Jul 23, 2008

Saliw - isang panalangin.

Jul 20, 2008

So simple. Or so it seemed.

While some of our local politicians were at the posh CAP Convention Center ensuring the future of their respective political careers by pledging allegiance to the party in power, we were out in the streets shooting video footages for our performance last night at the Atrium of SM City Baguio, Sa Saliw Ng Mga Gangsa, a musical revue that celebrates life in the Cordilleras, in line with the region’s celebration of Cordillera Day.

While we went out with the intention of putting together video collages that depicts the beauty of life in these mountains, it’s not that easy to find beauty these days particularly when you’re on Session Road. Last week I wrote about the chaos that is Calderon Street. Now add piles of uncollected garbage on practically every street corner, and what we’ll have in the coming days is a stinking anarchy.

GMA was here, I wonder if those helicopters hovering all over the city saw what the city is like these days. But I doubt it, they’re too far up there to notice the gory details.

Because the dumpsite in Irisan has been closed, things are once again going to get ugly in the city, just like last year when the implementation of the garbage segregation scheme was met with confusion and indifference by a lot of residents. But that’s a actually a new issue that I hope would not bury another that I believe requires much attention: what happens to the segregated garbage after they’re collected from the streets? Is it true they all get dumped together at the dumpsite anyway? So all the effort demanded from the residents to do their share to realize that dream of a “Malinis na Baguio” was for nothing?

More questions: wasn’t the garbage segregation scheme a part of the city’s supposed ten-year comprehensive waste management program? A comprehensive ten-year program and merely a year later the city’s caught by surprise by the closure of Irisan? That doesn’t sound so comprehensive to me. That doesn’t sound like much of a program to me.

Where are we going? In just a couple of hours of shooting those footage, we had a mini-dv tape full of images of a decaying city: People jaywalking right where the “No Jaywalking” signs are. Jeeps loading and unloading passengers right where the “No Loading/Unloading” signs are. It makes you wonder how those Trancoville and Aurora Hill Jeeps get away with it behind the post office in full view of the dreaded Traffic Management Group and policemen patrolling the area. Garbage dumped right below “Bawal Magtapon ng Basura” signs. Cars parked right where the “No Parking” signs are.

It seemed as if everybody just stopped caring. It seemed as if nobody respects the law anymore. It seemed as if nobody’s in charge.

What are these signs for? What are these a sign of?

The laws are there, all we need to do is implement them. So simple. Or so it seemed.

(Tales From a Hill Station, Cordillera Today, July 20 issue)

Jul 14, 2008

Oh, please...

Jul 13, 2008

Where is Calderon Street?

There are “No Parking” signs all over the place: along the side where Prime Hotel is, across it where Skyworld used to be, at the triangle a little further in, so why is Calderon street filled with parked vehicles all day long?

On any given day, during the afternoon rush hour, this is what welcomes you along Calderon: Going up the road from Harrison Road, you’re stuck in a gridlock because there are no traffic lights which comes as a surprise considering how busy that intersection is: perhaps at least half of all the jeeps in the city pass there, add to that the taxis, the private vehicles that are either passing through, or filling up at the gas station at the corner, or getting a carwash across it.

Finally you get out of the jam and your vehicle crawls at an agonizing 5-10 feet per minute if you’re driving. After several minutes, you finally go past Burnham Hotel, and see the reason for your misery: More cars, most of them imposing gas-guzzlers parked right next to “No Parking” signs. Out of nowhere, “parking attendants/watch-your-car boys” appear from nowhere flagging you down to offer you a parking spot. And because it’s 4PM and they can’t park along Session road anymore, and they don’t wanna pay P25.00 to park inside SM, or around P50.00 at the Baguio Cathedral or Porta Vaga parking lots if they’re gonna park for more than a couple of hours, those who accept the services of one of these “parking attendants/watch-your-car boys” are led to where? Another “No Parking” spot.

It’s a jungle out there, anarchy rules all day long. Delivery motorcycles spilling out towards the middle of the road, next to that an illegally parked armored vehicle surrounded by intimidating heavily armed guards, and if that isn’t enough to create a road traffic mess, those who are too lazy to walk more than 10 feet to where they’re going from their vehicles would double park right next to the illegally parked cars leaving hardly enough room for vehicles to pass through. That leaves you with no option but to overtake and go into counter flow, which brings you head on with oncoming vehicles turning right from Session Road going the other way – a pissing match begins:

The car ahead honks his horn at you, and you do the same to the double parked vehicle. The driver of the car ahead sticks out his head and shouts obscenities your way, you stick out your head and shout obscenities at the driver of the double parked vehicles (if there’s a driver in there, otherwise your screaming at a non-living thing).

