Sunday, January 17, 2010

Under the Spot Light: San Pablo City

The fun week is over.

Almost a week of celebration for the feast in honor of Saint Paul the First Hermit (what a treat for a lonesome hermit) and the Coco Festival is all there is to it. Back to work. Back to school. Back to reality. And back to Viole(n)t Mugs.

But it is somewhat difficult trying to gauge the fete for I was not there – physically and essentially. Yes, yes, it would be too boring again to discuss my contempt for the things. But what is more in-place to discuss is the aftermath of the activities. Indeed, back to reality.

I do not wish to promote some of the ‘adhikain’ of our vice mayor. It’s just that they are more reasonable and plain to be understood. The reigning one, which appeared as early as the Christmas season was the presence of the cederas (side street makeshift stalls) in the streets of the city proper. They have been constant eye sores and contributors to the heavy traffic in the city. (Traffic, I observed, is getting heavier and heavier now; now that big stores like Puregold is in town.) Now that the festival is over, when can we possibly find out streets clear of these stores?

Sure they are sources of cheap products for consumption and use of San Pableños, but will it always be in the good side? Can we possibly foresee the implications of their presence in the city? This is in fact a two-edge sword thing. For one, they amount to the collective status of the people. I do not mean to disparage or belittle those who have only a few to spend. For all I know, I belong to them. But these stores cater only to the promotion of substandard and most of the time smuggled and/or pirated products. If they did not have any permit at all, we are not guaranteed of revenues from them. More so, it shows our acceptance of widespread compromise. Even if some of our fellow Filipinos clamor for change in the society, we cannot see such things unless we initiate it ourselves.

Second, it somehow mirrors the city’s incapability to handle urbanization. Indeed, we are witnessing transition of San Pablo to a more urbanized setting. And if we are to rise to that economic level of activity, then we should try to come up with the necessary measure, policies if possible, to face the things that go with it – population explosion, migration, rise of vagrant groups, among other. If at this point in time, we cannot even handle properly what they term as ‘illegal’ activities, then what can we expect more from the future?

I am not in any way tickling the issue of local governance incompetence or self-inflicted blindness. The point is that we, as citizens, should have our respective say to the issues concerning the place in which we live in. Take the case of the SM currently in construction. Although still not evident, there is a looming possibility that it would kill the small and local businesses. Why would I choose some other place when SM would give me an air-conditioned place, stark clear movies, good food, and branded product stores? Really enticing. But at this point in time, one cannot possibly commit suicide in the face of giant companies. I appreciate the efforts of Ultimart to modernize somehow its facilities to have a more attractive place for shopping. Local business at work.

But what is worrying is the fate of the San Pablo Shopping Mall. I will always remember the demise of a local mall ion Lucena when the SM there opened. It used to be the only hub for shopping and leisure but it suffered an instant death in the coming of the giant company. I have no idea if fees are high in the place but it could weather the coming of SM by opening it to local businesses of good reputation. I take the suggestion of Sir Hemenes ‘Jim’ Bagsic, current principal of San Pablo Central School to whom I was able to talk to about these things. By providing place for small players (we took the fruit stands as an example), we could have a healthy competition and cleaner market vicinity for we could eliminate the isolated and often untidy stores and stalls outside the market proper. Even at this point it is entirely in the Utopia zone, but I say that revolution, even at this low level, would be necessarily bloody. But of course, if the local leaders have the open mind and charisma (should I say political will?) to sort things out, then things would not be that difficult. Add to that the faith of the people themselves that all these can be effected.

There is already a rumor of yet another big mall to rise on the outskirts of the city. Whether this is true, the thought alone poses bigger challenges to the local administrators on how to handle these bigger companies that would surely give bigger revenues and the survival of city’s local businesses. This time, we cannot only look at the unfolding events. An active participation in the proper and healthy organization of economic activities in the city is a de facto role of each San Pableño.

* Much thanks to Sir Jim Bagsic for helping me out with my task when I visited his school, and for providing me with insights on some local issues and as well as stories about scouting

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