Urban Evil (2013)

Of all the urban evils I’ve seen sprout along the streets of Metro Manila, nothing strikes my ire more than the new Philcoa overpass.

The geniuses behind this project must have had an excellent grasp of what public safety means, and how it ought to be implemented, so much that they deserve commendation (and remuneration) for their brilliant work.

Anyone who has set foot on this innovative contraption will have known how it feels to be literally a step away from a nerve-wrecking, mind-blowing, brain-shattering death — if not by traveling a vertical distance equivalent to the height of a three-storey building to the street below — by the fear of it alone.

Many a person I know has a horror story to tell about the first time they crossed the abominable footbridge:

“When I reached the top, my head started to spin, and I felt like I couldn’t make it to the end without grasping the rails.”

“I couldn’t bear to look down; the pavement looked as if it were miles below. It was like staring death in the eyeball.”

“Nakakalula. Nakakahilo.” (Overwhelming. Dizzying.)

…so on, so forth.

It stands nearly as tall as the nearby Citimall building, to which the original footbridge was attached.

The old Philcoa footbridge was an ordinary concrete structure, the color of its paint often refreshed to match the MMDA’s color scheme for a certain term. In the early 2000s, the passageway adjoining footbridge and mall was blocked off, reducing the number of access points to four staircases, a pair for each end. By the late 2000s, the staircases were reduced to two, presumably part of a measure to control pedestrian flow, and to limit the number of getaway points for the snatchers known to frequent the spot.

From here, you get a good view of the urban poor communities in the area.

A few months ago, construction of the new footbridge began. With a design similar to that of the AIT footbridge on Central Ave., and a nearly identical height, one could have surmised that it would also be equipped with an elevator, for the benefit of crossing UP students.

It doesn’t.

Whoever conceived of the plan did an excellent job at ensuring economy of materials, but forgot about three important things:

  1. Women use the overpass, too. Some can’t help it if they have to wear skirts. The lack of filling material between steps guarantees every peeping Tom a good view of their El Dorado.
  2. Whatever happened to the idea of a “child-friendly city?” Granted, Metro Manila isn’t child-friendly at all but the increased steepness of the staircases (particularly on the Citimall side) will certainly cause parents to struggle with hoisting their kids up.
  3. People are often in a hurry. The only reason one should make steps of uneven height is if they are building a (death) trap

Its minimalist design may have been effective at minimizing the cost to build it (but not the budget), but its skeletal appearance and crude build scream of something completely lacking — in our government officials’ and urban planners’ common sense.

Without a word of doubt, Metro Manila is a semblance of hell, but the new Philcoa overpass is the devil’s ultimate masterpiece.

Update: A Philippine Daily Inquirer article by Jeannette I. Andrade and Jerry E. Esplanada, dated October 4, 2013, has been posted regarding the footbridge. It is my sincere hope that this information gets to the authorities and that the right action be taken to address the problem it poses.