Painitan promenade experiment


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The idea of creating pockets of promenades in Dumaguete City will continue to be debated on, and it is anticipated to develop into a groundswell for action among Negrenses and Dumagueteños alike as the days roll on.

The Road Revolution being waged in Cebu and led by FU alumnus, internationally renowned environment lawyer Dr. Tony Oposa is getting national attention as it should because of a convergence of events: devastating typhoons and floods, draughts attributed to Climate Change, choking and wasteful road traffic that is getting into everybody’s nerves, and the propensity of national and local governments to build more roads and flyovers to accommodate more privately-owned vehicles, instead of investing on mass transport.

Add to this the recent report of the World Health Organization that the primary health problem are diseases caused by dirty and polluted air, and people will begin to realize, albeit slowly, that everyone must do something to avert the catastrophic prediction that the human specie, like the dinosaurs of the past, is on an “extinction” mode.

The debate on the desirability of transforming the Unitown into a walkable community is conducted without local empirical data to support or oppose the proposal.

The views expressed by the proponents are gleaned from world-wide models and research conducted in other countries. It seems that this information based on foreign data is not appreciated by the opposition.

Hence, the need for an “experiment” that could provide empirical evidence for all in Dumaguete City to experience and witness. I recommend what I call the Painitan Pomenade Experiment.

As a newbie in University Town, I was introduced to a unique practice among Dumaguetenos to stop by the painitan, which I assume means “a place to get warmed up”, one Sunday morning after coming from a marathon clinic I organized in partnership with the Metro Dumaguete Roadrunners Club.

With some MDRC members towing along children who joined the early Sunday run, I was brought to a street that looks more like an alley, right smack at the middle of the public market. It was only this year, or six years later, that I came to know that the street is called Katada.

During the first public hearing conducted by the City Council on the proposed ordinance for a “Perdices Promenade”, it was flashed on the screen that a similar proposal was submitted by Councilor Nilo D. Sayson for a “Katada Promenade.”

I asked around where Katada street is, and believe it or not, no one among those I asked, even those from Dumaguete, could give me a definitive answer. A longtime resident of Dumaguete and a faculty member of FU told me that Katada is the short street perpendicular to Hibbard Ave. and leading to the pier.

But apparently, there is another Katada St. that cuts across the public market — perpendicular to Surban and Colon Sts. — which I visited recently and this is what I saw: Katada is over 100 meters long, with fine lamp posts lining up the western side of the street. Next to the lamp posts are what appears to be tambayan for those who wish to imbibe their beer and other alcoholic drinks, and some foreigners as well nursing their drink as they watched TV.

On the eastern side are the eateries serving the traditional painitan fare of sticky ricecakes called puto, which is entirely different from the puto sold in Metro Manila or the famous puto Biñang of Laguna.

There is also budbod which people in Luzon call suman. The puto and budbod are eaten with hot native tsokolate.

I also counted exactly 74 motorcycles parked on one side of the street. Only a few cars enter (from Surban St.) the one-way street but are not allowed to park.

Yes, Katada street serves as the painitan, a drinking place, a parking space for motorcycles, and a passage for car-owners who wish to take a short-cut to Colon St. to get to the other side of the market.

Katada St. is the perfect locale to conduct the Painitan Promenade Experiment.

What the City Council could do is to enact a resolution or an ordinance with the following provisions: a) Vehicle-Free Sunday to be observed along Katada St. from 6am-6pm; b) park benches to be placed on the street itself during the 12-hour period; c)sidewalks to be cleared of merchandise during the 12-hour period; d) stall owners to put ornamental plants in their areas of responsibility; e) the City Tourism Office to promote Katada St. as a Painitan Promenade.

When I discussed this idea with my bosses, Dr. Mira Sinco and Dean Sinco, both agreed in principle that any “labor” requirements the City may need to effect this experiment–and subsequently in making Katata St. permanently closed and transformed into a street park — will be provided by FU’s CWTS students, as they have done with the Banica River when they adopted it a community project.

The City Council’s Committee on Tourism must have a special interest in this proposal especially that locals normally make it a point to bring their Manila or out-of-town visitors to the Painitan, and who are delighted to experience the unique cultural tradition of Dumaguete’s version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

We pass the ball to the City Council. It’s now your call.

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