FOREMOST of all, the people of Bacolod and its officials deserve congratulations.
Bacolod was awarded the prestigious honor of being the Top Philippine Model City besting 145 others as the most livable urban center in the country. The distinction was given by The Manila Times, the country’s oldest newspaper, in a search whose selection committee was chaired by well-known Filipino architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr.
The city topped other shortlisted entrants in peace and security, rest and recreation, research and development, health and education, clean and green, road and home, livelihood and employment, youth and elders, tax and services, emergency or disaster preparedness.
This was not the first recognition the city received in such survey. In the past it has been adjudged as best place to live by various publications and organizations.
According to Mayor Evelio Leonardia, it is his administration’s ambition to make Bacolod a global investment haven. He plans to mobilize city officials and employees, as well as residents to develop a culture of excellence for the city to achieve its coveted status as a premiere destination for international investors and tourists.
The Mayor could not have been more right in his statement to engage the people of Bacolod and nurture in them a mindset of greatness. A city’s soul and preeminence is best characterized by the disposition and behavior of its inhabitants complemented by the grandeur of its infrastructure and institutions. It is the duty of local leaders to cultivate among its dwellers a feeling of pride in their own contribution and a shared sense of purpose and community among them to find that soul.
There are a number of things wherein the city needs people involvement and discipline in the effort to make Bacolod surpass its latest award and soar to new heights in the list of modern cosmopolitan habitats. A peek at a famous Bacolod landmark serves as a suggestion to help achieve this dream.
Bacolod citizens must demand the taking back of the streets surrounding public markets and pathways of public and private business establishments from market stalls, illegal and otherwise. These streets must be reallocated to vehicle traffic to address the deepening road congestion due to the unabated explosion in car volumes. The alleys must revert to the pedestrians so they will not be perennially bumped off to the roadways where they obstruct vehicle flow and endanger themselves.
These stalls are not only unsightly; they represent the tyranny of the minority because of political exigency. They must be removed and the streets and walkways restored to their original use. And the public should be the first to register their approval the day the Mayor decides to put his popularity on the line for the greater good. Without a doubt, Burgos, Libertad, Central markets and the surrounding private commercial buildings when free of these decrepit and obtrusive structures would be a lovely spectacle worthy of comparison to other world-class urban centers.
Stall owners, as patriotic citizens, must gladly give up whatever imagined rights they have for the interest of the city they profess to love. Otherwise, the full force of the law should be brought to bear, notwithstanding the few hundred votes likely to be lost by the incumbents come election day.
But of course, there is a way to manage the possible backlash from this seemingly drastic but obviously long-delayed move. The city can look into the possibility of establishing another public market in a strategic point along the Circumferential Road where these market stalls can be relocated. It should be noted that east of this major thoroughfare many subdivisions had been opened (in fact, more are under development), yet residents have to travel all the way to the big three for their needs. This proposal requires substantial planning and investment, but the time to start decongesting the city center and make it a sight to behold and a joy to be in is now.
The horrendous gridlock that motorists endure is another issue that requires the cooperation of the public, if Bacolod is to stake its claim to excellence. Enforcers are there to implement traffic rules but the real challenge is to educate Bacolod travelers to observe these guidelines voluntarily because it is the decent thing to do.
Vehicles must stop properly in designated areas only; leave pedestrian and right lanes in intersections open for the reason that other people will be inconvenienced, if drivers did not. Motorists must not go against the flow of traffic to be first when the light turns green because it is unkind and disrespectful of other drivers.
The test of any driving action should be common sense and basic decency and not the fear of apprehension or being issued a ticket. The paradigm that people of Bacolod must develop is one that puts general welfare and public interest before selfish individual comfort. Road discipline and orderliness in the streets make traveling less stressful and enjoyable, qualities expected of highly livable places.
The City Plaza is a historical location that had seen its heyday but can potentially draw positive public review if creatively redesigned. It is in a pathetic state enjoying only the barest maintenance effort that belies its former glory as the capital’s cool refuge from the bustle and hustle of city life.
It deserves to be renovated and forever be delivered from the ignominy of being a site for commercial activities, such as a flea market that not only obstructs traffic but deprives the public of the sight and ambience of an open space that a plaza is supposed to be by definition.
Every great community has a well-appointed park where people congregate and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. Manila has Luneta, Quezon City has Quezon Memorial Circle, and New York City has Central Park. The Bacolod City Plaza is a gorgeous space to be left alone like a second thought.
Welcome to chic and sophisticated Bacolod dreaming.