By Efren N. Padilla
CALIFORNIA, United States--My recent visit to Subic Bay Freeport in December of 2010 reminded me of a verse from the Book of Matthew: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them."
I was disappointed.
Subic didn't look like the vibrant and colorful place they showed in its official website or the place that my friend dubbed as Little America where drivers still obey the stop signs.
Instead, I saw a place wasting away--its harbor waterfront littered with rows and rows of used cars, its downtown boarded up with abandoned construction sites, its runway falling into disrepair, and its golf course overtaken by weeds.
How is it that a place that was once proudly dubbed as Little America and founded upon some of the best American planning designs has been shamelessly allowed to turn into what one Subic resident calls "a clandestine den of smugglers and profiteers" is incomprehensible to me.
What is the matter with us? Why can't we successfully develop our free ports like what other countries have done?
Why is it that we can't seem to get our act together even when opportunities are served to us on a silver platter? Why do we have a penchant for giving what is sacred to the dogs or throwing pearls to pigs?
Are our leaders inherently corrupt or are they simply too incompetent to be entrusted with the task of managing the general welfare? I must confess that I don't have an answer.
I am still looking for a clue on why we seem incapable to effect real change for the benefit of our people. However, I am entertaining the thought that my architect friend shared to me--that the impetus for real change may come from outside of our political system, not from within.
I think what he alludes to is the tendency of those whom we entrust with power to think within the box rather than outside the box. As we may have already known, thinking within the box is not only less challenging but also expedient to one's own short-term interest or political survival.
And so, if our political life seems familiar and "pa-weather-weather lang," then our citizens are warranted in their perception that indeed nothing will change for the better in our country, except for the lives of the few who are momentarily in position of power.
Is this the best we can offer our people?
Note: The author is an urban and regional planning consultant and a professor of urban sociology and urban planning at California State University, East Bay. He has written books on the American Urban Regional Experience and Perspectives on Urban Society. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org