"You're so lucky you're not here... glad you're safe..."
Those words were texted to me by friends (the ones who could still send texts) in Manila while the city and its suburbs were being pummeled by Typhoon Milenyo. I logged on to Philippine news websites just to see exactly what was going on... I couldn't believe the destruction... hulking billboards were brought down, some actually killing people and destroying property... trees that stood for years and years broken like toothpicks... the roofs and frontages of homes fallen in or blown away... mall signages mangled...
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and someone must have done something terrible to piss Mother Nature off.
Right now, people are standing on their soapboxes shouting "bring the billboards down!!!" at the top of their lungs. But is this really the solution to this? I mean, typhoons have come and gone before without causing any serious damage. Typhoons like Milenyo appear perhaps once every 10 or so years. Is that enough to warrant the disassembly of these behemoths?
Yes... and no.
Billboards have become ubiquitous to our cityscape, part and parcel of our everyday vistas as we drive to and from wherever we're driving to and from. Some of them can be distracting, (drivers and passengers alike have turned their heads 180 degrees as they pass the grouping in Guadalupe), some are annoying (okay, why do I see Sam Milby on every other billboard?), but most are just huge advertisements, not unlike what we see on television or in magazines and newspapers. They're up there to make you either buy stuff, see stuff, or do cosmetic surgery stuff.
Having said that, because they are structures that do tower over us, there should be a building code when it comes to constructing the scaffolding upon which the tarpauline is hung. There should also be restrictions as to their size and locations in relation to commercial and residential areas, as well as all transport loading/unloading zones. They should pepper the cityscape, not overwhelm it. Too much is as annoying as seeing a 2-hour television special that's 1 1/2 hours commercials. I can turn off my TV; I can't turn off a billboard.
I rambled, didn't I? Time for me to get off my own soapbox, methinks.
Right now I'm counting my blessings... that my house didn't blow away with the wind, that we have our basic needs met -- telephone, television, texting and the net -- that my family is safe and sound, and that little by little life is returning to normal. I pray that soon, everyone else's lives will be too.