Anyone who has been to Singapore or traveled on the tollways of Malaysia will know what plants, flowers and clinging vines can do to ease the harshness of a humid tropical climate meeting hard concrete infrastructure. Singapore is as urban and cosmopolitan a city as it gets, yet they have found a way to blend nature with the architectural marvels of concrete and steel. Less than the size of Metro Manila, Singapore still managed to set aside wide expanses of green — from parks to vines covering overpasses in the busy central districts.
There was a time when Manila seemed more livable, when there were more open spaces and trees providing refreshing shade during warm summer days. There weren’t as many cars then and the air we breathed was cleaner. I may sound like an old man yearning for the good old days but it simply is the truth… those were the good old days indeed and we need not sacrifice progress to have those old green days back, as Singapore has shown.
Between the malls and the condos and public officials with no regard for heritage and quality of life, we have transformed Metro Manila into the quintessential stressful urban jungle. The world renowned urban planner Daniel Burnham, who believed that an ideal city could be both beautiful and commercially efficient, actually drew the plans for Manila in the early 1900s and for Baguio as well.
Burnham provided for open spaces to serve as the lungs of a metropolis and wide avenues of which only today’s Roxas Boulevard survived but no longer with Manila Bay’s legendary sunset in the background. Urban sprawl has invaded the bay side too killing the opportunity for romantic leisurely walks along the breakwater which our generation enjoyed. In Manila as in Baguio, the marvelous plans of Daniel Burnham lost out to unmanaged urbanization as we can see today.
So what can we do about it? In so many words, we can raise a fuss and do our share. We can make our sentiments felt loud and clear to our metro officials that we are fed up with this anarchy in our midst. We can let private sector property and mall developers know that they need to practice responsibility and temper their voracious appetite for covering every square inch of open space with concrete and steel. We can do our share by cleaning and greening our environment… by being responsible for the places where we live… planting trees and flowering plants or otherwise using the ability of Mother Nature to brighten our lives.
It isn’t all aesthetics, however. We have to show more respect to Mother Nature also because our lives depend on it. We have seen how Mother Nature can fight back all these years of abuse, by taking life and property as what happened some years ago with Typhoon Ondoy. We have to go out beyond our comfort zones and lead greening efforts of citizen groups. The job of replanting can seem daunting but it can be done, one tree at a time. My niece, Gina proved this, when she replanted the La Mesa Dam reservoir. One of our companies, EDC, is also doing what it can when it launched the “Binhi” program, four years ago. This is a ten year replanting program of rare endemic Philippine trees who’s goal is to cover 10,000 hectares throughout the country.
Let’s all be part of a citizenry that is conscious of what Mother Nature can do and likewise do our part to reduce the stresses on city life. This is part of our social responsibility as Lopez employees, and more importantly, as Filipinos.
It’s good to go green.
OSCAR M. LOPEZ