“Beyond the commerce of men”…. a social commentary


My previous post is about the massive clearing operations currently going on in

the city of Manila, the capital of the Philippines.  Manila is just one of 16 cities of Metro-Manila.  Non-Filipinos  and  Filipinos from other parts of the country call the whole metropolis ” Manila”, but  residents of  Metro-Manila  specify where exactly they come from….  like Quezon City, Paranaque City, Makati City, etc.  On my previous post,  I said  I was born in Manila.  Actually, I was born in Paranaque City, just a taxi ride away from Manila, 25  minutes without traffic,  2 hours with traffic. lol


Map of Metro-Manila, Philippines




Now, about the title of this post….


The Philippines’ Supreme Court had come out with a milestone decision on  the use of roads, sidewalks, and open spaces ( parks ) located in private subdivisions.  Basically, it says these so-called private  roads, etc. should be opened to the public. However,  though public,  all roads , sidewalks and parks  are ” BEYOND THE COMMERCE OF MEN. ” In other words, no one can use these places other than what they are intended for.  The phrase ” beyond the commerce of men”  is the ground these massive clearing operations stand on…… demolish all encroachments and obstructions, kick out illegal vending on sidewalks and streets. ( Ah, no more street food, eh ? )


Below is a structure built on the sidewalk… clearly a violation  of  national building code, and can be demolished even without  the  Supreme Court’s mandate.  Note : demolition workers lack proper equipment… it’s mano-mano, meaning literally by hand and it’s quite dangerous.  The city does use payloaders and jackhammers in some areas. but not enough for the whole city.






Above photo shows city workers  removing  food carts off a sidewalk.


Below is road clearing. Note: vendors occupy the street, then same street partially cleared… ( not enough, in my opinion… but , it’s better than nothing.)



I highly doubt Manila would be completely cleared .  Anarchy in the streets has been so  tolerated for  decades it’s become part of  Manila culture . They say it  would take at least 2 generations to completely wipe this off the people’s psyche.  My parents remember a clean city, with wide avenues lined with century old trees, such as  Taft Avenue, Manila’s main thoroughfare.  Then the trees were taken out to make way for  a wider road, and later , ( 1984) ,ugly , elevated railroad tracks  were built over it.  ( Metro Rail ) They also remember  there was a loud  outcry over removal of century old trees, but , well, “progress.”  Then, old residents of Manila left to live in the suburbs and  posh subdivisions just outside of Manila, and were replaced by people from the countryside with less education,  no job prospects and  housing ……then they built shanties on public lands, and the rest is history. It came to a point where illegal settlers and shanty dwellers have even become defiant  and  caused trouble and violent protests  everytime  well-meaning officials would try to clean up the city.  Previous city mayors had practically given up,  until the new mayor, Francisco Moreno, was elected in July , 2019, and promised to clear up Manila.


I am not so sure about that. Sorry, Mayor Moreno.   A big chunk of the city  looks like shanty town , with old, dilapidated , greasy , built in dirt on buildings,  especially in places like Tondo, and Quaipo,  and patchy-patchy residential houses .  Unless he issues an order for building and home owners to rehabilitate (  aka repaint ) their properties, ( which is dictatorial and too heavy handed, in my opinion ) , no matter how clean the streets and sidewalks are,  Manila will forever remain an unsightly, sad city.  I’ve seen these places on YouTube…. they look like the photo below…

…. * shakes head *



Above is a common street scene in Tondo, Manila. They build structures without regard for safety. Look  how many floors there are, and they are made of rusty corrugated iron, old wood, etc.   The houses are so unsafe. I assume they don’t bother to get a building permit, and authorities don’t  bother to inspect.


Don’t get me wrong…. the rest of Manila is charming, beautiful, and historical.  In fact, the whole country , all 7,641 islands of it, is one huge tourist spot…….  Pristine islands with white sand and the bluest water  you won’t  see anywhere else in the world.


So, how does one solve a problem like Manila ?


People suggest  deal with it with a hand of steel, and it’s about time.


