Arts and Culture / Opinion / Society and Politics

Torre de Manila: Have we no shame?

By Miguel Asistio |

Our national hero Jose Rizal took part in a revolution during his time alive, and has been part of many battles, albeit without arms or bloodshed. However, there’s a battle going on right where he’s front and center, and yet he could not participate in this one even if he wanted to. This was a battle somewhat reminiscent of David and Goliath, but Rizal not being the David because of his short stature, but because the Goliath is ridiculously tall; 47-storey tall.

This was the battle of Torre de Manila.

There are two sides in this battle: one side fighting for Rizal, and the other fighting for what seems to be best for business.

On one corner, we have Senator Pia Cayetano, head of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture, and Carlos Celdran, cultural activist, care about our culture. They care about our monuments, more specifically, the monument of our national hero, located near Taft Avenue. They are defending the sanctity of our national hero, which in turn, make them heroes— championing our culture.

On the other corner, we have the villainous DMCI Homes.  Set to build a project worth P1 billion, the project named Torre de Manila, which is a condominium unit right behind the monument of Jose Rizal, they evoke of greed and plasticity. But do they really?

If they were in an arena asked to present their side to the people, the crowd will be raining waves of boos upon them endlessly. Cries of “have you no shame?” will be showered upon DMCI Homes, most likely remorseless heckling on top of that.

But, when all the cards are faced right side up, who really is at fault for this matter?

It was on September 24th of this year when Senator Cayetano called for a public hearing involving her beloved committee, with DMCI on the opposite side, and she pulled no punches. Saying that she found it hard to believe that DMCI were builders “of good faith”, she instead pointed out that they were violating law.

She questioned whether building the condominium unit was something lawful, and she labeled the construction of Torre de Manila a wake-up call for the Filipino people, that they should pay more attention to heritage and culture.

However, this controversy was going on even before this hearing even took place. As early as 2012, the City of Manila received a complaint from Carlos Celdran. Celdran was against the building of the condominium unit, for it “photo-bombed” the sanctity of Rizal. He also suggested planting trees around the area, just in case the construction of the unit could no longer be stopped.


Sen Pia Cayetano during ocular inspection with cultural activist Carlos Celdran. PHOTO by Joan Bondoc,

Manila City Councilor Joel R. Chua said that building and zoning permits were already given to the developer, which encouraged them to start on the project. For Manila City Planning and Development Chief Danilo H. Lacuna Jr. however, it’s looking to be less of a cultural and historical issue and more of an issue of violating another kind of law: floor area ratio.

It was said that DMCI did not really violate any laws or rights, with the area they requested to build Torre de Manila on being a commercial one and not a historical one.

As Cayetano and Celdran are joined by Paulo Alcazaren, a heritage conversation columnist, in suggesting various ways on how to combat the Torre de Manila from overshadowing our national hero, those who seem neutral on the issue, namely The National Museum, National Commission for Culture, National Parks Development Committee,  say that the City of Manila never even consulted them regarding the project. Alcazaren also said that the city of Manila did not have a unified urban plan, however, adding further woes.

DMCI then said that they never received any cease and desist order from the City of Manila.

There have been numerous instances that called for the demolition of various projects due to ruining the beauty of monuments. A construction of a sports complex was thwarted in Intramuros, while construction nearby the Taal Basilica was also stopped. The Taal Basilica is a National Historical Landmark, and even more so is the monument of Rizal. One can wonder why this issue has been poorly handled. The sanctity of the 400-year old Blue Mosque in Russia was saved, after Russia’s government ordered the demolition towers of varying height.

Who should be pointed at with burning fingers and stared at with prying eyes? Who should the cries of “have you no shame” in letting our culture slip this way really go out to? Should it be towards DMCI Homes, the Senate Committee, and the City of Manila? Or should it be on ourselves?

A prime personification of heritage is being robbed of its purity right before our eyes, and the fact that we let it happen this way, what does that make the people? Those same people surrounding the figurative arena raining boos upon whoever shows up?

Have we no shame?

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