Just Dropping by at the Philippine Congress

Batasang Pambansa - The Philippine Congress Main Hall

It was one Monday rainy afternoon. I was in a mission: To drop by at a Congressman’s office for an official endorsement. I have been to Malacañang, the Senate and the Supreme Court, but I haven’t been to The House of Representatives or locally known as Batasang Pambansa-that’s the legislative center of the Philippine Republic.

Yup. The area I guess most of us know as the center stage of the State of the Nation Addresses (SONA) of Philippine presidents, and as some critics would say, “The Crocodile Pit.” The Batasang Pambansa is where the Philippine assembly of legislative representatives from all over the archipelago, converge and make laws for the republic. Given the bicameral nature of our government, The House of the Representatives is the “lower house” while the Senate (which is in Pasay City) is the “upper house.” However, the said lower house is composed of influential people coming from the local governments.

All right, as we all know that Batasang Pambansa or Batasan for short, is found at Batasan Hills in Quezon City. I guess this is the farthest among the three centers of the government! Its just between Commonwealth Avenue, Fairview and just at the edge of the Marikina Valley. This area has been long surveyed as a planned new capital of the Republic, after World War II. Originally,”The Capitol” was supposed to be at the current Quezon Memorial Circle. However, revisions were made with the design of the new capital of the Philippines a “The Assembly” was moved to its current location near Litex and Constitution Hills. Architect Felipe Mendoza designed the complex, however, it didn’t pushed through until the former President Ferdinand Marcos pushed the plan through in constructing it.

The Batasang Pambansa became the center of the semi-parliamentary Philippine Republic during the Marcos Era. Technically, it became “the capital” of the Philippines. Upon the fall of Marcos in the mid-1980′s, the Batsang Pambansa was dissolved and became what we all know now as The House of Representatives or the Philippine Congress. However, it has marked the consciousness of every Filipino as “Batasan.”

Today, the sprawling complex is the office of the Philippine local and sectoral representatives, voted every three years as mandated by the 1987 Constitution. Joint sessions of the Senate and the Congress are also held here, and as I have mentioned earlier, the annual SONA.

Perhaps, the most recognizable icon or landmark of the said assembly would be the main Session Hall. With the podium, the seats and the balcony with that big Philippine flag at stage, it has marked in every Filipino’s mind as “Kongreso” or “Batasan.” I guess every Pinoy would recognize it-especially its always at the news everyday!

It was rainy. I went in the wrong gate last Monday. The office was at the South Wing annex building, while I entered at the north gate. I never knew that the area was sprawling. Wait, South Wing? I remember that there was a bomb that exploded here in 2007 where Congressman Wahab Akhbar, along with two casualties, was killed. Six were injured, mostly legislators.

Anyway, the main hall itself resembles that School of Arts in Mount Makiling at Laguna. Seemingly a legacy of the brute architecture during the Marcos Era. Two buildings beside it or the North and South Wings, serve as the office of the assemblymen. The newest addition is the South Wing Anne Building…well, we have an increasing number of legislative districts in the country, so better make a new space then.

For those who don’t like to walk around, the Congress provides a transport within their complex. The new e-jeepneys (electric jeepneys) now serve as the transport pod for those who have transactions from one building to another…much like how UP Ikot goes within UP Diliman. The good thing about this, not only its environment-friendly, but its also for free! Para sa mga tinatamad at pagod, merong solusyon ang gobyerno! Hehe!

It was unfortunate of me that I haven’t seen the Session Hall then. I don’t have much time plus the congressman that I was talking with was also rushing to do his business in the committee he was handling. Oh well, there is always a next time. But for now, it was my first time.

Location of Batasang Pambansa/Philippine Congress/House of Representatives, courtesy of Google Maps:

View Batasang Pambansa Complex in a larger map

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August 2010
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