Legitimate Manilenos  are already sick and tired of  illegal settlers demanding relocation sites and free housing.  There are already hundreds of government relocation sites with free houses. Well, not exactly free… they pay a staggering   $ 4.00 a month.  I repeat….. FOUR DOLLARS.   (  other cities are already protesting they don’t want them there, and tax payers are also complaining that their taxes are spent building houses for these squatters, with no end in sight. )


But…to be fair…. call Manila what you like, but…….


Believe it or not,  residents of Manila have free health care (  free medicines, even free surgeries, free hospitalizations) free public universities,  and senior students in  public  high schools are given PhP 1,000 Cash every month, discounted transportation fares for students,  senior citizen discounts in everything including  movie passes,  plus PhP  500 cash a month….. single parents are also given Php 500 cash. .  It’s practically  a welfare state.  That’s why poor people from  other places flock to the city.  Hey, fellow Americans, does this sound familiar ?


Another thing… the Philippines has universal health care.




By law, all workers receive a 13th month pay, ( besides their 12 months regular salaries) , and if the employees are lucky, they also get 100 % Christmas bonus from big companies and government  institutions.  In other words, 14 months salaries annually.


And ,  all companies with more than 50 employees , are unionized.  Truckers, drivers ….Yes, unions are strong in the Philippines.  This is the reason why foreign companies don’t invest in the Philippines. They hate unions and organized workers, right? Typical.   They go to Vietnam,  Indonesia, and countries where  forming  unions are not allowed. There are only a few countries in Asia ( or Australasia ) where unions are  present .. Australia, Philippines and New Zealand.  CBA or Collective Bargaining Agreement is a very important aspect of doing business in the Philippines.  No sweatshops allowed.  That’s why you won’t see cheap clothes and stuff  here in the US that are Made in the Philippines.


Oh, wait, where am I going?  My thoughts are going haywire.


I guess it’s time to stop now.




I saw food cart  vendors  in Italy ( or their  merchandise are spread on the ground, mostly  fake brands, ugly souvenirs, etc. ) and hassling tourists.  In England, too.  Hey, Brits, you see them , right ? Yep, been there, saw them myself.   Watch out, Italy and England.     I think it looks worse in India.  Warning !








60 responses to this post.

  1. Fascinating info about the Philippines. I can see where unauthorized street structures are unsightly and dangerous. It’s practical to clear them. Yet, I admire the poor people who dare to carve out a place for themselves.

    I’m also surprised to learn that you’d find progressive social benefits and labor unions in the Philippines, along side a frightening dictator who ruthlessly “clears” drug users from existence.

    Well, I know very little. Some history books on the Philippines need to go to the top of my reading list. Any recommendations?


    • Not only that, the country had elected 2 female presidents, and now, there’s even a transwoman senator.

      I hope I can find a good history book soon. I’ve read one but it’s my parents’ old , classic college textbook , so it’s not current. The so called ” People Power Revolution ” that happened in 1986 is not even there yet.


  2. Universal and free healthcare? What a civilized and humane concept Donald.


    • I can’t believe it myself. My parents say it’s true. There are even small , health centers in each community, permanently manned by a registered nurse, a midwife,and a doctor.


  3. Where do these illegal settlers come from?


    • From all over the country, disperser. Most universities are located in Manila, and although there sre universities in other parts of the country, the ones in Manila are still the best. So, students from all over go to Manila, live in dorms or with relatives, and after graduation, do they come back to their hometowns? No, the jobs are in Metro-Manila . But they are the better emigrants. The ones that made Manila a shanty town are those with little education and no skills. They work as tricycle drivers, peons, etc… then they “marry” , build shanty houses, and have 8 children. One such family was found living under a footbridge. The wife is pregnant and has 7 other children, the youngest is 2. And she’s only 32 years old. It’s a circle of poverty, disperser. The government is now giving free birth control pills.


  4. Nice treatise on how Manila looks then and now Ren. It has improved (clean wise) a lot since Isko Moreno became its head.


