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There is something interesting about the plastic, concrete and steel barriers of the city: metal fences on the islands of major thoroughfares; orange, plastic barricades along EDSA; iron railings decorating houses. They speak so eloquently of the beast of Manila, of how seemingly wild and directionless we are. Pedestrians jaywalk under footbridges, opting to risk life and limb for a quicker route across; drivers swerve from one lane to another, gambling lives for the chance to overtake; homeowners who literally jail themselves inside their homes, forced to choose between an easy escape from dangers like fire and security from robberies.

Like cages in a zoo, these barriers aim to keep us tamed: discourage pedestrians from jaywalking, force the drivers to stay on one lane, make it hard for robbers to enter our homes. Underneath the good it is designed to achieve, they also point out to the animals we have become as a people. Like beasts, we move based on instinct and react based on convenience instead of common sense. Untamed, we compel others to find recourse in divisions and walls, in quick fixes and palliative remedies. Manila’s architecture, it seems, is a response to this wilderness.

“Walang tawiran, may namatay na dito.”

And yet, we still cross. Not even the idea of death bothers us.

I hope to see the day when Manila is liberated from these barriers, freed from these inanimate colonizers. I hope to see a day when homes are guarded by low-fences; where windows are free from rusty, iron grills; when roads need not a slab of concrete or a queue of traffic cones to keep drivers where they should be; when we will not need these physical efforts at discipline. This liberation will mean one thing: we have become persons capable of foregoing the easy route for a one that is right, persons confident in the state’s ability to manage its citizens. No longer are we beasts running on instinct but men and women docile to the righteousness of the law, disciplined not by fear but out of moral and civic obligation, and determined to live a life not just for ourselves but also for others.

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