Sick in the Metro, Sick of the Metro
Ramblings on a sick metro
(dedicated to MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando)
1. Not even the pretty, expertly photographed billboards from Globe Handyphone and Nokia wallpapering the expressway could appease my irked sense of aesthetic. Advertising billboards have simply become our landmarks, our guideposts, our monuments. The sheer impact of their size reduces Rizal Park into the inconsequentiality of a postage stamp in the age of emails and websites. You get off at Jollibee. You turn right to 7-11. The bus stops at Mantrade. I live near Shell.
2. It follows that brand names become not just household names but grammatically correct verbs, not to mention wearable apparel. Have you DHL’d or Fed-Exed this document? Did you have it Xeroxed?
3. The air I used to know as occurring in gas phase the last time I checked, has now turned into aerosol, particulates of every known dirt, atomized into allergens, choking the lungs and straining the heart. The surgeon general warns that smoking cigarettes is dangerous to one’s health, yet he keeps mum on the subject of a basic carcinogen known as the urban outdoors.
4. I’m missing the sun lately as well, 30 minutes of it on at least 18 sq. in. of skin per day at the minimum, like the doctor recommends. This explains why I sneeze each time I wake up and feel sapped of the extra energy needed to last the long day, and in possession of bones dangerously getting brittle ahead of my years. The skyway snaking above the expressway has taken the sun away. The behemoths known as billboards trap whatever light gets reflected. The haze, which makes the skies seem constantly overcast, further deflect the solar radiation back to the cosmos where no alien or extra-terrestrial need it. People are sneering at me. How dare I complain about not getting enough sun when I’m too dark-skinned? No kidding.
5. Air-conditioned transport brings me to and from work. Escalators and elevators lift up my spirit upstairs. I get cash using the ATM. I relay information by text-messaging. Remote controls take care of switching TV channels. I get instantaneous replies from my various correspondences via email. Push-button machines make coffee, vends Coke, logs my time-in and time-out. Pages of research materials get accessed and printed in a few clicks. With everything mechanized, my muscles waste away, turn into fat that won’t melt. (If my muscles atrophy, then why am I getting fat?)
6. Everywhere I go are people and all of them strangers. We share the same cramped space and breathe the same set of pollutants. I like the anonymity, but does it have to involve everyone? I’ve never known who my neighbors are, not the least their surnames.
7. This artificiality of life – with its attendant hazards – has made me want to switch to anything organic and all-natural. Like freshly squeezed orange juice in place of powdered juice. (How on earth did a juice get powdered?) Brown sugar instead of white sugar and protein-based sweeteners. Green leafy vegetables instead of vitamin pills. Backyard chickens instead of GMO-fed fowl.
8. But I’m totally helpless about the water. The chlorine level in tap water is too high. Fluoridation is a suspicious thing. The minerals in bottled mineral water may get deposited in my system as corrosive salts. Distilled water is allegedly safe, but isn't distilled water artificial? This leaves me with rainwater, which, needless to say, is pure acid rain.
9. This place, too, glories in its garbage such that one locality’s filth is another’s livelihood. No need for garbology here, the study of garbage. No need for institutional sorting and recycling. Somebody’s going to do it for society; it’s his miserable life’s calling. They are the residents of Smokey Mountain (now the Payatas Dumpsite), the scavengers, the children who eat fastfood store refuse for dinner, and those who scrounge for coins lost in the meanest canals, esteros, and poso negros.
I need to get out of here some time or I go crazy.
But no, this doesn't mean shirking off all the benefits afforded by urban technology and going back to living in the farm, though there's nothing wrong with living in a farm. I can't imagine living in a city like this for the rest of my life, but neither can I imagine going around on a horse or a carabao-drawn sled, even though that would be romantic.
I just want a city that knows how to plant a garden, a city that knows how to sleep and take some rest.
Thursday, May 22, 2003
Posted by R.O. at 2:08 PM