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.

Written for Manila Today. Check out the cool graphics

North Avenue. The housing district and former resettlement area was rezoned into a commercial center which displaced urban poor villages in San Roque and Agham Road. The local community is resisting the demolition.

Quezon Avenue. The Philippine Children Medical Center (PCMC) successfully opposed the planned modernization (read: eviction) of the hospital when the government refused to give it a land title. The health sector and children advocates joined forces to save the hospital by raising public awareness. PCMC finally acquired its land title last month.

GMA-Kamuning. Media workers exposed the contractualization scheme of big media networks. They also raised several labor issues like receiving low salaries and benefits while performing heavy work load. The case related to unfair labor practices is being investigated by the government.

Cubao. The former Hacienda Araneta turned commercial center is also a major transport hub of jeepneys, PUVs, AUVs, buses – public vehicles yet privately owned. Metro Manila’s transportation system is dominated by the private sector (yes, the lowly padyaks and pedicabs are operated by enterprising individuals) because the state refuses to invest more on mass transport solutions.

Santolan. People converged outside the gates of Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame in 1986 which forced the ouster of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Recently, public sympathy poured in over the deaths of 44 SAF members in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The people continue to demand truth, accountability, and justice over the incident.

Ortigas. The site of the historic Edsa Dos (and Tres) in 2001. During the Gloria Arroyo years, Catholic Church leaders like Soc Villegas banned protests in Edsa Shrine which they describe as acts of desecration. The station is also near the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the government agency that facilitates the country’s labor export program.

Shaw. SM Megamall, one of the largest shopping malls in the world, is owned by the country’s richest man, who is also an expert on labor contractualization laws. In nearby Mandaluyong, the National Center for Mental Health and adjacent communities are threatened with demolition.

Boni. The area around the station was a former mini-industrial center but now converted into BPO offices, malls, and high-rise condominiums. They are false indicators of progress as they conceal the glaring housing shortage and income inequality in Metro Manila.

Guadalupe. The filth of Pasig River and billboard ads can be seen from the station. The river symbolizes pollution and waste in the city while the billboard ads of clothing brands are often criticized by moralists who frown upon the seductive images of models, and by activists who accuse capitalists of luring the masses to buy things they don’t need in life.

Buendia. It’s near Forbes Park, a swamp turned ghetto of the rich, inhabited by the country’s 0.1% and tax avoidance practitioners. It’s also a gateway to BPO enclaves in Makati and Taguig, glorified modern sweatshops that made night work or rat racing during the graveyard shift the new normal among the youth.

Ayala. Hacienda Ayala transformed into Makati’s central business district. The command center of the local bourgeoisie, domestic finance capital, and multinational corporations. Wealth is artificially created, hoarded, and traded in the stock exchange and banks in Ayala or Bonifacio Global City.

Magallanes. The entry point to the former south industrial belt and South Luzon Expressway. The so-called industrial peace was achieved by criminalizing the right to strike and legalizing contractualization. The old and new Skyway uprooted the poor from their homes in favor of a toll-operated highway owned by favored cronies.

Edsa-Taft. MRT mismanagement was reflected in the derailed train coach. The Edsa-Taft corner recorded the worst air pollution level in Metro Manila.

Baclaran. The proposed LRT extension to Bacoor will be financed by the riding public through the recent MRT-LRT fare hike, instead of being shouldered by private developers who bagged the contract. Proof that PPP is designed to benefit big business. In the next few years, Baclaran church will be surrounded by casino centers, luxury hotels, and retail outlets. What will happen to the small traders near the train station and shrine?

Libertad. Manila Bay reclamation worsened the flooding in Pasay and other inland towns of Metro Manila. However, SM Mall of Asia is determined to extend its property by proposing to reclaim more coastal areas of the bay. But we need mangroves and the restoration of sea grass in Manila Bay and not another reclamation.

Gil Puyat. Another transport hub in the south side of Metro Manila, mostly provincial buses that connect the city to southern Luzon. Bus drivers and conductors are among the exploited sectors in society. The area is also covered by Tripa de Gallina creek, a waterway inhabited by urban poor villages. Demolition of these communities is ongoing.

Vito Cruz. Time to rehabilitate and modernize Rizal Sports Complex. We need more sports clubs, community parks, youth centers, and open spaces. Unfortunately, green parks are used as parking lots or converted into malls or condos for the rich.

Quirino. Close to Ermita, the infamous red light district of Manila many years ago. Crowds gathered here last January to see Pope Francis. Viva El Papa, halina makibaka!

Pedro Gil. Located near Philippine General Hospital, the country’s premier public tertiary hospital. The health budget is programmed to justify the privatization or commercialization of public hospitals. Health workers are underpaid forcing many to leave the country.

UN. The new superbad is Torre de Manila, the photobomber of Rizal Monument in Luneta. But the original superbad in the vicinity is the U.S. embassy in Roxas Boulevard. Rallies are held here to oppose the nonstop meddling of the U.S. government in our domestic affairs. Another issue in Luneta is the eviction of small vendors in the park.

Central. Manila City Hall imposed higher local taxes, hospital fees, and public transport permits. FACT: The incumbent mayor of the country’s premier city is a convicted plunderer.

Carriedo. There was a brief time during the Arroyo years when Avenida-Carriedo was closed to traffic. Insanity! Then and now, the center of informal economy. A flourishing market community, religious center, Chinatown, Escolta (the original commercial center), Quiapo, Plaza Miranda, herbal factory, street food lane, and DVD wholesale supplier.

Doroteo Jose. The road to Divisoria, port area, and smuggling haven. Palengke economy, dirty motels, sleazy cinema houses, and old downtown Manila. Historic Tutuban, calle Azcarraga, the port workers, Divisoria traders, and the source of all sari-sari store goods in Metro Manila.

