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#DearErap: Manila Day letters

Joseph Ejercito Estrada
Mayor-Elect, City of Manila
598 Manga St., Sta. Mesa, Manila

Dear Mayor Erap,

I know many have already expressed their messages of good will to you but I'd like to add one more — congratulations on your victory! 

I am Stephen Pamorada, a college student at De La Salle University, a heritage conservation advocate and a Manila resident for 19 years. I have lived in Manila almost my entire life, and I’ve seen many of her problems worsen.

Manila is not just another city in the Philippines — it’s the capital city, and supposedly it should best reflect the image of our beloved nation.

However, she is losing her character due to the submersion of the city into nightmarish traffic and pollution brought by unstoppable urbanization, as well as neglect of arts, culture and history — particularly the heritage structures which I am passionately advocating to be preserved and restored.

I still believe that with political will and the right decision-making, we can bring back the glory days of our city.

In light of these, I would like to express my concerns on two particular problems in Manila which badly need to be addressed:

1. Please clean and fix the Divisoria area

I’ve been living in Manila my whole life and seen many administrations come and go with little or no action being done.

The traffic is horrible all year round and the vendors are everywhere. The area is at its worst at night when everyone is allowed to set up their stalls. They build a labyrinth that makes it difficult to pass through the area.

I am not against vendors; they just need to be organized. Please reprimand those who are abusive and think of themselves as rulers of the streets, especially those vendors along Recto Avenue.

Proper waste management should be implemented because people just throw their garbage on the street. This leads to foul-smelling streets and clogged drainages.

I’ve also seen for myself the corruption happening in this area. For instance, Divisoria is only cleaned by the police when the mayor visits the area. After he leaves, it’s back to the normal messy state. Kotong is rampant, especially along Juan Luna street before Recto. I believe the place has not been fully cleaned up because of the so-called lagay, which protects them.

If you will clean this place, fix the traffic and remove the corrupt policemen, people from all walks of life — especially those who are afraid of the crimes and other negative impressions of Divisoria — will visit this place without having to risk their belongings and endure the mess.

If you would put the vendors in order, especially at night, it can be developed into a wonderful night market and eventually become a popular tourist destination. 

WASTED HERITAGE. A tourist takes a photo of a decaying building in Escolta, once Manila's thriving financial district. Photo by Pia Ranada

WASTED HERITAGE. A tourist takes a photo of a decaying building in Escolta, once Manila's thriving financial district.

Photo by Pia Ranada

2. Promote arts and culture and preserve Manila’s heritage

This, I believe, is the best way to bring back the glory of Manila.

Manila is losing her unique character and is struggling to get back her soul. The once-famed Paris of Asia before World War II is now saturated by malls, condos and nondescript buildings.

I hope you will save those remaining pre-war buildings, houses and monuments that are architecturally and historically significant, as also mandated by the Heritage Law of 2009 (RA 10066).

You can also give tax exemptions or subsidies to restoring them. Sadly, residents and owners of these structures choose to demolish these beautiful structures and replace them with less-significant modern buildings because of the heavy taxes they have to pay and the difficulty of preserving such built heritage.

Connected to this issue is the preservation of green parks and the creation of more of them to save our city from pollution and improve quality of life.

Believe me, Sir, if you will do this, Manila will be a major tourist destination. It will generate revenue and serve as a model for the rest of the nation.

Intense commercialization is not the only way to save the city. While you are pushing for urban renewal, we hope you will see the importance of many heritage structures waiting to be noticed.

Please also retain the Manila Historical and Heritage Commission and appoint young intellectuals who are creative and knowledgeable in the field. I hope you will lead the restoration of heritage structures like the Metropolitan Theater, Post Office, Meralco Headquarters, Paco Railway Station and the Escolta district.  

I would also like to suggest that you promote arts and culture since this is the soul of the city. It can be in the form of public art which brings local culture closer to the people (not just to the elite).

Please also support the efforts of some individuals who have art galleries and cultural activities, like 98B, Casa Tesoro and the Manila Collectible Co. You must make good use of many artists and cultural enthusiasts out there who are willing to share their talents as well as their fresh ideas to carry out projects in Manila.

Manila is presently in a now-or-never state when it comes to rehabilitation. If we don't do anything today, she might never regain the glory she deserves.

Almost everyone I know is optimistic about your plans for change. I know you face the colossal challenge of reviving the city. I am willing to be part of your efforts, politics aside.

While everyone is congratulating you on your victory, real victory will only happen if we see light dawn on our beloved Capital City. I know you have everything it takes to influence and inspire many Manileños as the Chief Executive of the City.

We all know that 3 years is too short to implement all your plans for the city but we look forward to the foundation you will lay down for the next generations of Manila mayors.

We will continue to watch our votes and see if your platform will be implemented. Good luck on all your endeavours and more power to you.

Mabuhay ang Lungsod ng Maynila! (Long live the city of Manila!)

Sincerely,
Stephen John A. Pamorada
Concerned Citizen

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