The lesson has to do with learning from the mistakes of others, notoriously difficult though that always is.
In the space of just a week, the national paper I read devoted an editorial and two important opinion columns to the furor over a giant billboard on Edsa showing a row of men wearing nothing but briefs. Originally, the public outcry had to do with the supposed indecency of the sight of male genital “bulges” albeit covered by the briefs that the male public was being persuaded to go out and buy.
Myself, I thought the men looked silly, pathetic, in fact, and the public’s reaction just parochial as usual.
Note that women’s breasts are in-your-face everywhere without eliciting public comment (thankfully, more aesthetically-pleasing than those male bulges), but then the prurient display of women is accepted patriarchal commercial practice.
The issue for Dumaguete lies elsewhere than in the commercial contents of billboards, though it has been pointed out before in this space that a billboard on Real St. urges men to make drinking beer a daily habit: “Araw-araw mag-relax”, even as they don’t really seem to need persuading.
Excessive drinking and its consequences are unacknowledged social problems.
The question for us is what “look” for Dumaguete do business and political leaders envisage for the years to come? As the City increasingly urbanizes, a phenomenon that conventional and uncritical thinking may equate with “development” and progress, aggressive advertising is likely to be part and parcel of business practice.
Already, the City is much less green than it was some years ago, traffic is starting to pose problems, tall buildings are going up beside lower structures creating a visual jumble.
Will giant billboards everywhere be part of this new Dumaguete landscape? Their uncontrolled proliferation and lack of regulation are safety and aesthetic concerns in Metro Manila — a giant billboard towers every 11 meters on EDSA, that highway of horrors.
Columnist Ceres Doyo bewails the “disfigurement of the urban and rural landscape.”
Business promotion has a way of obliterating most other considerations, and of legitimizing activities that create ugliness, noise, discomfort.
People then become inured to visual chaos, the same way they are not offended by the sight of garbage in the streets and in their neighborhoods.
But there is still beauty to preserve in this City and Province, if we care at all about a concept of beauty of public space and of nature.
And it’s not only for the sake of tourism promotion, even as visual pollution definitely kills the attractiveness of the City and our highways, it’s about pride of place, and people’s well- being.
It’s definitely not too late to learn from the mistakes of Metro Manila or Cebu where billboards are concerned, but none too soon either because the billboard business is here.
The City should set up a body to formulate policies on visual advertising in public space that serve both the interests of business, but also aesthetic considerations for the City.