In the meantime, the car in front of you continues his honking, the cars behind it are honking, the cars behind you are honking, you’re honking, and suddenly a “parking attendants/park/watch-your-car boy” appears from nowhere to save day. NOT. He goes right in the middle of the snarl not to untangle the mess, but to signal for everyone to stop for a client of his getting his/her illegally parked car out.

And then you see a couple of police officers at the corner, taking out license plates from one, two, three or four illegally parked cars on Session Road and you wonder why they’re not doing the same to all those illegally parked cars on Calderon Street.

And then you stop wondering when the “parking attendants/ watch-your-car boy” collects his fee from his client, and walks away leaving you at the mercy once again of the car ahead of you, the cars behind it, the cars behind you, and the cars behind them… etc.

Where is Calderon Street ? Is it far away from the center of the city that would somehow make it understandable that nobody in authority notices the anarchy that goes on there everyday?

Nope, it’s right there. It’s just that there’s a big difference between not seeing something and looking the other way.

(Tales From a Hill Station, Cordillera Today, July 13 Issue)

Jul 6, 2008

CCP Complex

CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) Complex – a sprawling haven for culture and the arts located along Roxas Boulevard that includes several world-class theaters, museums, galleries and home to the country’s supposed best arts and culture companies.

CCP Complex - Also a psychological condition that makes the afflicted believe that any artistic output that comes from beyond the boulevard and the breakwaters of Manila Bay is inferior.

I must admit I too once had the aforementioned condition, until I stage managed a production that toured the whole country for a whole month and got exposed to the artworks in the regions, from Baguio to Marawi. I knew then that I would get out of CCP soon after the tour. And I did. And I moved to Baguio , around 12 years ago.

Last night a colleague informed me of a group’s interest to feature our productions in a local institution that’s being re-packaged as a cultural and educational destination – they’re interested because it would be much more cost effective to hire a local group to stage a play rather than bring a whole production from Manila . Though I’d rather hear that they’re interested because they believe in what the local artists can deliver, beggars can’t be choosers. And this is among the reasons why I left Manila more than a decade ago to live in Baguio – I just couldn’t stand the arrogance of Manileños in their belief that the best things in this country can only be found in Manila , and everything that comes from beyond the toll gates of both the North and South Expressways are inferior. You patronize artists in the regions only when the budget can’t afford the Manila variety.

They probably haven’t heard the compositions of Ethan Andrew Ventura, and the way he plays his guitar. His work was featured recently in a concert in a mall and the music he composed for Rizal’s Me Ultimo Adios gave me goose-bumps. Or perhaps they haven’t been to a jazz jam session at Overtones, one of many places in the city that houses exceptional local talents. Too bad, most of them never get to sit down and listen to Emerald Ventura, Ro Quintos, Jef Coronado, Cholo Virgo, Yoshi Capuyan, Arkhe Sorde Salcedo, Ramirr Grepo, Jenny Cariño, Sunshine Gutierrez, Mary Raquel, Ron Ruiz, Patchi Viray, SLU’s Glee Club, the reggae bands in Baguio, or the rock ones in nearby La Trinidad, and many others whose music can blow you away.

Perhaps they’ve never been to an exhibit by the Tahong Bundok group at the Baguio Convention Center – watercolors of a beautiful city that hypnotize, or the ongoing exhibit at the Café by the Ruins – coffee on paper, different shades of sepia that calms the spirit, or the photography of local lensmen on Multiply.com that can rival those that hang on Manila’s expensive gallery walls, or the VOCAS group’s multimedia explorations that challenge and provoke the mind.

They’ve never sat in a local writers’ group’s open mic session. They’ve never been to an SLU musical. They’ve never seen Tropang Paltok’s street theater performances. The now Manila-based Pinikpikan charges to perform what one could normally hear for free on the steps of La Azotea or the Dap-ay of Café by the Ruins. Manila charges hundreds to thousands for what one could get into on less than a hundred bucks’ ticket price, or in most cases on a complimentary pass, as in most local theatrical presentations.

And the sad thing is, the community encourages the discrimination against local artists whenever it turns to Manila for most major artistic or cultural outputs in the city. The city’s upcoming centennial celebration is dotted with non-Baguio groups and individuals running this and that show, the institution I mentioned above included.

And what do the Manila-based groups do? Hire local artists to do the job for them anyway, they get the lion’s share and the locals get chump change. But maybe that’s precisely the reason why the local artists continue to produce great art despite the situation: the main thing the fuels them is passion, and just like love, all the money in Manila can’t buy that.