Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Inequality in Philippine society is reflected in the whole stretch of Edsa. Despite its People Power past with its egalitarian promise, the site Edsa is still very much a territory dominated by the elite. In fact, the relics of the feudal past are visible along Edsa. Several prime properties which dot the 54 kilometer highway are former hacienda estates of the old rich. The Cubao Araneta Center was part of the estate owned by the Aranetas. Their relatives (Tuason family) used to own the nearby Katipunan and Marikina. The Madrigals have properties in New Manila, while the Quezon family is the original owner of the PSBA lot today which used to have the best view of the quaint Marikina Valley. Adjacent the Araneta Hacienda is the estate owned by the Ortigas Family. They donated some parts of their vast estate to the government which later became Camp Aguinaldo. The hacienda owned by the Ayalas in Makati was developed in the 1970s and quickly evolved into a major financial mecca.

According to Franciscan friars, Forbes Park was ignored during the Spanish era since the other Church Orders preferred the strategic locations inside and near old Manila. But the Franciscans made a wise decision to spread the word of God by building a church in the former swamp land which was eventually transformed into a famous ghetto of the very filthy rich. The first residents of the exclusive village were landlords from the provinces who needed a residential home outside downtown Manila.

The construction of Edsa was conceptualized to spur the development of areas outside old Manila. As urbanization intensified, Edsa quickly became a key circumferential road network in the expanding metropolis. The old haciendas were converted into commercial centers with the exception of Camp Aguinaldo which has been donated already to the government.

But the old rich didn’t give up their residential villas despite the rezoning of Edsa’s environs. Retired generals suffering from withdrawal syndrome chose to live in Corinthian Gardens since it’s close to the camps. Mar Roxas and family continued to live in Cubao Araneta Center despite the commercialization of the area. The upper middle classes resided in Philam and Wack-Wack. Makati has already metamorphosed from a farmville (in its very old unfacebook sense) into a corporate hub but Forbes Park 2011 is still the Forbes Park of the 1950s – the protected ancestral domain of the landed rich. Even the privatization of Fort Bonifacio didn’t threaten the residential paradise of the rich. Forbes Park and its satellites in central Makati (Dasma, Urdaneta, Magallanes, San Lorenzo, Legaspi) are seemingly exempted from new zoning laws and future development plans.

How did the modern ilustrados react to the ‘structural’ changes outside their gates? How did they protect themselves from the elements (read: working masses)? They built higher walls, erected stronger steel gates, and surrounded their villages with the most sophisticated security systems. Entrance to their enclaves became as accessible as the US Embassy.

Edsa’s politicization in 1986 increased its commercial value. It is interesting (also unique in the Philippines) that malls are located in corporate complexes along Edsa. Megamall and Shangrila in Ortigas, Glorietta and Rockwell in Makati, Market Market in Taguig, Robinsons in Pioneer and SM City-Trinoma in North Triangle.

Encouraged by the constant influx of OFW money, property developers are now building condos everywhere. There is a construction boom in Edsa. Tycoons are on a buying spree. They are buying everything – old buildings, residential communities, public parks, and politicians. Araneta Center’s chic appeal was revived with the opening of Gateway; call center hubs have opened in Edsa-Mandaluyong, Edsa-Ortigas, Edsa-Centris in Quezon City; Makati’s corporate offices branched out to Rockwell and Global City.

Meanwhile, the Ayalas are encountering opposition to their planned corporate center in North Triangle. The San Roque residents who refused to abandon their homes are branded as pests who are stunting the development of Quezon City. If we forget the evolution of Edsa, we will be easily swayed by arguments favoring the demolition of the San Roque community. In the name of economic progress, San Roque residents must sacrifice their abode.

But the framing of the issue is wrong and anti-poor. It is not right to argue that San Roque is now a commercial zone to justify the demolition of the residential community. If that is the case, the government should also demolish the nearby Philam Village. But Edsa’s history and the current confused zoning of cities along the highway clearly demonstrate that a residential village like San Roque in North Triangle would not make it impossible for city planners to build a corporate complex in the area. San Roque can peacefully co-exist with Trinoma and the planned business center. In fact, there are several residential blocks within the Makati Central Business District.

Besides, if the Ayalas really want to expand the Makati world, why not demolish Forbes Park instead? It’s closer to Ayala, Buendia and Taguig. The infrastructure network there is superior. Relocating the affected residents (many of whom are not honest taxpayers) won’t be a huge problem since it will only involve a few families.

We do not complain if a mansion is situated beside a tall tower but we raise the specter of petty street crimes if an informal settler is living beside a mall. We do not question the housing right of rich citizens but we accuse the masa of being unreasonable when they only demand to be left alone in their homes. We are quite fascinated with the fighting cocks in the compound of the Roxas Family in Cubao but we ridicule the selling of goats in San Roque. We want total war against the drug users and pushers in San Roque but we are silent against the drug financiers in Makati.

This is Edsa. This is the Philippines.

(To be continued)

Related articles:

Reclaim Edsa, the people’s highway
From Monumento to Mall of Asia

6 Responses to “Edsa and inequality”

  1. Call it “anti-poor” or whatever you want, but the fact is, these people are squatters. They don’t own the land. They squat. And they stunt the development of Quezon City. THAT’S A FACT.

    Though not all of the people living there are criminals, admit or not, places like these are breeding grounds of drug addicts and criminals. A relative and a friend died there a few years ago. Stabbed. Robbed.

    Pinpoint the “drug financers” in Makati and probably, the authorities won’t be silent as what you think.


  2. […] San Roque community because it’s now a commercial zone? But on the left side of Edsa in the same area is a residential subdivision, Philam. Will they demolish it too? There is enough […]

    Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » Philippine Realities in Google Maps

  3. love the history. i’ve wondered why highway 54, why 54, which is what it was called when i was a kid. and wow oo nga, quite the turf of the oligarchs then and lalo na now. and great that you punched it with the rich-poor drugs connection 🙂


  4. […] By Mong Palatino […]


  5. not a 54 kilometer highway


  6. maybe it started out as a 54-km highway? if not, why 54?


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