Post-pandemic migration
BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - August 11, 2020 - 12:00am

The city is not built for an epidemic. And it may take a long time for architecture and urbanism to transform toward a healthy, sustainable, and antivirus-built environment. So the plan for these Covid times and post-Covid is this: leave the city for a life in the countryside for most of our time.

Finding a farmland for a good price and with a good road network and excellent telecom access may not be easy. It has to be a place where we could divide our time between tending to the farm and working online from home.

This idea cropped up during one of those Zoom sessions with friends. We wanted to take the idea to a concrete level especially after someone asked: What did you realize this Covid times? We realized that we’re not missing the malls, the traffic, and the superficial city lifestyle; that we want to leave the city.

The urbane form and progressive ideas associated with cities remain ideal, yet these we need not leave behind. Today, we have access to good information and ideas everywhere we go.

Although I grew up in the city and lived in four neighborhoods here, I’m no stranger to some form of farm life. Back then in the early 1980’s, Cebu City still had many vacant agricultural lots. We had a little farm a few blocks from our house in Casals’ Village, Mabolo. We also had another farm in Mactan island.

A couple of blocks from the farm in Mabolo was a “katubhan” or sugar cane plantation that extended up to the city boundary in Panagdait. My friends and I had so much fun during grasshopper season as well as during harvest time at the katubhan where I learned how to “pang-os” or bite and chomp off the juice from the cane.

When we transfered to Doña Rosario Village in Basak, Mandaue City in the late 1980’s, the scenery there could be mistaken as agricultural where it not for the Shemberg factory and other industrial structures present in that place. Looming in front of our house was a hill where I and my friends laid bird traps and played with turtles.

A few meters away was a large open field of grass and marsh where we spent late afternoons during the rainy season catching “halwan” and other fresh water fish with our bare hands. The boys felt sad when a factory nearby had to expand and it closed off the area. We found another playground in the corn field of a farmer. A few meters from his field was a factory that dumped calcium carbide or “calburo” nearby. We mixed calburo with water and we had fuel for “lantaka” (bamboo cannon) during Christmas season.

Fast forward to today, Metro Cebu is an urban jungle crowded with high-rise buildings and congested streets. The children have lost their natural playground. A few reform-minded and forward-looking politicians like Cebu City councilors Alvin Dizon and Nestor Archival have been offering viable solutions through their proposed ordinances. In fact, I’ve contributed my inputs in some of these proposals, among them on foodbanks, car-free days, and urban food gardening.

But public servants like them are few and far between. Even as simple as the city government’s promise to put up bike lanes seem to remain stuck at the drawing board. The redesign of our urban environment incorporating the healing effects of nature – fewer cars, more cycling and walking, better air quality, more green spaces, smart digital city – looks like it has a long way to go.

Meanwhile, migrating to Cebu province is a good option.

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