Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Finally, an urban retreat to help you manage life’s balancing act gracefully… a thoughtfully designed community where the elements of green, suburban open spaces and refreshing water elements conspire to bring you the pitch-perfect balance that you crave for your body, mind and spirit… an urban retreat where city conventions and suburban ideals are in perfect balance.”

That’s what’s written in a brochure showing some lush condominium building located in the middle of the country’s top busi
ness center. As I continued reading the text while glancing every so often at its accompanying picture of a woman wearing workout clothes and sitting in a lotus position on the newly manicured lawn—suggestively called the meditation garden--of the building, I felt something amiss. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something that makes the whole thing off-putting. I reread the first paragraph and, as if leaping off the page, there it was, the phrase, a thoughtfully designed community, in that maddening passive voice.

By thoughtfully, somebody must have thought of the design, but it didn’t say who the designer is; or to whom it is designed for. Outside the realm of computer simulation games, the idea that a community can be designed at all is just plainly preposterous. More than the infrastructure or the physical space, a community is all about people– interactions, relationships, interrelationships, networks and linkages – with their commonalities and differences. The dynamic quality of communities can never be designed – whether thoughtfully or not.

I live in a condominium where community building is severely circumscribed and socializing is a rarity and whose impersonal air makes it difficult to develop friendly relations even with next-door neighbors. My sense of community is limited to the exchange of nods or smiles from familiar faces in the elevator; the obligatory “good morning, ma’am” from the building’s security guards; the ever-present taho vendor crouching beside the guardhouse, patiently waiting for customers every morning; the man with his push cart who sells fruits in season and carries a different, always top of the line, cell phone every time I buy from him; the brown-skinned woman expertly—and with such amazing strength—wielding the bolo to peel off the thick skin of the coconuts she’s selling; the ogling tricycle drivers with their relentless wolf-whistles; the elderly Caucasian, at all times impeccably dressed, sitting on a stool by the corner newsstand, who, when I pass by, is always in animated conversation with a local and never fails to greet me with a smile, “You look beautiful today.”

These are the familiar faces I see from day to day for several years now. They have become my people – the very people whose presence I have learned to count on everyday and whose existence brought a sense of balance to my life. We have become a community.


Amelia said...

yes, community cannot be designed. I agree with your statement. having lived in a condominium for a year now and I find socialization as not part of it.merely hi's & hello's at the elevator, nodding of heads and just smiling every time you meet them on the ground. I don't even know who's are neighbour. compared with the community we have back in Manila, it's different.

Kayni said...

i wish there's a taho vendor at my place, but i could live without the "ogling tricycle drivers"...lol.

Anonymous said...

the designer of this community should have read this and this posts on social capital. :)

Angeli said...

you are right amelia, my neighbors come and go without my knowing who they are. and another thing, kids don't get to experience playing outside with the kids in the neigborhood (mga patintero, taguan, etc) just like we had.

hay naku, kayni, those drivers won't let up no matter the length, fit or neckline of my outfit. :)

anonymous, you remembered my thesis! i shed buckets of blood, sweat and tears just to finish that thing. hahahah

Anonymous said...

Yes Angeli you write exceptionally well. Don't doubt it. Log onto Paulo Coelho's site and blog where you will receive advice if you ask him. Your ability as a writer is clear to any reader.


Angeli said...

thanks, unstranger. i'm going to visit the link you gave.

onyxx said...

i used to think it would be nice to live in a condo, until i made a frequent visit to a friend's unit and began to realize just how "isolated" she would feel sometimes (she lives by herself). i guess it's ok if you have a family or someone to share it with, but unless you have a very busy and fulfilling social life condo living can be hard too

Angeli said...

hi onyxx. if you're the solitary, i-value-my-privacy type, then living in a condo IS nice. the amenities and 24-hour security are a plus, too.

thanks for dropping by. :)

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