On building healing spaces

The UN has another name for this effort which is Agenda 21.  Even without knowing the Agenda’s technical parameters, locals and visitors would know that peace and wellbeing are lacking or absent in a place, because there is a real connection between physical and nonphysical, internal and external. Dr. Sternberg in her lengthier interview at SoundCloud points out the serene landscape conjured of in Psalm 23 which is that the ‘house of the Lord’ is of ‘green pastures’ and ‘still waters’, in other words, exactly what a desired healing space in this world is like. The point is, even God promotes this kind of places, and according to Psalm 23, it’s where He’d take the stressed out person to ‘lie down’, because these places were originally part of Creation but which human beings through time have reconstructed, to the detriment of their own health and survival.

Right now, and just for the holidays, all of Baguio City CBD entryways are choked up by vehicular surge, that is, sudden and unusually high inflow of car-riding tourists that the CBD, because of its tiny size, about a quarter of Makati City’s, simply cannot accommodate.  Despite this physical limitation, people force their autos into the CBD, resulting to much misery for all.  Miserable holidays to you!

City Hall, as usual, has not activated a traffic plan for the holidays, knowing that, normally, tourist influx at this time of year is high.  Traffic police are visible at the crossroads, but anyone can see they’re helpless in the face of the surge.  They move their hands in the language of traffic signals but anyone can see their gesticulations don’t matter because vehicles are simply stuck.  I imagined that people inside their cars, and frothing at the mouth, would rather these traffic police are Superman clones who are able to do more than wave their hands about, like physically widening the narrow roads.  

The Department of Public Works and Highways has its men and women arguing the physical soundness of roads but has it tried linking their metrics of physical soundness with that of users’ health and wellbeing?  Because, in the real world, these are connected, directly too.  Quality roads are not the end goal, but the means to economic growth, social cohesion, and good health.  If you scan the pages of dailies, they always carry news, opinions, and citizen feedback of the horrors happening on Philippine roads.  That’s evidence of the extent of how, on a daily basis, roads play on the health of the mobile Filipino.  Agenda 21 is, thus, not the sole realm of the Department of Health or the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

At the city level, the responsibility converges at the city planning office. Baguio City is being marketed as a major tourist hub in the North, but the pitch is not followed through with actual delivery of the envisioned product.  Words are not matched with action, hence are mere enticements to get people scrambling for an actually crap product, fundamentally betraying buyers’ implicit trust.  Locals now scoff at the pitch ‘summer capital’ and ‘cleanest, greenest City’, because as how daily life is here it’s nothing near to the sell.  Nonlocal buyers eventually figure it out.  In these sort of sells, everybody, tourists and locals, end up bereft of the value of the campaign pitch. Visitors are disappointed. Locals seethe. Definitely not promotive of good health.

Inspiration and motivation to create a healthy place should, instead, come from a sincere desire to cater, firstly, to locals or residents of the place.  And then, tourists will come and admire and partake of the unique health of the place.  On the national scale, the pitch ‘more fun in the Philippines’ should first become a truth, a daily reality for resident Filipinos.  And then, and only then, will it be ‘more fun’ for everyone, locals and visitors alike.

The good news is, there is technology available to reincarnate, if you will, healthy places and healing spaces, or the physical landscape of Psalm 23. It is lodged with urban planning and design and architecture. Dr. Sternberg, in her SoundCloud interview, say of urban planners and architects as ‘partners’ of the medical community as to the realization of health for all. To widen this partnership, I say it’s every one’s business–engineers, environmentalists, economists, researchers, social activists, teachers, young people. Every one. This should be the partnership model in the rehabilitation of the Visayas as well.

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