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Looking Back

Quezon City then and now

The general rules laid down for the growth and development of Quezon City were simple: First, public land was set aside for the future needs of the community as a whole. Second, since it was not possible to stop the exploitation of this public land by people with motives inconsistent with the public good, the plan was to retard exploitation of the land by keeping it in the hands of the government rather than the private sector.

Diliman was planned as the heart of Quezon City, the “Capital City of the Philippines,” and the greater part of it was supposed to be residential. On the sides of buildings for the executive branch of government and the Supreme Court was to be the diplomatic and official center of the metropolis. All business establishments were to remain in Manila. The residential areas in Diliman were to be divided and issued to people from all socioeconomic levels, with “greatest care” demanded for the housing of the poor:

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“Low Rental Homes: Housing for workingmen must be substantial and sanitary. The economics in planning for low rental homes begin with the street lay-out. To utilize the natural drainage, they are sloped to the center to insure positive and rapid drainage. Cost-saving feature is the omission of unnecessary streets. By locating streets on ground that is lower than the level of the building lots, by exercising great care to adapt natural drainage, money and land will be conserved.

“Subsidy: for without it the workingman’s village will fall below accepted standards.

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“Adobe stone is found in abundance in this district. By designing houses with walls of this material, and by taking advantage of sloping sites, attractive low-cost houses can be designed having floor levels suited to the ground, with the minimum of leveling. There is opportunity in Quezon City and especially in Diliman, for the architect who is in sympathy with the use of local materials and the economic problems inherent in building workingmen’s communities.

“Group Housing: Group housing requires the minimum of street area and construction, promotes safety and conserves land.

“Arterial Roads: For Diliman, for the other areas owned by the government and for the entire city which includes large undivided estates, a network of main streets has been laid out to meet the broad needs of traffic. Regarded as an essential part of the arterial road program will be the planting and care of shade trees.

“Local Streets: The properties to be subdivided by private owners as well as by the Government will be made accessible to the Arterial Roads by local streets. Local streets should be treated as purely accessory to home building.”

Common sense, it seems, is not common because such simple things as planting and maintaining shady trees on the arterial roads were not fully implemented, or maybe what was originally planted have been cut down, depriving us today of much needed shade from the heat and a buffer to pollution. When you fly over Metro Manila, you will see that the only green areas left are the University of the Philippines Diliman campus, the Ateneo de Manila University campus, parts of La Mesa Dam, and Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center. There are open spaces left, like Quezon Memorial Circle and the Veterans Memorial Medical Center grounds, but they are slowly being built on. Let’s hope these parks and open spaces are not covered up with more shopping malls.

The master plan for Quezon City included:

“Parks: This means space for public recreations. One hectare of park for each 2,500 people has been used as a general guide or rule-of-thumb to determine the extent of the park system.

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“But large parks for the occasional use of all the people will be developed on sites that have natural beauty. Parks in this class will include strips along waterways, where many scenic retreats are suitable for sports and picnics. There will be available to the people of Quezon City for recreation within its boundaries a gross total of about 1,500 hectares.”

It was the duty of private land owners or developers to donate lots for schools and playgrounds: “One hectare is needed for schools and public recreations for each twenty hectares of land to be subdivided.” All businesses and markets were to remain in Manila to make it easier to build the new city, with business centers planned with provisions for traffic. “There should be no retail business on narrow streets.”

All the national and city offices were allotted sites in Quezon City, including Congress, the Library of Congress, National Archives, city cemeteries, Philippine Military Academy, the Supreme Court, etc., making it not just the capital but also the capitol city. If you go around Quezon Memorial Circle, you will see some of the government offices that were available to build around it.

One can only read all these original plans and know that we cannot go back to square one. But instead of griping, we can look back at these plans for Manila and Quezon City and see how life can be better. We cannot change the past, but we can make the future. As Rizal said, we can “enter the future with a memory of the past.”

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Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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TAGS: Diliman, housing, master plan, Parks, Quezon City, Roads
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