Fam­ily-friendly prac­tices in ur­ban liv­ing

Manila Bulletin - - Views • Features - By DR. BERNARDO M. VIL­LE­GAS (To be con­tin­ued)

AS the Philip­pines moves to­wards high-mid­dle-in­come and high-in­come sta­tus in the next 20 years, it is in­evitable that an in­creas­ing pro­por­tion of its pop­u­la­tion will be re­sid­ing and work­ing in ur­ban ar­eas. In­dus­tri­al­iza­tion and ur­ban­iza­tion go hand in hand. It is highly prob­a­ble that as the in­come per capita of the Philip­pines rises to $12,235 and above (First Word level in to­day’s prices) by 2040, close to 80 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion will be liv­ing in ur­ban or at least “rur­ban” (partly ru­ral and partly ur­ban like Lipa, Batan­gas, to­day) dis­tricts. A most rel­e­vant ques­tion be­ing asked by those who con­sider the fam­ily as the most im­por­tant foun­da­tion of a pro­gres­sive so­ci­ety is how to en­sure the well-be­ing of the Filipino fam­ily. How can we sus­tain the best prac­tices of Filipino fam­i­lies that are in­tact, har­mo­nious, and happy in the midst of the chal­lenges of the com­plex­i­ties of ur­ban liv­ing, such as traf­fic, pol­lu­tion, time pres­sure, etc.?

I was for­tu­nate to have at­tended a most in­no­va­tive ex­change of ideas or­ga­nized by Andre Yap, founder of one of Manila’s most cu­rated gath­er­ings called IG­NITE x CHANGE. The ti­tle of the gath­er­ing was “Mega Manila 2020: Reimag­in­ing the Fu­ture of Ur­ban Dwelling and Home Sweet Home.” Last March 10, 2018, I met with 60 other par­tic­i­pants from var­i­ous sec­tors of so­ci­ety -- ed­u­ca­tion, health, ur­ban plan­ning, in­no­va­tion, tech­nol­ogy, en­ter­prise, gov­ern­ment, and in­dus­try. The ques­tion we ad­dressed from our re­spec­tive vantage points was “What will the ur­ban home of 2030 look like, in a mega metropolis like Manila?” In the next twenty years, there will surely be other large ur­ban con­glom­er­ates in such re­gions as Cen­tral Lu­zon (the Pam­panga Triangle), Batan­gas, Metro Cebu, Davao, Ca­gayan de Oro, Iloilo, and a few oth­ers. These other po­ten­tial metropoli­tan cities can learn from both the suc­cesses and fail­ures of the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion in pro­vid­ing an en­vi­ron­ment con­ducive to the whole­some de­vel­op­ment of the Filipino fam­ily.

Let me start with my own con­tri­bu­tions to the ex­change. I em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of help­ing the Philip­pines avoid the tragic fate of most de­vel­oped coun­tries in Asia that are suf­fer­ing from de­mo­graphic sui­cide be­cause of fer­til­ity rates that are much be­low the re­place­ment of 2.1 ba­bies per fer­tile woman. The most notable ex­am­ples of these rich coun­tries in Asia that are grad­u­ally dis­ap­pear­ing from the planet are Ja­pan and Sin­ga­pore. A re­cent Bloomberg re­port cat­e­gor­i­cally stated that “While Ja­pan had the big­gest slump in its work­force in Asia over the last 10 years, Sin­ga­pore has the most to fear from an age­ing pop­u­la­tion over the next two decades.”

My first rec­om­men­da­tion then had to do with the res­i­den­tial con­do­minium units that are pro­lif­er­at­ing over the Metro Manila area, con­tribut­ing to the build­ing boom. An In­creas­ing num­ber of fam­i­lies in the ur­ban ar­eas are re­sid­ing in con­do­minium units lo­cated in strate­gic busi­ness dis­tricts. As I have often com­mu­ni­cated to such de­vel­op­ers at DMCI Homes, PHINMA prop­er­ties, SMDC, and sim­i­lar de­vel­op­ers of units for the mid­dle class (with prices of P1 to P6 mil­lion a unit), they must make avail­able a big pro­por­tion of three-bed­room units in their in­ven­tory, or de­sign their prod­ucts in such as way that even the twobed­room units can even­tu­ally make room for a third bed room. The rea­son is that for the young cou­ples to be able plan for three or more chil­dren, a min­i­mum of three bed­rooms would be needed: one bed­room for the boys and an­other bed­room for the girls, in ad­di­tion to the mas­ter’s bed­room. For fam­ily sizes larger than three, dou­ble-deck beds can be used in each bed­room to ac­com­mo­date mul­ti­ple girls or boys. This would make it pos­si­ble for Filipino cou­ples to con­tinue with the tra­di­tional pref­er­ence for large fam­i­lies that has been part of Filipino cul­ture for gen­er­a­tions. This help to large fam­ily sizes will guar­an­tee that as we be­come richer, we will defy the al­most uni­ver­sal trend all over the de­vel­oped world that the fer­til­ity rate drops be­low re­place­ment which can lead to se­ri­ous eco­nomic prob­lems. We should not hes­i­tate to be the ex­cep­tion to the rule in the same way that we are the only ones who do not have a divorce law.

