Urbanization and Urbanity

Urbanization has sped away while urbanity has barely kept pace. We do need an urbanity movement, for as James Norman Hall has noted, “When urbanity decays, civilization suffers and decays with it.”

More than half of the 100 million Filipinos residing in the country now live in urban areas. That means about 51.7 million Filipinos are crowded in 7,437 urban barangays. Most of the economic, social and cultural activities are happening in these 18 percent of communities counted as urban.

Throughout history, “city lights” have attracted droves of people from the countryside. While our rural population slowed to -0.5 percent from 2010 to 2015, urban population expanded by 4.1 percent. The staggering number of people calling themselves urbanites, however, belies the urbanity needed to keep millions of people living together, in neighborly peace. Urbanization has sped away while urbanity has barely kept pace.

Living in dense settings requires adjustment to smaller spaces, greater respect for others’ rights, and understanding the use of common areas. To the newly arrived, this requires rapid adaptation, but the suddenness of these changes may need government intervention for certain rules of urbanity to be followed.

To be urbane is to be polished in manner. Under normal circumstances, a “provinciano” would learn how to become urbane gradually, by watching earlier arrivals. Since urbanization has been rapid, however, this learning process may be disruptive and may not even occur without external regulation. That is why an increasing number of local governments are being challenged to formulate necessary ordinances to regulate behavior.

President Duterte embarked on the “no tambay” rule in Metro Manila’s streets last year, with loud complaining from the defenders of human rights. Recent urbanity ordinances pertain to limiting karaoke singing up to 10 PM in Valenzuela City; and prohibition of the hanging of underwear laundry and penalties for gossiping in Baguio City. Re-introducing good manners and right conduct in elementary schools has received strong social media support. The Catholic Church is also getting stricter with dress codes during mass. But much more needs to be done to reduce littering, to keep people fall in line, and for Filipinos to be on time.

We do need an urbanity movement, for as James Norman Hall has noted, “When urbanity decays, civilization suffers and decays with it.”

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About the Author
Mr. Oscar F. Picazo is a retired specialist in health systems, health economics, and social policy. He has worked in 24 countries for the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and as an independent consultant. He returned to the Philippines in 2009 and became a senior research consultant for the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.
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