MANY Filipinos who experience traffic jams, knee-deep floods and crater-riddled streets share the dream of rebuilding Metro Manila.

Now, they can give their recommendations on how to rehabilitate the metropolis through an online suggestion box spearheaded by street artist Mark Salvatus.

“I’ve lived in the city most of my life,” Salvatus said. “I have experienced the chaos of Metro Manila, and as an artist, I want to improve city life.”

Salvatus, a UST Fine Arts alumni, launched last February the Neo-Urban Planner, as part of his residency at the Green Papaya Art Projects, an artist-run space in Kamuning, Quezon City.

Salvatus started his Neo-Urban Planner endeavor through his blogspot account, where he posted a blog entry asking readers what they would like to change the most in their environment.

The artist said he posted questions such as, ‘If you were Bayani Fernando as the head of the MMDA, what do you want to change about our city?”

The blog post attracted a lot of feedback and suggestions.

These proposals were gathered by Salvatus, who in turn pitched them to his fellow resident artists. The blog readers were also invited to meet with Salvatus to discuss their proposals.

“These are suggestions from the citizens and for the benefit of the citizens,” Salvatus said. “We are affected by these problems in the Metro Manila; why don’t we cure these problems ourselves?”

Such suggestions include turning the flood-prone areas into “floating cities” or “floating marketplaces,” where vendors could go around the town with their goods in small boats.

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Covering exposed concrete or metal in the cities with trees or creeping plants can turn the city into a green paradise, another suggestion said.

Apart from gathering suggestions from city folks, Neo-Urban Planner also establishes dialogue between them and local artists. Salvatus called this participatory art.

“In participatory art, the viewers become part of the art making,” Salvatus explained. “Neo-Urban planning somewhat became a platform to present the people’s creative ideas for change in their cities, and eventually present these ideas to local officials.”

This way, his Neo-Urban planner is not exclusivist or elitist.

Among those who gave suggestions were art writer Clarissa Chikiamco, media artist Diego Maranan, illustrator Joan Medrano, and even Mayor Samuel Rojas of Bogota, Colombia

The project had also attracted organizations such as the Ayala and Rockefeller foundations, according to Salvatus. Museo Pambata’s Children’s Advocates program also invited him to conduct a workshop.

“I also invited fellow urban planners to inform us on how they see our cities in different perspectives and present their projects as well,” Salvatus said.

Salvatus also received an informal invitation from the Calapan City administration in Mindoro to use their city as the “testing grounds” for the Neo-Urban Plan.

(You may view the project at James C. Talon with reports from Alphonsus Luigi E. Alfonso and Maria Joanna Angela D. Cruz


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