Bambang. The office of the Department of Health located near communities with poor healthcare services. Also a mini-hub of non-airconditioned buses that transport people to the northern suburbs. The Dangwa flower lane is also nearby.

Tayuman. Part of Tondo, the working-class district of Manila. The San Lazaro racetrack is now a mall. Medical equipment stores are still in business.

Blumentritt. Another palengke economy. Directly connected to a PNR station. After the MRT-LRT fare hikes, PNR will soon raise ticket prices which will bear down heavily on the working classes who ride this old and dilapidated yet reliable and vital train network.

Abad Santos. Still part of Tondo. Several urban poor villages will be affected by the clearing operation along the Estero de Magdalena.

R. Papa and Fifth Avenue. Trucks from the Manila port area and Navotas fishport pass this road. Also located near Grace Park, the country’s first industrial park. The proposed Harbor Center link will displace several urban poor communities in Manila and Caloocan.

Monumento. What could be the public reaction if someone will propose the relocation of the Rizal monument in Luneta? Perhaps there will be popular outrage. Curiously, someone proposed to move the Bonifacio monument in Caloocan to ease traffic but it didn’t anger a lot of people. Monumento is an important commercial center in the Camanava area; it also links old Manila to McArthur Highway, the old road to the north. When Estrada ran for president in 1998, he asked voters to ride the Jeep ni Erap; his rival, de Venecia, countered by reminding the public that riding the LRT (the acronym of his election platform) is better since its faster to reach Monumento from Baclaran through the trains. Can you ever imagine a candidate in 2016 who will use the MRT, LRT, or PNR as election slogans?

Balintawak. Bagsakan of farm products, exit road to the North Luzon Expressway, and Katipunan bailiwick. Beware of double dead meat products. But the greater evil is the lack of protection/subsidy to small farmers who have to compete with cheaper agricultural products from other countries. The agricultural sector declined after the government opened the local markets to global competition without providing support to farmers.

Munoz. Near Bahay Toro, the purported location of the Katipunan’s Cry of Pugadlawin. Sadly, poverty continues to be a reality in this community. The ill-equipped public hospital there is a showcase of what is wrong with the implementation of the devolution program in the health sector.

Recto. Did Bongbong Marcos get his Oxford diploma somewhere in Recto? What about the fake medals of his father? The typewritten thesis capital of the famed university belt. Second hand textbooks, Tagalog romance novels, student meals, cheap dormitories, the surviving art deco buildings in Morayta, Internet gaming shops, and schools offering non-accredited programs.

Legarda. Student center and cluster of profit-oriented universities. Expensive and top earning private schools. But quality education is not guaranteed; hence the need to enroll in review centers after graduation. Identified as high-risk community because of proximity to Malacanang presidential palace. Campuses are guarded like prison fortresses where student rights are often undermined. Near Mendiola, the country’s de facto freedom park. The so-called Mendiola Peace Arch serves as an anti-rally barrier.

Pureza. State universities are underfunded and government wants to commercialize their assets. Basic education is a right but higher education is regarded by the state as a privilege. State schools must raise their own income, impose higher tuition, and scrap non-priority programs. No wonder students are protesting in public colleges. The station is also near Nagtahan, Paco, and the oil depot. This is Manila-style urban planning.

V. Mapa and J. Ruiz. San Juan – Little Baguio, Greenhills, Xavier, Polk Street, Pinaglabanan Shrine, and don’t forget, Corazon de Jesus: an urban poor community which was demolished to make way for a new local government building.

Gilmore and Betty Go Belmonte. Notorious in the past because of the Balete Drive ‘white lady’ urban legend. New Manila is the first subdivision in Metro Manila, home of the old rich. But rapidly changing in recent years. Gilmore is now the place where people buy computer supplies, Broadway hosts Eat Bulaga, and the Magnolia ice cream plant is now a mall.

Araneta Center Cubao. Both MRT and LRT stations are connected to Araneta-owned malls: Farmers Plaza and Gateway. There is supposedly only one Cubao station but because of money lobby, train passengers have to walk a distance in order to switch to another terminal.

Anonas. Quezon City entrepreneurs are complaining against high local taxes, restrictive business registration procedures, and worsening city services. Politicians often talk about modern democracy but in Quezon City, old and new dynasties are slowly consolidating political power. Creepy!

Katipunan. Are they still digging for the Yamashita treasure in PSBA? Former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo once claimed that Ateneo-Miriam-UP Diliman was part of their former estate, Hacienda Tuason. The once sleepy district of Libis is now a business center. The station is near Marikina, a well-managed town but disaster-prone. Typhoon Ondoy alerted us that tree planting activities should prioritize the Marikina watershed.

Santolan. Pasig-Marikina border. An SM mall in a flood-risk area? Marikina Valley used to be famous because of its vibrant shoe industry. In the 1940s, Quezon City planners proposed to preserve the Marikina –San Mateo highlands as an agricultural belt of the new capital city.

This is the eastern corridor of Metro Manila; Marikina, Montalban, San Mateo, the Rizal mountain range. In Tagalog folklore, Haring Bernardo Carpio, who is trapped somewhere in the mountains, will arrive one day in the city to release his people from bondage. In modern politics, rebels belonging to the New People’s Army, who are building strength in the hinterlands, will join the masses in occupying the cities controlled by corrupt politicians and monopoly capitalists.

Metro Manila is besieged by powerful greedy interests; its people oppressed; its leaders ignorant, pork-dependent, and callous; its past neglected; its future uncertain. The poor are crying for justice. The youth are clamoring for change. What do we do? We stand our ground. We fight. Look to the east for hope. Look up to the mountains for reinforcement. The people’s resistance train is coming to town.

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