Minority Report


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This is downtown Dumaguete as I first saw it, more than ten years ago. I took the picture on an ordinary afternoon, sitting on the steps in front of Lee Plaza. It was hot; the sun glared down on the street like a death ray, broiling the pavement. But the women you see here were used to it, and strode forward about their business without concern.

The city has changed somewhat since then. The most obvious difference is the traffic. In this picture the streets look almost empty compared to today. And there are very few private cars or motorcycles to be seen; only Pedicabs.

At that time there were fewer stores, and smaller ones. Where Robinson’s mall now stands, there was only an empty field full of cows. There was no McDonalds, no KFC. There were no internet cafes, no cell phones. If you wanted to talk to someone, you had to go and find that actual 3D person in the flesh, probably at their house.

And to get to somebody’s house, you had to ride on many unpaved roads, and, when it rained, mostly on mud. And even mild rain or wind would almost guarantee a power failure. In many ways Dumaguete was a just a sleepy college town.

But perhaps because of that, public events were more anticipated, and had a more intense effect on everyday life than they do now. During the Dumaguete Fiest, or the Santa Cruzan, everyone in the city stopped dead for days to celebrate.

Today, many people are so glued to the glare of laptops, so lost in the flux of cell phones and social networks with their groups of “friends” –that they are often hardly aware of their physical surroundings, much less of local public events.

Dumaguete, like every town, changes– but also stays the same. There are more people now, with more cars on the streets- but still with no traffic lights; and so, with constant traffic jams. There are internet cafes everywhere, but the internet is often as slow as syrup; there are fewer brownouts, but they still happen, and then all the networks crash.

But as things change, people find ways to manage, or at least to ignore, the new problems that arise. Dumaguete, seen here ten years ago, is still the same place. And people here still move on through their private lives without concern.

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