Two days after Chinese New Year, the noted Manila tour guide and heritage conservation advocate Ivan Man Dy wrote an open letter to Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and the Department of Tourism, Culture and Arts of Manila. The subject of his letter: the new lamp posts in Binondo.
“Nakita po natin ang mga bagong pailaw na mala-dragon sa Binondo at nabahala po tayo sa kanila,” said Man Dy of the new lighting fixtures that, as per the accompanying pictures in his Facebook post, are indeed decorated with a Chinese dragon motif.
But it’s not so much the dragons the tour guide has an issue with. He questioned why the lamp posts are pegged into the street itself, and taking up more space in already crowded areas.
“Makikitid na po ang mga daan para sa mga sasakyan at tao, hindi po ba dumagdag sagabal ang mga poste?” Man Dy asked. “Baka may mabangga pa rito sa gabi.”
Man Dy also brought up what he thinks is the blatant commercialization of the lights, which he says hurt the eyes more and add to the overall chaos of the surroundings. “At yung mga branding ng mga kumpaniya sa pailaw, sana’y matigilan na po. Mag bill board na lang kayo sa Edsa, mas maliwanag pa.”
The Binondo community is not asking for much, said Man Dy—just simple, working lamp posts that serve their basic purpose will do. “Di na kailangan ng 'instagrammable' or kung anu-anong gimik at disenyo. At lalong huwag sana maging sagabal sa lansangan, baka may mabundol pa dito.”
The other side
Last time we checked with Man Dy, he hasn’t received any reaction from City Hall and the DOTCA of Manila. But we chanced upon a post by David Nugent that seemed to us a reaction to Man Dy’s post. His sentiment was also posted the same day, February 14, Valentine’s Day, and it commended Mayor Isko and his team for having “busted their butts 24x7 exploring how to fix their city and more than that, actually doing it. Even through a once in a lifetime pandemic.”
Nugent told ANCX that the City of Manila “is a client of ours” and they work together on several projects. In his post, he cited the improvements the mayor initiated since assuming office, from the Kartilya ng Katipunan makeover “with proper lighting, fauna, monuments and even a great coffeeshop (a tasteful lesson in how to do coffee shops in public parks),” to the improvements in Binondo.
“Binondo was until recently yet another no-man’s land. Derelict. Dark. But that is all changing,” wrote Nugent. “New light fixtures, of good height and high quality and that will stand the test of time are just few of the improvements underway.”
When asked if his post was a reply to Man Dy’s, Nugent told ANCX it was in response to several posts in his feed that he felt were “unfair and unseemly to the City of Manila.” Give Mayor Isko a break, he seemed to be saying. “The person who first complained about the lampposts should know better than to call out such a hardworking and dedicated public servant on social media.”
Nugent believes the people in City Hall are an approachable lot, and those with complaints “could and should seek to reach the relevant department, instead of going on the attack. There are far worse issues that demand public focus right now than one individual’s complaints about new lampposts in Chinatown.”
Nugent thinks there’s nothing wrong with the themed design of the new dragon-clad lamp posts. In fact, he says they look fantastic. The old ones were of “poor quality, decrepit and needed to be replaced.”
Not an attack
Whether or not it was Man Dy whom Nugent was referring to in his Facebook post, the former says his open letter was not an attack on the mayor at all. In fact, he commended Manila’s other lighting projects. What he wrote was, he adds, a “public social media rant from a concerned citizen”—a “diplomatic one.”
As a longtime resident of Manila, Man Dy has seen many administrations come and go, each with their own lamppost design attached to them. “Maraming administrasyon na na naglagay ng pailaw sa Ongpin, kanya-kanyang gimik at tema pero sa huli, napabayaan at di na rin napakinabangan,” he wrote. These fixtures have become eyesores, he added. Perhaps the best thing is to remove them before installing new ones, or have them fixed so they can benefit the community again—“kaysa maglagay na naman ng bagong pa showbiz na ilaw.”
Meanwhile, we remain in the dark as to what City Hall has to say about this whole lighting issue. ANCX reached out to Charlie Dungo, OIC of the Department of Tourism, Culture and the Arts of Manila, to ask if they want to respond to Man Dy’s Facebook post. We are still awaiting the office’s reply.