    • Tita Arlene, the vendors come back again and again and again, like in Kalaw and United Nations Ave. ( I don’t have to mention Baclaran and Divisoria. Mom was even surprised that Padre Faura was not spared by the vendors. She went to high school there ( University of the Philippines Preparatory High School, at the building next to the Supreme Court building, though she heard the high school was moved to Diliman. ) The vendors doing their business on Taft Ave. , at PGH and Rizal Park, are so matapang they defy the cleaners. For example, they show a ” clean ” Taft Ave. on Sept. 9…. no vendors. Yay ! Then, on Sept.11, they are there again…. and there are even more of them this time. ( Thanks to vloggers who update on You Tube.)

      By the way, is it bad that I air dirty laundry in public? LOL

      Don’t fret… I’ll also show awesome Manila soon. He he


  5. Well said. Isko Moreno is doing a good job in cleaning up Manila. I just hope that he continues to do that and follow through with his projects and plans for the city. 😊


    • And he shouldn’t send mixed signals.


      • Yes. He shouldn’t.


        • Have you noticed it too? That’s the reason why vendors keep coming back, again and again.


          • They always come back. It’s not only happening in Manila. It also happens in other cities here. We’re kinda used to it. Even the LGU knows it.


            • I notice though that the mayor of Pasig’s operation is more successful. His clearing leaders are more firm and decisive in dealing with the violators…. Pasig’s mayor is silently doing his job , with no fanfare and selfies.

              Mayor Moreno is always saying his heart bleeds for the poor…. and that’s the reason why his team just confiscate the umbrellas, and dirty, rickity tables and carts/ . It’s so ineffective. Sometimes I feel it’s just media hype. Don’t get me wrong… I admire the mayor very much…. but he does need to change his strategy/ His crew leaders just talk, apologize, and say things like , “sorry , this is just my job.” Why can’t they say, ypu’re violating the law, so you need to leave, or else , you’ll be prosecuted…

            • That’s because he has plans on running for a high position. I wouldn’t be surprised if he runs for president and win. He’s starting his campaign now. 😂

            • Well, that’s good.

              Although, his selfie sessions are getting annoying.

              He should also stop talking in street language. It’s getting old.. he should start acting like a statesman. It was cute and charming at first, but it’s getting old and annoying. He should now set an example by speaking properly. It is easier to say kaliwa, rather than wakali, or bente ,instead of etneb. He’s concerned with education, but he’s not exactly doing that by making the youth speak that kind of language. I’m starting to cringe. I think he realizes that now.. his selfies are now limited, and he’s now mindful of his audience. Even ordinary street people do not really speak that way. ( according to my parents)

              I do want him to succeed. He looks and acts very sincere and honest.

              PS… * whisper* He does have to mind his “p’s and f’s. ” Ha ha…. It hurts my ears. He needs a speech tutor if he wants to be a statesman whom Filipinos can be proud of to see and listen to when he’s with other statesmen. Honestly, his ” p’s and f’s”. Ha ha…. Filipinos do have a problem with that.

            • To be honest, I feel in my gut that he will be the next Duterte or Erap. What he is doing right now is the same as what those two were doing when they were still aiming for the presidential post. They target the masa. They entertain them. They feed false promises. Unfortunately, these strategies are very effective in that class.

            • It is most tragic when citizens shrug off brazen violations of law and pure lawlessness, and the government , like the city of Manila, gives up on keeping law and order. Look what happened to the esteros and tributaries of Pasig River. The squatters killed the rivers.

            • Long gone were the days when people can freely and safely swim and play on rivers and creeks with in the city limits. What a waste.

            • Those were long gone…. my parents say since the 70’s. That’s 50 years ago… and you know, it only takes a week to dirty up a creek. Mom said she used to go with her mother to shop at Paco Market. That was in the 60’s. She said the ” estero” right by the market was super dirty……dead fish, rotting meat, veggies floating in the river. That was 60 years ago, budingtaba.

            • Even in provinces. The creeks and rivers are either starting to get dirty or dried up. There are efforts to clean them up. Like in Manila bay. They did try to clean it. However, it’s starting to get dirty again when people started swimming in it.

            • Climate change… even in a country where it rains 6 months in a year, there are rivers and creeks that are drying up, so I hear. The heat is getting more intense , and even farmers are taking notice.

