If ‘319’ could
see this now
The Good Life
with Eli F.J. Tajanlangit
The Lagoon in Bacolod is one of the few places where rules are consistently enforced and followed. Sure there are times when plastics float in the water and garbage is not collected, sometimes some audacious vendor would spread his goodies on some bench, but on the whole, the ordinance on its maintenance is enforced.
The most visible of this enforcement is the ban on commercial activities inside – no chichirias, not even cigarets or candies, are sold inside. Not even mobile vendors. Given the boundless entrepreneurs we have in this province, keeping commerce out of crowds can only be credited to determination.
What the Lagoon has turned out to be may well be one of the political achievements of the late former governor Joseph Marañon who was popularly known as “319.”
No, it is not an example of 319’s political will, as many think it is. Although his administration had successfully enforced the ordinance preserving the integrity of the lagoon, it is not exactly a dramatic display of political will. The lagoon is in Bacolod City, and the people marginalized by the ordinance protecting it – if indeed there are -- are residents of the city and not voters for provincial officials. To be cynical about it, it is easy ignoring them, they don’t matter in the election equation.
The Lagoon stands out as a political achievement because it is a vision brought to fruition, a bold one if you really come down to it, because it is so commonsensical nobody thinks it is sexy enough. It is the vision of keeping and maintaining it as a public square – just that, a wide, open field of green, with trees and a lagoon, pathways and playground, where people can stroll and play and listen to music in the background, in a space wide enough to be sweeping, and on top of all, safe, clean and free. In a city that is fast become a concrete jungle, that is not such an ordinary vision.
Well perhaps it was an idea only a “319”, who had come from the hinterland city of Sagay, could put the weight of his political office behind. Only a mayor could think plazas and simple joys like strolling can be important. While the Lagoon now attracts people from all classes, it really is the poor who benefit the most from it. The rich can retreat to their gated enclaves, even build their own personal plazas, while the poor can only rely on public spaces.
I knew “319”, and I don’t think he even thought of the Lagoon as a vision or anything grand. He just most likely thought here was a plaza, and it had to be used and maintained like one.
Those who saw the Lagoon deteriorate in the past are the ones who can truly appreciate what it is now. There was a time when nobody wanted to be there, or to be there would be to flirt with danger. There was a time when the Lagoon was a place that served purposes other than health; in fact, there was a time when it was hazardous to one’s health and not just because of the exhaust you breath in there.
I remember Oliver, a young boy working in a printing press in the early ‘80s. On his day off, a Sunday, he and his group had strayed to the Lagoon in the early afternoon. There they encountered another group of boys. I don’t remember the details anymore, just that they ended up fighting with this group, which, it turned out, had bladed weapons with them.
Seeing the bladed weapons, Oliver’s friends made a dash for their lives, and had to jump over the fence. They all made it, except Oliver, who was caught before he was able to jump over. He was stabbed and died.
Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And perhaps a governor with a different set of priorities.*
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