Saturday, April 17, 2021

Noticing Makati from underneath the sky

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The Tikbalang at Greenbelt under the Balete Tree

My feet were nailed for a while to the ground after seeing what was happening before me: The half-human half-horse creature, a tikbalang, was being choked from behind by someone or something. I could not see if it was a human or another tikbalang doing the choking, but they were definitely in the throes of a struggle. The tikbalang was trying to get free from the hands of his opponent. It looked like they would need to last long, if not forever, in that position.

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In front of Ayala Museum

This area of Makati, the Ayala Museum and Greenbelt, is not new to me. I have passed this way several times, though I doubt if I really spent enough time to pay attention to all the details of its surroundings. This might be the case: Being accustomed to the places we pass through makes us less attentive of what lies therein, so we see less of the actual places than we could.

I arrived here at around 8 o’clock, after enduring the traffic from Las Piñas. There was no set plan for what to do besides taking in some fresh air and walking around the block. It had been a toxic few days for me, though there were several accomplishments, like resigning from my job, giving a talk to a bunch of so called student leaders in a well-known university and, of course, personally meeting artist Rosario de Asis.

Behind the two fighting creatures was a red balete tree. The balete is always associated in local folklores with the supernatural, be it with the white lady of Balete Drive, or as the domicile of the kapre, or with other mystical elements that might inhabit it. Though this time,the balete tree is not located in a dark place or along the roadside. Yet its mysticism cannot simply be set aside. This may be the same reason that this tikbalang in a tussle was thus juxtaposed under this tree at Greenbelt.

While looking blankly at the tree, I imagined how the fight went: The tikbalang’s opponent was doing his best to get the beast’s fabled golden hair so he can control the untamed maligno, but the tikbalang wouldn’t allow that to happen, pitting the two combatants in an infinite quest for supremacy. After a minute or so, I decided to walk to Greenbelt.

I admire the cleanliness of this area. I even hope that this is the case for the whole country, but I know that’s ambition talking, and as the social media meme goes:Expectation versus reality. After a while, I heard water flowing near me, it was like I was at the riverside in the province, then I saw a fishpond.

Plastics in our oceans by Olivia d’Aboville x Neal Oshima

There was a couple feeding a big fish, it might have been envy that caused me to look away from them. To my surprise, there were plastic bags hanging on nets above the water. I was initially frustrated at seeing this but, after taking a second look, I realized that these were part of an exhibit intended to relay to people the effect of using too much plastic, specifically to show how plastic wreaks damage on the ocean and kills marine life.

It was getting late. If I remember right, the last UV Express would leave at 11 o’clock and, if I don’t catch that one, I will need to take a bus home, which I definitely do not prefer. So, walking with my camera strap wrapped around my right wrist, I reached one street across the Ayala Triangle. I never skip this area whenever I am in Makati, for one reason: Instituto Cervantes.

Before reaching the underpass, I looked at the colorful lights of the street. I found this sight attractive, so, who was I to resist? I took several shots of the scene, some which included random passersby. Then I noticed two figures.

Bumper-to-Bumber by Pete Jimenez

The first figure appeared unrecognizable. I do not know if it was because I was not really into art, or if it this figure was intentionally enigmatic. Good thing there was a signage and the description of the piece. It was called Bumper-to-Bumper. It was only after reading the sign that that I saw the piece was a combination of the bumpers from jeepneys. The piece reminded me of jeepney drivers.

The jeepney has been an essential part of the Filipino identity. It is also called the “king of the road,” which might apply more to the driver rather than the vehicle. It’s interesting how the jeepney has evolved over time from being a “leftover” vehicle after World War II, until it became the ubiquitous mode of public transport it is today. Don’t forget that it should have that horse figure on the hood to signify its relationship with the kalesa. It should also sport a Sto. Niño figure with a rosario hanging above it.

A few steps away from Bumper-to-Bumper sat another work of art, or at least that’s what I thought it was, because there is no other purpose for sticking a bunch of chairs together in a circle so that it is impossible to sit on the chairs. Who would take the effort to challenge himself to clamber atop of that mass of seats? How in the world would six chairs be placed around a table like that?

Sampaguita by Pete Jimenez

The other figure, or sculpture, if a more technical term is needed, is a representation of the sampaguita bloom, the country’s national flower. The sculpture is composed of vintage chairs. When I looked at it, I did not even realize it was supposed to be a flower. The only hint I had was the label on the piece. It’s amazing how artists can convey their thoughts and emotions using different media.

I remember my conversation with an artist from our province, Rosario. She loves painting still life pieces, but told me that she used to draw nudes until her father saw what she was making. There were also moments, she said, that she would do abstract paintings, which I commented on: “I think abstract paintings are like schizophrenic people trying to talk with one another.”This remark of mine just proves my ignorance of the world of art. It can also be the expression of my personal interpretation of art.

My phone vibrated in my pocket. It was either a text message or somebody could have been contacting me over Messenger. I immediately checked it. It was her on messenger, answering my last question. Now, she is on my mind again. All of a sudden, I was not that conscious about following the things I did along that street.

Gravity and Grace by Shinji Ohmaki

I felt like I just snapped out of a trance, when the strong light coming from the giant base at the center of Ayala Triangle hit me in the eye. I cannot remember how I got to this area, I don’t know if this was her effect on me.

Even though that light coming from the base was very strong, something was telling me that I should approach it. So, I did. Nothing was unusual with the base, until I zoomed in with my eyes. There were figures carved into it, birds.

How funny can that be? Earlier, two creatures from a different realm were in front of me. Then, an exhibit above and about the waters I had passed had been displayed to catch my attention. Street sculptures also showed themselves to me and, finally, this set of aerial creatures.

It was like I travelled from upward ‘til I reached high enough to see the sky. My phone vibrated again. I extracted it from my pocket to see who was messaging me: it was Rosario again.

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