Ombion: Bacolod, a model city


OR IS it a livable city?

Well, whatever is the award reaped anew by the City Government of Bacolod, let's give our praise to its officials. I am sure they have done something better, whatever that is, that must have impressed the sponsors and donors of the competition.

I have lots of questions to the sponsors especially their criteria for a model city, but I'll shelve it for future scrutiny. I would like instead to focus on some fundamentals of the issue.

For someone like me who has lived in Bacolod for a generation, got my early schooling here, have my parents died and buried here, witnessed the physical transformation of the city, known who is who in Bacolod society from rags to riches, experienced its dark years, my immediate reaction to the award was -- ay tuod, ang ano, diin, paano (is it true, about what, where, how)?

I am sorry, I don't mean to offend anyone. I have just been honed in critical, pedagogic and scientific culture that lead me to see the award as very awkward to accept because I couldn't really associate everything in the award with the historical transformation and contemporary realities of Bacolod.

My first question is, model of what?

If of good local governance, then forget it, because nothing substantive has changed in the city for decades. Doing business with the city one has to pass through crooks in the city government and shell out grease money. This is a nightmare for small and starter entrepreneurs.

City Land Use Plan is not updated. In fact, the city land use planning system is reactive to developers, speculators and contractors rather than comprehensive

, integrative and inclusive.

So the value of lands keep increasing to the disadvantaged of the already disadvantaged poor and middle class Bacolodnon. Worse, a number of developers are not compliant with their obligations to the city government and the city's poor as provided for under the Republc Act 10884 (Balanced Housing Development Program Amendment Act), and yet they are given construction permits.

The Local Development Plan hardly reflects the issues and interests of the marginalized sectors because its Local Development Council is dominated by politicians with warped mindset along with their favored Civil Society Organizations and people's organizations who are but minority and voiceless. The same is true with Local Special Bodies.

If it is about being a smart, green and resilient city, give it to the dogs. Its urban planning is so piecemeal and reactive that even its drainage system and sewage treatment plans are so poor that they cause massive floods in a large part of the city. Trees and park lands are shoot down to give way to commercial buildings and malls. Building designs are of western and European models that they lack adequate ventilation and therefore rely on aircons and huge lightings that consume so much power.

Livable for whom? If one talk of hotels and resorts, and newly built condos and flashy subdivisions, on top of old rich hubs in the city, they are indeed livable, less hassles and less crimes but only the rich and the richer can afford.

If one's life revolve only around the long stretch of Lacson street, east bloc, market square, and Golden field, life is certainly a big fun only if one has his pocket full.

If the exhibition sponsor sees the bigger picture, like living in urban barangays and in the periphery barangays adjacent with sugarlands which have become crowded by the year, surely, life is not livable at all. Lack of water, often brownouts, lack of public transport services, oft-neighborhood quarrels, more crimes, make these communities simply like hell.

Compounding these, majority remain poor as evidence by rampant odd jobbers, over-spilling public markets, retail stores, roadside eateries and many other hand to mouth earning and existence.

Public health clinics are limited and poorly equipped to handle even first aids. Public schools are overcrowded. Most rivers and canals are polluted, so much that project like esplanade is misplaced, and waste of taxpayers money.

Surely, definitely, certainly, I really wanted Bacolod to be a model and livable city but how serious and prepared is the city to address its economic, political and social costs?

A livable city is more than just aesthetics and infrastructures. It's about building a society of communities and homes where people live in prosperity with dignity and in harmony with nature.

The city's award is good for display at the National Government Center as accolade for its officials. But essentially and practically, it is out of place. Worse, an insult to the human senses and decency of Bacolodnon and Negrosanon.

My unsolicited advice to the city officials, take a deep breath, open wide your eyes, and see ground realities through that piece of award, and say hallelujah.


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