Art & Development, Travelogue, Values

Manila, Manila

Four days into my 10-day sojourn in the Philippines as part of Galleon Trade, I’d like to take a break to consider generosity and joie de vivre.

I’m really impressed with the amazing people I’ve met, such as the artist-gallery owners presenting the Galleon Trade exhibitions: Norberto “PeeWee” Roldan, an artist and designer who runs Green Papaya Art Projects, and Rock Drillon, an artist who runs the mag:net cafe.

Filipinos are famous for their hospitality, and combined with the professionalism and generosity I’ve experienced from our collaborators, I can’t say enough how nice it has been here. The gallery owners have really extended themselves to help create the exhibitions we envision, ensure local publicity (photos and articles in the Philippines Daily Star and Inquirer), and arranging for rock and experimental sound bands to play at the openings. We’ve also had the honor of landing at The Living Room, an alternative space run by Carlos Celdran. I have heard nothing but amazing things about Carlos’ tours (from Lonely Planet as well as individuals), and my experience on the Intramuros tour with Carlos even exceeded my high expectations. He conveyed a very complex history with pride, pain, humor and characteristic style. He made the sense of loss of his beloved city (after Gen. MacArthur’s carpet-bombing of the jazz-age city known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’) tangible, yet the talk encompassed Filipino spirit and spirituality.

While class divides allow only a fraction of Filipinos to afford the lifestyle we are enjoying as American visitors, I have to say that I have developed a fondness for Filipino joie de vivre and patience (though dozens of jeepney and taxi drivers might be honking at each other non-stop, none seem to be angry). I can’t remember the last time I sat down to coffee in little cups and saucers to have a quality conversation, but here it seems to happen at least once a day. Maybe it’s because we’re guests on a short visit, but the small moments of mutual exchange underscored by generosity are very sweet and inspiring, and hopefully I can pull away from multi-tasking back home long enough to re-create them.

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