22 Mar 2015

Smog in Manila

A few years ago, I moved to the Philippines. This is a great place to be. Loving people, amazing beaches, beautiful mountains, finger-licking good food, I could not ask for anything better.

I settled to live in the mountains of the province of Laguna, about 100 km from Manila. This is the best place for me to be. While within reasonable distance from the hustle and bustle of its great capital city, I am fortunate enough to enjoy fresh air in my surroundings full of coconut trees and rainforests, with beautiful sceneries, and colourful sunsets; newly harvested organic foods are always readily available, and people are delightfully relaxed. It is unquestionably rather idyllic.

Sometimes, however, duty calls me to Manila. I must confess that I have a love-hate relationship with Manila. I love it because it is big, noisy, and buzzing, with an incredibly vivacious nightlife; it reminds me of living in London, and it has a very similar urban feel (I am not going to tread the dangerous grounds of the socio-economic landscape in this supposedly light-hearted post ...). I also hate it, however, on occasions. One of the reasons for this is its smog.

Breathing in Manila after a few months of fresh mountain air can be rather challenging. I have always noticed how, as one drives into Metro Manila, everything start becoming grey no matter how sunny it is. The further one travels towards its centre, nearing Makati and the inner cities, the more visible this grey-ness (if that is even a word) becomes. It is almost tangible.

Hazy Manila
I never had a camera that could show the extent of this dome covering Manila, that is, until now. Or rather, I never had a camera that could overcome my lack of photographic skills enough to show this effect in pictures.

I have placed two pictures in this post to prove my point. If they are too small, simply click on the pictures to see them in full size.

Looking at the houses and objects in the vicinity they are clear and glistening in the often bright landscape. The sun is shining, and the shadows of the skyscrapers project over the smaller buildings.

Hazier ManilaLooking further ahead, however, the background becomes hazy. One can barely see the clear, sparsely clouded sky in the distance, and the mountains towering over Manila are all but a distant memory of what is available only a few miles away from here.

Panning slightly to the right (in the second picture you can see the mountain top has moved slightly to the left, the skyscraper that was in the centre of the picture is now on the left, and the focus is directed more to the “centre” of Metro Manila) it is actually possible to see how more dense this grey smoky mantle becomes. On the right of the picture, it is barely possible to catch sight of the mountains in the distance.

This is rather alarming! This entire miasma is breathed into lungs and assimilated into the bloodstream...

So, I drive to Manila, but I try not to use my car when I am there; I ensure that the air-con in the hotel is at a reasonable temperature, and that it is switched off when I leave. I am at a loss as to what more I can do. If anyone has indeed any idea how I can lower further my personal carbon emission when in Manila, please let me know, and I will be only too happy to oblige.

In the meantime, my heart goes to all the ManileƱos that gamble their lives on a daily basis respiring these hazardous levels of pollution.