Metro Manila, Spaces and Interaction

People living in the settlements are more in touch with the city than the people living in enclosed walls. What does it mean to be a citizen of San Juan? How do you embrace being a citizen of San Juan?

San Juan day is one of those days that the urban poor celebrate fiercely and with much enthusiasm. Running around the streets, dousing people with water and getting showered yourself in return is a mark of of celebrating your city. This activity, among others like the Sta Elena Fiesta, forges a stronger sense of belonging.


When I pass by neighbourhoods I’ve always remarked at how there are no government-built infrastructures that elevates quality of life for its citizens: public sports centres, public markets, community centre and city sponsored events.

But these things do exist, in a hodgepodge incarnation of what the community has built for itself. The busiest street intersections evolve into a market area, spacious roads with little traffic become defacto basketball courts, abandoned trailers become barangay halls that double as day cares and sometime funeral parlours, and what little open space remain in the cities become entertainment grounds when city hall decides to hold events. This is the barangay community and it has structured itself to become liveable in their own terms, and in them I see the city as a living thing, constantly growing, evolving.

Examine the city on a macro scale though, and the community have less and less of a role in the city’s growth.

City Hall has washed its hand of being its own quality of life director and handed over these rights to the mall system.The mall mandate is to develop properties into mix-use facilities that elevate art and culture, sports and entertainment, essentially anything that makes city life vibrant. This would have been okay in theory, but it has become not just a one-stop solution, but the one and only solution.


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