The sec­ond rec­om­men­da­tion I made is to en­cour­age real es­tate de­vel­op­ers, whether of con­do­minium units or individual de­tached dwellings, to make pro­vi­sions for spa­ces within their de­vel­op­ments in which en­ter­pris­ing ed­u­ca­tors can set up early learn­ing cen­ters for chil­dren from 1 to 6 years of age. Cou­ples with chil­dren of this age group would be in­ter­ested in send­ing them to these kinder­gartens that are within walk­ing dis­tance from their homes for ob­vi­ous health and safety rea­sons. I am glad to note that there is an in­creas­ing num­ber of par­ents who are ei­ther home school­ing their chil­dren or are send­ing them to early learn­ing en­ters that are lo­cated close to where they live. There are even groups that are fran­chis­ing these ed­u­ca­tional cen­ters, pro­vid­ing both the in­struc­tional ma­te­ri­als as well as the train­ing pro­grams for qual­ity teach­ers. Those who are in­ter­ested in know­ing more about this trend can get in touch with Mr. Danny Moran at email ad­dress dan­ny­moran@aol.com or Edric Men­doza at edricm@home­school.global.com. I know for a fact that DMCI Homes is al­ready pi­lot­ing these schools.

Be­cause it is im­por­tant to in­tro­duce chil­dren as early as pos­si­ble to sports ac­tiv­i­ties so that they know how to spend their leisure time in healthy phys­i­cal ex­er­cise rather than be­ing glued to their smart phones for hours, I also rec­om­mended to these real es­tate de­vel­op­ers to al­ways pro­vide space for a gym and a bas­ket­ball court that can also be used for fut­sal games. The ad­van­tage of fut­sal is that it can be played by chil­dren as young as four or five years old. As an ad­vo­cate of the de­vel­op­ment of football as a na­tional sport to ap­prox­i­mate the pop­u­lar­ity of bas­ket­ball, I am es­pe­cially en­cour­ag­ing schools and non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions to or­ga­nize fut­sal tour­na­ments. The skills needed to play football can be de­vel­oped even faster in fut­sal be­cause the play­ers han­dle the ball more often since there are only five vs. five in a typ­i­cal fut­sal game. Also, a football pitch—which is more dif­fi­cult to find—is not needed. In fact, fut­sal (as is done in Brazil) can be played in any street cor­ner or va­cant lot. Of course, I would like to see more real es­tate de­vel­op­ers fol­low the ex­am­ple of Me­ga­world which built a full-sized football field called Em­per­ador in its town­ship de­vel­op­ment in McKin­ley in Fort Boni­fa­cio. The avail­abil­ity of more football fields will go a long way in the de­vel­op­ment of football as a ma­jor na­tional sport, es­pe­cially now that the AZKALS, our na­tional football team has qual­i­fied for the first time for the Asian Cup, a ma­jor step­ping stone to­ward the World Cup. It is also a cause for re­joic­ing the na­tional women football team, the Malditas, has al­ready qual­i­fied for the Asian Cup and is a step closer to the World Cup.

As a pro­po­nent of a greater em­pha­sis on agribusi­ness as a pro­fes­sional choice among the youth, I also sug­gested to the real es­tate de­vel­op­ers to in­vest in a farm one hour or less from their con­do­minium units where they can lease small farm lots to those con­do­minium dwellers who would like to en­gage in ur­ban farm­ing. These can gen­er­ate prof­its for the house­holds who can grow such high-value crops as hon­ey­dew melon, sweet pa­paya, toma­toes, cab­bage, egg­plant, let­tuce, and other fruits and veg­eta­bles, us­ing the well tested tech­nolo­gies of such en­ter­prises as Harbest and East-West Seed. It is healthy for fam­i­lies who are cooped up in ur­ban cen­ters to be able to spend their week­ends in a ru­ral set­ting, es­pe­cially in ac­tual farm­ing work to which they can ex­pose their chil­dren. This is an­other way of avoid­ing that their chil­dren be­come dig­i­tal geeks who have ab­so­lutely no con­tact with na­ture.

Fi­nally, these ur­ban hous­ing de­vel­op­ments should fol­low the ex­am­ple of their coun­ter­parts in the re­tail­ing sec­tor who al­ways pro­vide for a chapel or at least a prayer room in the malls that are dot­ting the ur­ban landscape. From time to time, Masses can be held in these chapels on spe­cial days. They can also be a place for prayer for peo­ple of all de­nom­i­na­tions. Hav­ing this space for spir­i­tual ex­er­cises will be highly ap­pre­ci­ated by the con­do­minium dwellers who are sub­jected to so much stress and strain that are in­her­ent to those who have to live, us­ing the phrase of Ig­nite xCHANGE, in a “bustling metropolis of 24 mil­lion peo­ple, wak­ing up every day to a lab­o­ra­tory-full of the world’s most wicked prob­lems.”

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