MANILA, Philippines – Seeking government help can be frustrating in the Philippines, where it’s common to be ignored or to endure a long wait for even simple requests to be heeded. Such experiences have prodded most Filipinos to not even make the effort.
A fresh graduate’s experience, however, may change this mindset.
Francis Caiga, an Ateneo de Manila University political science graduate, managed to get the Quezon City (QC) local government to create new pedestrian lanes in key junctures along Katipunan Avenue at the corners of Rosa Alvero and F. Dela Rosa in just a week.
What Caiga managed to achieve in the largest city in Metro Manila went viral on Twitter, something that he did not anticipate when he made the request on May 17, and tweeting the developments on this request.
“Honestly I was shocked with the number of people reacting to my transparency post. All I really wanted to do was to show others that things do still work at the local government level, which is usually presumed to not be working, or which does not listen to people,” he told Rappler.
Caiga’s feat is a culmination of his advocacy for safer roads and active mobility, which developed in his senior year of college.
Behind the request
On May 17, Caiga made a phone call to the concerned Quezon City government unit to request repairs on the sidewalk curb along Shakey’s Katipunan, and to have pedestrian crossings along Rosa Alvero and F. Dela Rosa streets.
According to a document provided by the Quezon City engineering department’s road maintenance division, requests for road repairs can be submitted through phone calls, letters, or walk-ins at the Quezon City Hall Compound.
The estimated period for the process for sidewalk repairs of the road maintenance division is 22 days – seven days for a district engineer to inspect the concerned area and 15 days for maintenance work. The approval of the request depends on the availability of materials needed for the repair.
Caiga said in a tweet that representatives from QC city hall told him during his call that they would forward his request to the road maintenance division. “Now, it’s just [a] waiting game. But what’s the success rate with requests like these,” he said.
The tweet managed to get the attention of the QC local government the next day as they sent Caiga a direct message to ask for his contact information so that they can follow up on his request to the engineering department.
This led to a text message from Quezon City District 3 Area Engineer Ian Uchi regarding his request, saying he inspected the area on May 18, and requested materials for the sidewalk repairs.
The new pedestrian lanes were completed on May 24, seven days after Caiga sent his request.
“I think what complemented my request was that I tweeted about it. I was transparent about the processes, and that tweet itself received quite some traction,” Caiga said.
He added that the construction of new pedestrian lanes along Katipunan Avenue showed him that “there’s hope if we view governance as a two-way street: both the government and the people collaborating and engaging on important matters.”
The other request for the sidewalk repair along Shakey’s Katipunan has yet to be fulfilled.
Passion for mobility
Even before his feat, Caiga has been tweeting about infrastructure and mobility developments in Quezon City.
“I started tweeting about infrastructure, and, overall, mobility-related issues ever since I became interested in the field. As someone with some journalistic experience [in campus publications], I tried to make such issues more reachable and understandable to people,” he said.
Caiga developed a passion and work for mobility issues as a result of working on his thesis requirement which evaluated the sustainability of Pasig City’s “People’s Streets.”
The initiative started in 2012 as “Car-less Day,” where Emerald Avenue is closed to traffic every Sundays. By 2021, the initiative expanded to eight roads in Pasig.
“This thesis inspired me to rediscover ways by which we can reclaim our spaces for our benefit, or better create spaces that are people-centric. For the longest time, we have let spaces be designed [for] the interest of cars, or those with capital. I hope to reverse that,” he said.
His ideas on creating safer spaces for commuters and pedestrians led Caiga to arrange an event in the Ateneo called “Mobility March” with his friend Bea Bacason after finding out that they’re both working on thesis projects on mobility issues.
“What mattered was the opportunity of bringing some change to the community we were in, no matter how small the activity [or] initiative may be,” he said.
The event was a collaboration between different organizations in the university and the Move As One Coalition held on March 21 to 24, featuring talks and activities centered on sustainable mobility. One activity was to lend bikes to students for an hour to explore the campus.
More than 250 people signed up for the event’s bike tours and rentals, which overwhelmed the event team as they had 15 bikes allotted for rentals.
The event was lauded by his fellow student leaders as Mobility March won two awards for Inter-organization Collaborative Project of the Year and Social Development Effort of the Year by the Council of Organizations of the Ateneo-Manila on May 23.
Caiga said in a separate interview that Mobility March plans to expand to other initiatives and transition to new leaders for future iterations of the event.
Despite the many feats Caiga has achieved for his mobility advocacy, he reminds people to celebrate and appreciate “small wins” to encourage them that change is possible in their own communities.
“I never thought of myself explicitly as a mobility advocate. But all I want to do is create better cities, where the people, us, human beings, rest at the core of it. I wish that everyone…have places where they can fully actualize themselves, becoming what they were all destined to be without mere infrastructural and urban design challenges,” he added. – Rappler.com
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