NOT sand, stone, steel and cement. Yes, humans, not structures. And urban development planning is something that most urban officials are not prepared or trained to do because their concept of development is myopic or blinkered, at worse, politically drawn.
As a result what we often get are more problems and conflicts amid the sprawling infrastructure and so-called modern amenities.
I am not and I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject. I am more of a builder of communities, and by that I always put humans at the center of the subject, and the equitable and dynamic integration of human beings, environment and the state in charge of the so-called social order and functionality.
Putting humans at the center of any development planning means not only ensuring them all the amenities and conveniences of modern urban life, but also living with dignity and in harmony with a well-cared environment free from lethal floods, landslides, extreme heat and other natural disasters.
Unfortunately, many of our urban planners and developers follow the mindset and frameworks whose principal consideration is profit and super profits.
They often complicate land use and development planning according to the interests of big business and foreign investors who have little regard for humanity and environment, if at all they have any.
They put industrial zone side by side residential and agricultural zones but with poor waste management and anti-pollutant systems, thus still affecting the neighboring zones, worse contaminating agricultural production in many ways than one.
They erect commercial buildings and malls in population-packed areas, suffocating already dense urban communities and slums with noise, toxic odor, waste, floods and other pollutants.
They introduce structures and systems that consume so much electricity and water, draining our water and energy resources faster than the physical development itself, and often leaving human communities and vast agricultural countryside with little for production and sustainable growth.
They establish government offices in highly commercial areas, thus conveniently inviting commercialization of any government-business transactions, either by a government official or a government unit.
They cut trees, destroy rivers and scenery, and replace them with walls, buildings, neon lights and synthetic decoration which often demonstrate the cacophony and irony of the minds of traditional architects and ravenous developers.
In all, what we get is perverted and destructive progress causing more and worsening environmental and social devastation.
So here I am reminding everyone again that building human communities takes more than the engineers and development planners’ mastery of sand, stone, steel, cement, and the strengths and designs of structures.
We need the right appreciation of our human communities, their fears and anxieties, needs, hopes and aspirations – which I consider the solid foundations of any urban development.
It is also a must that we see the links between urban and rural, agriculture and industries, human practices and environmental condition, even the dynamic relation of the rich and poor, and proceed from there with fair restraint towards achieving a great harmony of our human goals and activities with the condition and demands of our environment.
We build communities not on the strength and designs of materials and structures, but on the strength of the unity in spirit and goals of human beings.
Johan van Lengen a practitioner of barefoot architecture always reminded his fellows that when we build a house, we are also building a home, and that a grouping of homes, each with its own harmony, will comprise a harmonious community, a productive and healthy settlement of human beings.
Bacolod City officials, or those who will take over the city after elections, and those in cities of similar state, must take a longer look at the way they allow the kind of development in the places entrusted to them.
They must begin assessing whether the development they pursue puts the needs, welfare and aspirations of the people at the center of everything, or not.
Anything that does not make our people more humane is not development, but destruction.*
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