High-Rise Living: Condo Lifestyle in the Modern Philippine City

up with today’s fast-paced world is a challenge all of us are forced to face at
one point or another in our lives. Modern technology has found ways of
sprawling far and wide, and living in a third-world country no longer immunes
us from its inevitable effects on society, culture, and our physical
environment. For some people, coping with this means having to own the latest
hi-tech gadgets designed to make life “easier”, while others choose to stay
updated and connected with the rest of the world through the Internet. There
are also those who keep pace by finding ways to efficiently accomplish tasks in
the least possible amount of time – people who would rather live close to where
they work than spend hours upon hours of commute in heavy traffic going to work
every single day.

unit owners are examples of such people. Throughout the years, condo living in
Manila has transformed from being a mere status symbol into a somewhat
necessary lifestyle adjustment brought about by the demands of an ever-evolving
urban fabric and environment. Having interviewed a few of these owners, I found
out that aside from very affordable pre-selling payment schemes that prove to
be quite difficult to turn your back on, the most popular reason for the
decision to purchase a residential condo unit is apparently its close proximity
to the place of work. Availability of auxiliary facilities, such as convenience
stores, laundry stations, hospitals, etc, is also an important consideration.
Public transport accessibility is as well a major determinant of the decision
to buy. Community amenities such as swimming pools, gyms, playgrounds, open
spaces, parks, and multi-purpose function rooms are also considered, but are
not priorities.

to a couple of real estate brokers I had the chance to ask, prospective condo
unit buyers are usually composed of either: 1) the up-and-coming young urban
professionals who are looking for good investment opportunities – units that
they themselves can eventually live in or possibly rent out in the future; or
2) those who are already “financially stable” and are looking for ‘second
homes’, or alternative dwellings in the metro. Reasons and considerations may
vary depending on need and priority, but the prevalent determinants appear to
be strategic location and accessibility.

(or high rise) living is, in essence, an urban planning fundamental that
effectively promotes sustainable communities by bringing back focus on the
pedestrian, thereby diminishing the need for (and dependability on) motor
vehicles and transportation. Residential condominium developments are usually
found in urban business districts, strategically placed near or within
commercial and institutional (schools, hospitals) areas, to offer city workers
the options of accessibility and convenience, that is, to live, work, and play
within the same community without the need to use cars. This planning model of
high-density living has been used throughout history on the most progressive
and popular cities around the world, from the ancient cities of Europe to the
modern streets of New York. These developments when efficiently planned and
designed, promote comfortable pedestrian activity between buildings, such as
walking and personal interaction with other passers-by. Exhaust smoke-emitting
automobiles are no longer considered necessities in these high-density
mixed-use developments, and air pollution is therefore diminished to some
degree. Additionally, high-rise structures can contain more dwellers per unit
of floor area than residential subdivisions with sprawling house and lots.
Since sustainable design encourages minimal building footprint to allow for
more open space and undisturbed natural environment, these residential condos
help reduce the problem of habitable land shortage in urban areas.

In the
Philippines where extended family ties are very strongly valued, choosing to
live in a condominium unit where space is limited versus living in a
conventional house and lot (low density) may not be very popular just yet. As
in many other important matters in life however, we might just realize that the
benefits of high-density city living may far outweigh the trade-offs. Imagine
building a house and lot within the vicinity of the central business districts
of Makati or Ortigas, perhaps a 2-storey residence on a 500-square meter lot
for a family of five, complete with a small garden and a 4-car garage. This
same lot can actually be used to build a higher density structure, say 10
stories, of residential units that can provide dwelling for probably about
30-50 families. Designed efficiently, this development will have open spaces
and amenities that will effectively respond to the needs of its residents.
Another scenario is living in a conventional house and lot in peri-urban areas
(south: Laguna, Batangas, and Cavite; north: Bulacan and Pampanga), a popular
practice of city workers today, where land and construction costs are
significantly lower. These dwellers probably need to allot at least two hours
each day to travel between the house and the place of work. Not only are they
spending a total of about 480 hours a year (that could have been used on more
productive endeavors) just to get to work and back home, they are as well
contributing to the further congestion of our already overcrowded mass
transport systems. The high maintenance cost of roads and railways to support
these modes of transportations do not promote sustainable living, and will
eventually take its toll on the environment as well.

is such an over-used and abused word. Its scope and fundamentals are vast and
wide, often difficult to exactly and articulately define, especially when
dealing with the urban environment. While it may be premature for the
Philippines to entirely embrace the principles of sustainable urbanism because
of political, economic, and cultural issues, our ability to adapt to change as
partakers of the benefits of globalisation and modernisation requires us to
take a closer look at – and eventually make full use of – available
alternatives that have been proven throughout history to effectively work
towards responsible co-habitation with nature without compromising urban, and
eventually national, growth and progress.

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