Throughout the history of Hispanic and contemporary Philippines, cities are centers of power and commerce. As pointed out by Dr. Ma. Luisa Camagay, cities in our archipelago are generally located in strategic locales, specifically, near or along bodies of water. As a result, Philippine cities have been, and are still, magnets of migrants from the provinces and isles of the country. Students of history have analyzed the socio-economic evolution of some of the country’s key cities such as Manila, Iloilo, and Cebu; such changes were fast-tracked by the entry of foreign traders in the middle of 19th century.

One can still observe such changes right now, but at a far more rapid rate.

The influx of population from the provinces- facilitated by the use of bus jeep and trucks- and rapid changes in economy, have further altered the locations of cities. This is noticeable especially at start of the last century. Cities have, for decades, been encroaching inland, way up to the mountains. Examples: in Cebu City, urbanized areas are to be found in relatively hilly / mountainous areas of Lahug, Banilad, and Apas. In those districts, one can see narrow roads and establishments hugging the slopes that descend from the mountains of central Cebu.
In the “pambansang kabesera” or what can be termed as Mega Manila, one can see how shanties factories houses schools and other buildings are crowding the sloping areas of Quezon City (such as Novaliches, Litex and Fairview) and in Montalban and San Mateo. Baguio City is another living proof of the changing nature of Philippine cities, from river-or bayside hubs to densely populated centers being constructed and expanding on mountains.

Meanwhile, Cagayan de Oro and Iligan Cities are seeming hybrids of it, both being sandwiched between mountain and sea.

A Google Earth view of some Philippine urban areas will be another proof of such changes.

A forecast: with urban expansion seemingly to continue for decades to come, the price to pay will become higher. More trees to be cut, more slopes to be bulldozed for new subdivisions, more sources of water to be searched for and more farms to be converted to real estate / industrial development. Time will come- and this may be fast in coming- when many parts of the Philippines will be urbanized. And time will come, when we will run out of mountains for cities to expand to. Therefore, a question begging even for tentative answers remains: up to what extent are we ready to manage those changes?

I believe, only a bit.


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