Guest Author - Rachel Meneses-Ponce
Metropolitan Manila was created as a public corporation in 1975 by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 824 issued by former President Ferdinand E. Marcos during his term as Philippine President. In the same Presidential Decree, a Commission comprised of a Governor, Vice Governor and three Commissioners was also created. This came to be known as the Metropolitan Manila Commission (MMC). It was tasked to oversee the operations and interests of Metropolitan Manila. Representative Imelda R. Marcos who was the First Lady at that time was appointed as Governor.
The organizational structure of MMC soon changed with the massive government reorganization under the helm of President Corazon C. Aquino. Through Executive Order No. 392, MMC was changed into Metropolitan Manila Authority (MMA) and the Chairmanship was chosen by the mayors themselves. Later, in 1995, in another reorganization, MMA was renamed Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA). The position of Chairman is appointed by the President of the Republic of the Philippines. He/She must not hold a concurrent position as mayor of any of the cities and municipalities under it. At present, MMDA oversees basic services such as garbage collection/disposal, road maintenance, traffic regulation and the like. It has no political clout as each city and municipality under it has its own set of elective officials.
Geographically and politically, Metropolitan Manila or Metro Manila as it is popularly known was initially comprised of four existing cities and 13 municipalities. At present, Metro Manila is now made up of 16 cities and one municipality. The cities are Manila, Quezon City, Pasig, Marikina, Caloocan, Makati, Malabon, Muntinlupa, Navotas, Las Pinas, Paranaque, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Taguig, Pasay and Valenzuela. The municipality is Pateros. Many of the cities were ceded from the Province of Rizal. Collectively, Metro Manila is also known as the National Capital Region. The City of Manila is the capital of the Philippines.
Metro Manila is the main hub of the country. In it is the seat of government, the prime business districts, top-notch health facilities, recreational and shopping centers, airports, transportation and communication facilities, educational institutions and major places of worship. One of Asia’s biggest shopping mall – the Mall of Asia – is located in the City of Manila. Most affluent villages or “gated” communities are found in Metro Manila. Likewise, the most squalid, poorest of the poor communities are also found here.
Getting around Metro Manila is not a problem. All types of transportation are available. Private vehicles, light rail transit systems, public transportation like jeepney, buses, tricycles, taxis, even boats (plying Pasig River). One caveat though. Traffic. It is a constant in the daily grind in Metro Manila. Peak hours, which locals refer to as “rush” hour, are between 7am to 10am and 5pm to 8pm. Expect heavy traffic during these periods. Traffic becomes worse when an accident occurs anywhere in any of the connecting roads leading to major thoroughfares. It becomes worst during rainy season when most streets get flooded and traffic enforcers become scarce.
There are many hotels and lodging places that will suit any body’s budget. There are many restaurants and coffee bars serving international cuisine or a fusion of food. Electricity is provided, telecommunications (wired and cellular) and internet connections are available.
Be aware and be forewarned of shady characters like pickpockets, snatchers (bags and mobile phones, gadgets), and glib talking thieves. Be mindful of your personal belongings especially when in crowded public places. As a whole though, Metro Manila is a safe place especially in and around prime commercial hubs like in Makati and at The Fort in Taguig City. Common sense and an awareness of your environment, whether in Metro Manila or elsewhere in the world, may be good weapons to arm yourself with.