  6. Oh btw, thanks for liking my posts. 😁


  7. Sometimes, your depiction of the Philippines remind me so much of Mexico. In good and bad, I guess. Corruption. Just to name one. Food, to compensate. Now street vendors here have been a calamity for centuries I guess. No sooner are they kicked out of one place that they appear two blocks away. They are also very well organized in “unions” (more like mafias) that have a lot of political clout. Let’s hope for the best.
    Bye, Refugio… 😉


    • One famous advocate for the ” poor” , Jose Maria Sison, just made a public statement on Philippine TV. He approves of the clearing operation. I guess he has finally realized the situation has gone out of control. He said he hoped the poor can be given a decent livelihood somewhere else, but admitted the situation was indeed anarchic and covered with graft-laden illegal vendors.

      Illegal vending is common in places in at least 3 places, ( Divisoria, Sta. Cruz, Baclaran ) since a long time ago .But now, the whole city of Manila has been invaded by these illegal vendors ( most of them sleep in their carts ) ….no street is spared. My Mom was shocked to see illegal vending at her former high school . On that same street are the Supreme Court building, Department of Foreign Affairs, National Library, etc… the architecture is Greek… so can you imagine sidewalk vendors on that street ? ( Padre Faura St. )

      There are indeed ” organizers” that collect payments from the vendors, pretty much like the Mafioso. These organizers even provide electricity …. they are called “Spidermen”. They use ” jumpers ” to steal electricity right off electric lines.

      Sir Equinoxio, I’ll bet my bottom dollar Mexico is paying attention.


      • Haha! You just lost your bottom dollar, Socorro. 😉 Not doing zip. (Jumpers here are called “diablitos”, little devils). One of our daughters works in a hospital nearby, in a zone where there are a dozen hospitals and offices of Secretary of health. All sidewalks are taken by illegal food vendors with no permit or running water. A concentration of germs. Nothing as ever nor will ever be done…
        Have a nice week-end Mercedes. 😉


        • It’s exactly the same situation in Manila. You call it a calamity in Mexico. My parents call it “delubio” in Manila. Deluvial. No street is spared , as long as there’s enough foot traffic.

          And there’s the illegal settler or squatter situation. Thousands have already been moved to numerous relocation sites, with free housing, etc. But , people with no prospects of livelihood keep coming, knowing that they can build a shelter anywhere in the city, anyway. No problem.

          They ‘ve completely trashed the city.

          It’s come to a point that now, the city has to literally ” flush ” the streets with water from firetrucks, with detergents. Clearing up is not even a metaphor. They are literally giving the city a bath.


          • It is… shocking, isn’t it how some places, (Mexico, Manila, and many others) instead of progressing, seem to go down the drain. The idea of giving a bath to the city is appealing. For Mexico. 😉 Be good my friend.


            • Manilenos have gotten used to this …. the new mayor , Mayor Moreno, says it’s a culture of tyranny, chaos and anarchy in the streets of manila ( thanks to corrupt past administrations who just wanted the votes of these anarchists ) , and now ,he wants to change the mindset of these people and let them know there is a government that actualy exists, and this one, will not tolerate lawlessness, no matter how painful it will be for violators.

              Mexico City should follow. Mexico City and Manila are practically siblings. ( with Mexico the older one. )

            • Toujours la Tyrannie a d’heureuses prémices. Always tyranny has happy premices. (Racine, a Classic French author of the 17th century). I hope Manila solves its problems. Mexico, I know they (we) are siblings, but I have been here 30 years and haven’t seen much progress. Sigh.
              Have a great week, “Mercedes”. 😉

            • What we have here is tyranny of the masses.

              What to do about the people livin on sidewalks? { They’ve built themselves 1 sq. m of shelter … sigh} The mayor has promised to build massive vertical housing, 2o floors. It will not solve the problem , because they will be replaced by new migrants, again demanding housing. It will be a never – ending struggle for the cit y. I think the main problem is over-population, and ironically, the poor ones have so many children.

