Metro Manila's worst eyesores
COUNTERFLOW - James Deakin () - May 9, 2012 - 12:00am

Manila, despite its challenges, is a beautiful city. Like my mother and her parents before her, I was born here, went to school here, had all my children here, and despite having the option to live elsewhere because of my father’s nationality, I actively choose to live here. It is home.

Which is why it breaks my heart when I see people trashing it. I’m not talking about the odd, insensitive, ignorant foreign blogger or Hollywood actress, either; I’m talking about the very people who are sworn to serve and protect it. 

Yet you see it every day. Illegal jeep terminals that are not just tolerated, but encouraged to go forth and multiply; illegal street vendors that choke off the sidewalks and clog traffic by forcing pedestrians and pedicabs to take over one or two lanes of an already tight street. I could go on.. 

But as much as I detest them and those who condone it, this is not even about that. That is another topic for another column. Because awful as it is, the reality is that enforcing any change is political suicide—because we all know that any move to evict these offenders would be considered anti-poor. And very few have yet to grow balls big enough to risk wearing that tag. 

Ironically, one of the very few who did is responsible for more than one of the many heinous attacks on the landscape of Metro Manila.  

And so I begin, in no particular order.

The asteroid crash on the rotunda outside Terminal 3

You know the one. It is a sculpture commissioned by the former chairman of the MMDA that has been designed to “gleefully showcase the rich natural resources of the country and shrouded triangulated planes of fragmented islands and continents of the world.” Now I’m no art critic, but I am willing to bet that that is not the first thing that pops into everyone’s minds when they see it.

No offense to the winning bidders, but the first time I saw it, I almost jumped out of my car to ask if anyone was hurt. Perhaps this is what started the argument between Ramon Tulfo and Claudine Barretto. You never know. People have gone to war for less.

But to add insult to injury, just the prize money alone that was allotted to 1st, 2nd and 3rd place amounted to around 3 million pesos—this before a single screw was turned. I would hate to think about the total cost, especially considering the poverty that surrounds the area, but I can guarantee you that it has nothing on the next eyesore. 

The elevated U-turn along C5

As if I needed to point out where it was. It’s the only one of its kind in the country. And for good reason. At the estimated reported cost of 600 million pesos, this monstrosity may have had good intentions, but aside from what they say about the road to hell, when it comes to real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. And this was not the one for it. 

The inspiration was supposedly from Thailand, where the idea seems to work quite well. But hey, so does their language—but you don’t see anyone trying to apply it locally. The key difference is that the Thais designed their elevated U-turns along major, multi-lane highways to avoid putting an intersection in, and not to decongest an already grossly over-saturated one. Plus they are built into much wider roads, in far less congested areas, and were usually incorporated into the original plan.

While some may argue that it has eased traffic at some points in the day, the more appropriate argument is that a flyover would have done the same job far more effectively. But that wouldn’t really leave a legacy now, would it? It’s just too common. And once again, for good reason.

There are times in life when you really have to seriously ask yourself why you are the first to do something. Is it because you are a genius? Or the polar opposite? There’s rarely any middle ground when dealing with something so common and effective. Because while I’m the first to encourage out-of-the-box thinking and breakthroughs, you have to accept that there are just some things that have hit a fundamental design plateau––like the wheel, toilet paper rolls, and a flyover. 


Speaking of the road to hell, personally, I think it’s paved with billboards. Enough already. Have you driven down the SCTEX? There’s a reason people say it seems like you’re driving in another country. And it’s not just because of the price of toll. It’s because you don’t see Kris Aquino. 

I’m not totally against the idea of having billboards, but let’s keep them in regulated zones and put a cap on the number so as not to distract drivers from official road signs. Besides, in terms of advertising value, it has become so diluted by the amount of competing billboards that having your product noticed these days in places like EDSA and C5 is becoming a bit like playing find Waldo.  


I know it was designed by national artist, Leandro Locsin, and just to be clear, my gripe is not with him. It is with the maintenance (or lack thereof) and redundancy that has been created after. I’m not even going to step inside the terminal (there are far too many blogs that have, and I’m certain I won’t be able to add anything new) but it makes the list simply because, firstly, it has completely outgrown its location. And second, if you have ever had to pick anyone up, you will know that their traffic routing system is complicated enough to have a hole in the ozone layer named after it.

Why, for the love of everything holy, must those coming in to pick up passengers who are running a few minutes late, be forced to exit the premises, then loop the entire length of the traffic-snarled Imelda Avenue, U-turn at NAIA road, then backtrack back down Ninoy Aquino Avenue, hit the fly over again, only to line up again at the guard house for another pointless security check of your glove box. One loop has taken me as long as 45 minutes, or about the same time it takes to fly to Boracay.

Once again, there are those who might say that you should park and wait for your guest. And I’d agree—in any country that actually allows you into the terminal without a ticket. Because unless you want to line up behind the gates on the opposite side of the arrivals driveway like an audience trying to get into a noontime show, the vast majority would prefer to just time the pick up of their guest or loved ones so that they just whisk into the driveway, grab their luggage, then painlessly drive off. All we’re asking is if in case they happen to be delayed by the luggage carousel or customs, please don’t punish the environment over it.

The new MMDA uniforms

I know this is entirely subjective, but personally, I don’t think it works. I’ve seen police officers in other countries like Australia, parts of Europe and even the U.S. where they swap into shorts over the summer months, but there’s something not right about the local version we have here. Perhaps it’s the necktie. Or the funny red and yellow hat. That’s not even counting the special khaki uniforms made solely for the ADB visit. 

Either way, we’re dealing with a uniform that is meant to stand for something. And over the last five years, I’ve lost count over the amount of changes made that I am no longer sure if I’m being apprehended by a traffic enforcer or Barbie and Ken. 

As usual, just like our roads, we have run out of space. But if you have any suggestions on more eyesores, or other manmade disasters on our roads, feel free to email me at

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