What divides our cities?
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What divides our cities?

Romar Fernando

July 1, 2020

  • Have you tried using Google Earth on your mobile phone or on desktop computer?

    Now, have you tried searching your local places in the mapping application? Have you tried plotting your location, the community you belong?

    There was once an architect and visual artist named Isola Tong. She was searching for green spaces in the country for one of her art projects. Upon her search, she came across images from Google Earth.

    Tong observed different cities, most especially in Metropolitan Manila. She took note of what divide cities and how they differ from each other from its aerial view. Cities were divided through roads and rivers as their boundaries and borders, natural and artificial boundaries and borders.

    And we’ve been so concerned about boundaries and borders these past few months because of the lockdown policies.

    But in terms boundaries and borders, Architect Tong was merely concerned about eye opener images brought by Google Earth.


    Screenshot from: Google Earth

    For an instance, the aerial view of Pasay and Makati cities, Eastwood in Quezon City and Santolan area in Pasig City, the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig and the downtown Makati, Loyola Heights in Quezon City and Barangka and Malanday in Marikina City, were seen as images of mismatch living and working conditions of Filipinos in the urban areas.


    Screenshot from: Google Earth

    For Tong, it also speaks about income inequality as clearly illustrated by seemingly highly dense areas and with those seen with green spaces and broad places. Inequality can be seen also on the mockery of residential and high-rise condominium buildings and cramped houses within peripheral communities.


    Screenshot from: Google Earth

    The real division in our cities is dignity. We should have the dignity in salary, housing, and transportation. The gap among boundaries and borders has no other move but to widen when privilege only gravitates to those who can pull it towards them, especially in this time of pandemic.


    Screenshot from: Google Earth

    Speaking to the Commoner, Tong traced these things from history. “I think the historical basis for this system goes back to the Spanish conquest of the Philippines. I call this the ‘Muralla System.’ I took it from the name of the street around the periphery of Intramuros, within the walls of the old colonial Manila. Muralla means ‘wall,” she said.

    “This double meaning of Muralla as a ‘wall’ and as a ‘peripheral street in Intramuros’ is a perfect metaphor for how centers of power and wealth are barricaded by roads and expressways. In the 16th century, it was between the Spanish conquistadors and the Tagalogs. In the 21st century, it is between income classes. What I’m saying is our society, even after going through so much, never really changed fundamentally since Spanish colonization. It’s the same ‘encomendero-indio’ relationshipーa non-inclusive, exclusionary, oppressive system which morphed into the current schizophrenia of oligarchs versus the masses,” she added.

    So, whenever you traverse on these territorial boundaries, these borders, let us be reminded that they are not just boundaries and borders but merely speak of how we move forward and advance as a nation.

    So, what divides your city from the other? Your community from the other?


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