptuous dinner that precedes the lectures, I get to exchange small talk with fellow doctors and, of course, interact with the lecturers in the open forum.

How did I ever get to be aware of the existence of “gated communities”? About two months ago I read in a weekly news magazine about a balikbayan who bought a unit in the 40th floor of an expensive condominium. One day as he looked out he caught sight of an expanse of shanties that extended and spread as far as he could see. He went out for a close-up look of the place and saw squalor, with residents mostly living near a dirty creek. He also got the impression that many children were not in school.

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The sights made him think: How could I be living in a place so immaculately clean and kept safe and orderly by security men, who also direct the traffic in its streets; a place where you don’t see a bedraggled man or a woman or little boys and girls begging? A place where even the trees and hedgerows are so well tended? The balikbayan said that is how he came to understand what is meant by gated communities—no fences, just security people to sanitize the place.

In my five-year sojourn in Houston, Texas, to complete my postgraduate training, I cannot recall seeing a gated community or even a semblance of it out there. Ditto in the other big cities I have visited.

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I think Manila city proper is where you see the true face of the Philippine economy: old men or women bent with age, carrying a sack filled with scavenged materials, hurrying to the nearest junk shop to sell their “goods” for a few pesos; or a man pushing a rickety cart loaded with discards on top of which sit three children, and beside him a pregnant woman. No one bothers with them. Truly this is a city that will not care about human rights violations. These scenes of poverty pale in comparison to the mass misery in many other places in our land, which we see regularly in investigative TV documentaries.

It was only after I read the man’s article that I became aware of gated communities. I have known fashion shows with socialite models and wealthy matrons parading their exquisitely made gowns by high-priced couturiers for “charity,” and these events are well-publicized in leading newspapers. These are some examples of what magnifies the gap between the haves and have-nots.

—ALBERTO DAYSOG JR., MD,

San Juan de Dios Hospital,

Pasay City

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TAGS: Gated communities, Letters to the Editor, MANILA, opinion
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