            • Tyranny of the masses. That was one of the two types detected by Voltaire in his dictionary of philosophy. I agree. And it also is an endless problem. An everlasting flow of new migrants, poorly educated, no birth control, no great work skills in a a world that is increasingly technological… Sigh… 🙂
              Take care, “Remedios”. 😉

            • And the people on sidewalks? Reminded me of Arundhati Roy’s latest book “The ministry of utmost happiness”, that paints a terrible portrait of modern day India. One of the characters ends up living in a graveyard, where some of his family is buried. He ends up building a series of houses on top of of the graves for all newcomers. 🙂

  8. Wow. What a transformation. I still feel sad for the vendors they are trying to make a living too 🙁. But cleanliness.
    We have free healthcare too. But free university? Really?! We need that but we can say our student debt isn’t as high as the US.
    What a great post, Ren!


    • They come back, Becky… the next day, or worse, as soon as the cleaners turn their backs. It’s a cat and mouse game. Becky, they don’t pay taxes, they trash the whole city, they dump garbage on the sidewalks. This is not good governance. Who would want to live in a city that looks like that? Anyone can set up an eating place, cook their dishes right there on the sidewalks, wash dishes off stolen tap water right there on the street, ( illegal connections, illegal electrical connections they call jumpers) , and these people are so arrogant , to boot.

      Why are people applauding with approval? Because they are already sick and tired of seeing such dumpsites all over the city.


      • They want to make a living? Then they need to be more respectful how else are they going to be treated?


        • True. They can still make a living without breaking basic laws, like obstructing the roads and sidewalks and trashing the place. Seriously, they don’t have to be rich to practice cleanliness. Cockroaches came out when city workers demolished their carts and food stalls. Eeewww ! !


          • Oh now I’m cringing! I just finished eating when I read your comment 😂😆 cockroaches oh yuck!


            • LOL! Even hardened DPS workers( Department of Public Service} would jump off , and scream like little girls, he he.

              Oh, I haven’t seen a cockroach yet. My Mom says it smells gross.

            • A cockroach would probably live through a nuclear explosion 🤢🤮
              I haven’t seen one either! But I don’t think I could handle it!
              (Runs screaming)

  9. I heard that they are planning to move lots of businesses to Clark so maybe that will ease congestion, and people will move and clear space so there will be more chance for regulation of new and a look at the old. I’m sure it won’t happen like that but it’s nice to dream.


    • I heard they’re also planning to move some government agencies to Clark. They have to build affordable housing units to government workers. My parents are checking out the cost of a condominium unit at Clark… ( pre-sale… it’s always cheaper ) I don’t think an ordinary government clerk can afford a condominium unit there. Decongestion is a good plan, though.

      There are so many places in metro-manilan that are being developed, like Greenfield City, and a new one somewhere in Taquig… ( the former FTI ) I saw it on YouTube. , And , of course Aseana in Paranaque, and the MOA Complex very soon.

      Have you been to these places? They’re competing with Bonifacio Global City, lol.


      • I’ve been through Aseana many a time, I’ve seen it built at a rapid pace. It’s hard enough coming into Manila without building even more. Unless they have a plan to build a massive road but if its all on reclaimed land then that will be dangerous enough with all these earthquakes that keep popping up. I only like to go to Manila if it involves the airport, other than that I can live without ever going there again.


  10. Hi Random Queen,

    Some places in Manila now are unbelievably unrecognizable haha.

    Like, its been so full of vendors for decades and we never knew it was even a road.

    Let’s wait and see on what else Yorme (Mayor Isko Moreno) can do.


  11. I still believe Manila will flourish the way it used to be. It may be difficult, but it is not impossible.

    I am a Manilenyo by heart and a scholar of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. Your post has plucked my heartstrings. That’s why I am happy to have stumbled upon your musings about this scarred yet resilient city.

    May you and your family be safe amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. God bless!


    • Thank you for reading .

      My Mom is Manilena, my dad’s from Quezon City, and I was born in Paranaque and lived there for 6 years until our immigration to the US.

      I went on vacation in 2014, then again in middle of February, 2020. The most noticeable change was the airport, obviously, ha ha..

      I just had to see Jones Bridge, and I did. Nice ! And Plaza Lawton…. Sadly, it was just a drive-by sightseeing. ( Parking was such a problem in Manila )

      I hope the mayor will keep the city clean, spic and span, for as long as possible, until trashers learn they cannot brazenly soil the city anymore without consequences. One does not have to be ” rich” to be clean.


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