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February 22, 2013

Vent It Out Friday: Turning Marikina for the Worse

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our newest section, “Vent It Out Friday” where we just have a commentary on just about everything. This highly opinionated, highly emotional section will appear (as much as possible) every Friday. Soon, we’ll also be opening “Vent It Out Friday” to our readers, but for now, you can respond to the topic at hand via the comments section below.

 I’ve been a resident of Marikina City for all my life. I’ve seen it grow. I’ve seen it change. I’ve seen it turn for the worse. What was once considered as a “model city” in the Philippines is now, unfortunately, heading to the dumps. For non-Marikenos reading this story, this may sound like a harsh criticism, but let me explain.

Let me start by saying what a wonderful job the former mayors: Bayani Fernando and his wife did for Marikina City. From what was once the “sick man” of Metro Manila has been turned into a great and bustling city. All the roads were concreted and fixed. All the sidewalks were cleared of illegal structures and then widened and marked for what they are: sidewalks. Cars parked illegal were towed or their owners fined. Shady-looking characters, such as those walking shirtless were rounded up and fined. In short, Marikina felt clean and safe. I don’t care about BF and his so-called Nazi tactics or even how he ran his government. What he did worked, and for a long-time resident, that’s good enough.

Of course, BF’s rather inept response from Ondoy single-handly did him in, and subsequently, his legacy was washed away, quite literally in hours. In short, everyone forgot about what he did for the city. What they remembered is how poorly he handled the flooding crisis, and that did him in. And now, we have this new set of local government officials, none of whom were endorsed by BF, running the city. And guess what? I’m longing for the times of BF.

Before, the most noticeable thing in Marikina was how clear-cut everything was: sidewalks are for people, bike lanes are for bicycles, and roads are for motorized vehicles. BF was almost authoritarian when it came to keeping sidewalks, alleyways, and anywhere pedestrians pass through clear and clean from obstruction. Now, you begin to see businesses popping up along these areas, just because the barangay captain’s a “friend”. My neighbor alone has turned half of our pedestrian alley into a barbecue house. Now people can’t pass there without smelling like pork roasting on coal. And that’s not all, it’s actually gotten worse: now, he’s got parasols, tables, and stools set-up. What’s next? A make shift beer house? All this running WITHOUT A PERMIT?!

Another thing is how the Old Marikina didn’t allow anything to block any of the roads for any given reason. Whether it’s your birthday, a wake, or a prayer meeting, you can do it as long as it’s in your house. Not on the sidewalk and certainly not on the street. This kept traffic moving smoothly even through the smallest streets of the city. Now? Each time there’s a wake (and there’s almost one every single week), expect a tent and some chairs to block at least a good chunk of the road. This makes it impassable sometimes to larger vehicles. And just last week, our entire street was blocked for a couple of hours. For what? A prayer meeting. And the local government had the galls to lend a tent with their mug shots posted all over it. In short: mali na, epal pa!

I’ve also come to realize that some roads just don’t get finished anymore. Take for instance one of the main thoroughfares of the city: Gil Fernando Avenue. This busy road serves as the main artery of the city to Marcos Highway, and it’s been under construction for what feels like an eternity. It started out with repeated random cement re-block here and here (you actually had to play a game of patintero with the holes just to get around), which is broken up and re-blocked again after just a couple of months. Now, entire lanes have been carved up (again) and it seems like there’s no end. This causes travel delays, traffic jams, and horrible accidents. When was the last time you saw three cars get stuck in a ditch in a single night all because the construction crews didn’t put up warning barricades? Only in Marikina.

And of course, the problem of flooding hasn’t been solved quite yet. In fact, in my opinion, it’s just gotten worse. I’ve always believed poor zoning, land management, and the proliferation of midrise condominiums are causing the natural water table to go awry. What used to take 20 minutes of rain now just takes 10 minutes to flood a street up. It’s well and good that the local government is putting up garbage traps along streams and canals, but they’re not exactly the root of the problem, right?

Clearly, I could go on and on about the problems of this once great city, and that’s a real shame. A real shame. People used to comment how Marikina was so clean and orderly, and that they actually wished they lived here. Now, they think of it as “the wilderness”. What took more than a decade to fix and build up crumbled in just three short years. In all honesty, if I could move out of here, I would. But I just can’t afford it.

With the local elections fast approaching next year, I issue a challenge to the current Marikina government: fix your city. Run in right. Put the pride back in being a Marikeno. If the sidewalks and alleys are cleared for pedestrians, the roads reserved only for motorized vehicles, and flooding solved, you’ve got the winning formula for re-election. You don’t need to epal yourselves on tents or proclaiming that everything’s your priority project (yes, Congressman Marcy Teodoro, I’m still referring to you). As it stands though, I’m quite dismayed at how things are run, how things are crumbling. I don’t care if you say the government’s more transparent, less corrupt, and more streamlined than before. As I drive along the streets, I don’t see it. Things maybe rosy near the city hall, but they certainly don’t look it here. All I see are blocked roads, unusable sidewalks filled with illegal structures, and a road that perpetually needs fixing. Marikina used to be a cut above the rest when it comes to development and management; now, it’s just one of them.

I certainly don’t like where Marikina is heading.

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