Philippine Visual Urban Culture Essay

Through the years, we Filipinos has been endeared to foreign blood all over the world due to our hospitality, diligence, bravery, and selflessness, not to mention the innate qualities of being “makadiyos, makatao, at makabansa”. The Philippines, our country, our home, has significantly played a great role in shaping the way we Pinoys think, act, and exist. Yet, through imbibed and dominated with traditional culture of rural life, and with agriculture as one of our main source of livelihood, Philippines has been entering to new ventures be it in science and technology, going with the flow together with the fast-paced world.

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Philippine Visual Urban Culture by Jaymee Siao talks about the three aspects of urban space, the environment where majority of Pinoys call home. In here, the author brings us to a space dominated by three facets: billboards, bridges, and monuments[270], a space filled with panopticons, liberal minds, commercial and industrial institutions, smoke, traffic, a space colored by hues of power, desires, resistances, thus called urban space.

Siao brilliantly exposed Philippines as a site of resistance through billboards along EDSA[270], the Postmodern Sociocultural Phenomenon pictured as a bridge[274], and the National Imaginaire through monuments[281]. I agree with how the author textualized the cultural norms of our society, particularly, that of the inherent commercialization and industrialization through the form of billboards, the panopticons encompassing along the length of Highway 54 now called EDSA.

EDSA, once a site of memory, a serving site for the revolution of the Filipino people, the marked place of our resistance towards dictatorship, is now the perfect haven for the advertising world, layered with dizzying images of men and women in jeans and shoes. Yet through the engulfing mass media, people have still managed to resist the ways capitalism has turned everything into commodities. We have still risen against or more realistically speaking, continually striving, resisting, and gaining power against the conventional idealizations and fallacious representations of these advertisements.

The bridge, originally regarded as a symbol of movement [275], but with the people “housed” in it turned this supposedly mobile infrastructure as a freezed “site”. I am in the same opinion with Johnson [279] on how these urban swellings have become vital facilities in every urban landscape, that lack of these would result to great handicaps to productive economy the same as what would happen to a man born without limbs. The possibilities that these bridges offers, the interaction of the entities relying on it, the material, intellectual, and personal benefits that goes with it, provided development, a leap from a seemingly helpless past.

In opposition with how Antipolo concluded on one of his essays stating that infrastructure and spatial development is NOT unidirectional I would rather say that it is directly proportional, with development and facilities optimally leading to liberation and subsequently towards freedom. I question how Siao wrongly conceptualized that unlike Egypt, China, and Rome, Philippines does not have any monumental works to boast [281]. I also disagree with his statement that “Spaniards came to civilize the Filipinos” [283].

Long before these mestizos conquered our land, our Filipino ancestors have been building monuments, “anitos”, wooden idols of their god, Bathala. Along with their green thumbs, they have been gifted with excellent handcraftsmanship, turning stones to exemplary statues, ancient monuments in praise of their gods. It is true that Spaniards paved the way towards Christianity, promoting Catholicism and converting our once pagan/nature worshipping ancestors, yet beforehand, our forebearers have been living a civilized life in their own terms.

I agree that the Spaniards and Americans did really colonialized our country, that in part they have still contributed a lot to what we are today, traces of their spirit still emanating in our streets, in our houses, in us. The memories, although so little of it is already left are still embarked in our hearts, forever to be kindled, reminisced and remembered. These monuments erected to create our identity and memory, to have something to retrieve, search and decode, to create something that would remind us of our history, and for us to fulfil the dream of inventing our own nation.

Billboards, bridges, and monuments, three facets, all yielding towards our better understanding and appreciation of the richness of our Filipino heritage and culture. These aspects, very much evident in the urban spaces, in the streets that we walk through, the traffic jams and smokes we encompass each and everyday, these things unknowingly becomes a part of who we are, a part of our spirit, making us a true blooded Filipino that we really are.

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