Thursday, October 27, 2011

No Space To Run

My Facebook status the other day read:
There was a time when we could just pick a field, and play or do sports to our heart's desire... Today, you get guards telling you that you have to sign a waiver and receptionists saying you need to write management to play a game of catch in an open field. Not quite the message you get if you look at the Nuvali website: "A vibrant landscape springs forth, freely shared by all." Guys, you might as well just drop the photos of kids playing in open spaces, and replace them with a picture of an iPad-toting kid. Oh, might as well drop the words/phrases "space", "sound health" and "nature" too.
In the bustling city of Manila, there aren't too many open spaces anymore. It's rare that you find a patch of green big enough to play in, where you don't have to worry about collisions with other groups of people. For a guy like me who likes getting out, running around and doing something physical, it's a big deal when you find these open spaces. My girlfriend, friends and I thought we found a great new spot to go to out of town, but it turns out we were wrong.

We visited a place called Nuvali, just about an hour outside the city. We heard a lot about it from friends ---great eating places, a man-made lake where you could take short boat rides, feed the koi, enjoy the wide open space. Well, we love to eat, and we love to play. It looked promising, the prospect of doing both. We had our gear ready: empty stomachs, comfortable playing clothes, water, extra clothes and good old pigskin footballs. The whole feeding the fish thing sounded nice, but our main agenda was to eat and to play our own little version of American football.

The eating part was great. We ended up eating at a place called "Pig Out", which serves all sorts of pork dishes (they have other, non-pork dishes too). Needless to say, we were quite satisfied after that. We went on to check out the lake, and got entertained by the desperate behavior of the koi jockeying for position to get to the food thrown in by on-lookers. We even saw someone flying a model jet over the lake.

Again, the main agenda was to play football, so it didn't take long before we decided to go to what the developer of Nuvali proudly calls "The Fields", which is described in the website as, "10 hectares open area". It sure sounded enticing to me when I read up before our little weekend getaway.

"The Fields" at Nuvali --- The dogs were welcome, we were not.
We were surprised to find that there was an on-going event on one of the 4 or 5 soccer pitches there. It was a dog competition, and we weren't complaining. It was added entertainment! We started playing after seeing a few dogs go through the obstacle course.

To warm up, we just started tossing the ball around to let my friends get a hang of throwing and catching the ball. We did that for a good 40 minutes or so, until they felt ready to try a couple of plays. We laid out the rules --- 3 downs, the field boundaries, two-hand touch that counts as a tackle. I even told one of my friends how jamming a receiver at the line would work to his advantage. But even before we could get a play off, a security guard approached us and told us to stop playing. He informed us to secure a waiver from Nuvali's administrative office first. We even heard him going on his radio, saying that we were playing softball. "Softball my a**," I thought, "if you're going to report us, at least get it right!"

We grudgingly packed up, deciding that we might as well comply. We weren't doing anything wrong anyway, neither were we disturbing anybody, nor vandalizing anything. Might as well sign the waiver, and get back to playing.

When we got to the office, I asked the receptionists what we had to sign. To my surprise, they told me quite a different story from what the guard said. No waiver, they said. You CAN'T PLAY. Period. Management only gave clearance to use "The Fields" for events. Write a letter to management if you want to play. And oh by the way, write on a weekday. No one's here to receive your letter now. The dogs? They're part of an event. They could stay.

So much for vibrant landscapes freely shared by all.

Here we were, doing sports, getting healthy, enjoying the clean air, not consuming electricity, staying out of trouble, just having plain, clean, fun... and that's what we get. Write management? Really? I mean, the guy with the model jet was more likely to cause trouble! It goes without saying that we went back to Manila disappointed. Luckily, there's social media. I wasted no time visiting Nuvali's Facebook page and posting what was on my mind. I really don't care that they didn't answer my post. I really don't care if it gets any likes or not. I made my point. I'm making it again here. And I mean it: Nuvali, you might as well just drop the photos on your website of kids playing in open spaces, and replace them with a picture of an iPad-toting kid. You might as well drop the words/phrases "space", "sound health" and "nature" too. Stop highlighting the wide open spaces if no one can use it anyway. If you're going to advocate that kind of lifestyle, do it all the way. This generation is not going to embrace that lifestyle if you're not going to allow it.

I really pity today's children, especially those whose idea of entertainment is facing a computer or tapping away at an iPad. I pity them because their creativity and imaginations are limited to a 10-inch screen. Many would rather play around in a virtual world, than in the real one. Like my friend lamented, they probably won't have the same sense of freedom and wonder that we enjoyed in our early youth. It certainly doesn't help when you're not given any space to run.

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