While we were commuting back and forth through the Philippines I noticed something that I haven’t seen anywhere else. The Philippines is like a montage of poverty, middle class, and upper-class establishments and homes.
What I mean is that in, say, the US, you have neighborhoods that are well-to-do. The houses are all very nice. Then you have middle class neighborhoods, lower class neighborhoods, and poverty level neighborhoods. In the commercial areas, everything is fairly well put together. Everything has a sort of continuity to it. You see what you expect to see for the area of town you’re in. Maybe it has something to do with zoning, or with developers buying large plots of land. I don’t know.
In the Philippines, however, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of zoning. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of building code either. You might be standing in front of a popular mall that’s as modern and attractive as any mall in the US or Singapore, but right next to it, or across the street, are buildings that look like they were constructed entirely of plywood and sheet metal. You could be standing in front of a McDonalds, but when you look down the alley next to it, you see shanties that would make the Red Cross cringe for the lack of quality of life. It’s an incredibly jarring experience.
This seems to be common to almost every part of the Philippines. The old and the new, the ultra-poor and the ultra-posh, set up right next to each other. You can even see this in the housing areas, such as they are. You might have a nicely built home right next to a house that even bums wouldn’t want to live in, in the US. From what I can see, as long as the land is yours, you can put whatever you want to on it, of whatever quality you want. There was one instance where I wondered about whether or not the homes were built legally. We were riding a bus on the highway between Angeles City and Manila. The portion of the highway we were on was raised about two stories above the ground. I’m not sure why it was raised, except maybe that there were quite a few little streams passing below the road. What caught my attention is that people who were farming the land had set up their houses below the road, in the shade it created. Maybe laws are different in the Philippines, but I assumed that doing something like that would be considered unsafe and illegal.
There are areas where land developers seem to be trying to build a more modern type of sub-division. One in particular comes to mind, near the housing area where my wife’s family lives in Antipolo. It’s walled off, gated, and the houses inside have a modern construction to them. Just outside the wall, though, is the normal eye-jarring experience. I’ve also seen posh, walled and gated apartment complexes situated in the middle of an area that looks like a slum.
On my next trip I’ll try to take a few pictures to add to this post as examples.