Saturday, August 22, 2009

Reflections II

I thought I'd take this photo of myself against the soft light and the glass reflection at the meeting room of NU 107.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Quiapo this morning

The underpass that cuts under Quezon Boulevard used to be filled with street vendors and beggars. Under Mayor Alfredo Lim, they removed all of that. The underpass that used to filthy and somewhat frightening to pass through isn't like that anymore. But the public bathrooms are at least not that stinky.
Quiapo Church. Plaza Miranda. A hot Saturday morning. Whew. But it's still a lovely place.

I first started going to Quiapo while in college. A classmate of mine showed me where to buy music that wasn't readily available in the regular shops. Even today there's still a lot to buy in terms of CDs and DVDs in spite of the digital age. Flowers are cheap as well. So much more than what you'll find in the malls.

Flip flops. Lots of it.

The famous Hidalgo street where you'll find great prices for SLRs.

Street food. Maybe in my younger days. This stuff will kill me.

This guy was taking a chance by selling his flip flops at the bottom of the steps of the underpass. If you notice, his stuff have a plastic bag underneath for that quick hakot when the cops arrive. What a way to make a living, huh? I do see a lot of this in Bangkok and in Hong Kong as well.

Pirated stuff. Sorry. I don't buy.

And of course the beggars where you'll see a lot of them here. Always be careful with your stuff.

Friday, August 7, 2009

This is art, man!

One of my fave books is British graffiti artist banksy's Wall and Piece. Check it out and watch it assault your senses.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Shelter from the Storm

Shelter from the Storm
After helping elect Cory Aquino as President of the Republic 23 years ago, Rick Olivares returned to the Manila Cathedral to say goodbye.
by rick olivares

Hope amidst the seedy underbelly
I was supposed to ride with the bus that Ateneo had chartered for the contingent that would go to the Manila Cathedral. Instead I wanted to see Manila up close and personal with the man on the street on a day of national mourning.

Once inside the LRT Line 2 that traversed the length of Aurora Boulevard all the way to Recto Avenue, the rain came pouring down like the wrath of God had descended upon the metro. It lashed at the train and I couldn’t help but thank the Man Above for shelter from the storm. Inside it seemed serene while outside nature’s fury raged outside. It was said that this month of August would be rainy more than usual but if you ask me, the heavens were commiserating with the Philippine nation that had lost a leader who gave so much for the sake of democracy.

At the Betty Go-Belmonte station, that familiar Tony Orlando and Dawn tune, “Tie A Yellow Ribbon,” that had become synonymous with Ninoy and Cory Aquino’s relationship as well as a signature note in their struggle for democracy, was played on the LRT’s piped-in music. It was only then that I realized that every pillar and column in every LRT stop had a yellow ribbon around it.

Since it was a holiday, the train wasn’t filled with its usual chock of students and professionals. The song with its ultimate meaning shook the dreariness of the otherwise somber mood inside the train. A few sang softly along to it but as the song built to the chorus, more passengers chimed in until its strains echoed throughout the train.

From Recto, I walked across the connecting corridor to Line 1 at the Doroteo Jose that ran the length of Monumento to Baclaran. The connecting station is quite a bit of a walk where you’ll come across the urban decay that has grown and festered in this great city where the walls are black from the soot and pollution and the only fresh coat of paint they receive are from graffiti.

Houses have been built upon houses in this stone rat’s maze and the fenced off and well lit corridor reminded me of the train is just alighted from – shelter from the storm.

The slums dwelling are almost on level with the elevated walkway and one can actually peer inside the windows if he wished to do so. A child, probably no older than five years of age stared out of one window that had a Cory Aquino streamer serving as a curtain. She managed a smile, missing teeth and all and flashed the “Laban” sign. Out of the mouth of the babes was hope amidst the squalor.

At Doroteo Jose, the station was jammed with people. I had to wait for three trains before I squeezed myself in to experience what it’s like to be a sardine in a can. Mercifully, it’s a short ride with two stops, the first at Carriedo, the popular shopping center of a different time and age and second and last, at the Central Terminal where I got off for the short walk via the underpass to the Intramuros.

The underpass, mercifully, was well lit. But the ceilings were leaking from the rains. Half the walkway was cordoned off because of the water and flotsam that flooded the tunnel. In the dry areas of the underpass, there were several homeless people asleep on top of cardboard boxes with dirty blankets wrapped around them to keep warm. The place reeked of urine and reminded me of those filthy public toilets.

A woman vendor, somewhere in her late 30’s, called out to me: “Pupunta ka kay Cory?”

I nodded and managed her a smile.

“Ikaw na magsimba para sa akin,” she said by way of asking a favor. “Kailngan maghanapbuhay pa.”

It turned out that she sold banana cue and turon near the pedicab terminal outside the Walled City. She had no home and lived in the underpass.

The Parliament of the Streets
I entered Intramuros from the entrance at Anda and Muralla with fleeting thoughts of the old Ateneo in my mind. As I neared Solano Street, the side streets were already filled with cars and I could hear cheers of a massive crowd carry across the concrete and stone canyons of the old symbol of Spanish might in the Far East.

A black SUV stopped in front of me and out jumped the detail security of Quezon City Mayor Sonny Belmonte. In a yellow polo shirt, he smiled and flashed the “Laban” sign. The crowds cheered him on.

Belmonte was lucky. Not every public official received cheers from the gathered crowds. Bong Revilla Jr. and Senator Francis Pangilinan were greeted with a mixture of cheers and boos with the latter more pronounced. I couldn’t understand what their criteria was for their benediction of yea or nay.

When former Marine General and Senator Rodolfo Biazon arrived without any entourage and fanfare, he received a thunderous roar from the crowd. Surprised at the reception, he smiled and saluted the crowd. And more or less, I began to understand. “Simple lang siya,” marveled one onlooker aloud. “Ni walang bodyguard.”

I suspected then that they looked at Cory’s frugalness and humility and anyone without a shred of being moneyed was canonized. The people, at least those hundreds assembled by the old Governor’s Palace were sick and tired of the endless politicking and corruption that has infected almost every sector of society.

“Sobra na. Tama na!” yelled a throng with fists in the air as they reprised the collective protest that marked the end of the Marcos regime.

When rumors of the impending arrival of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo circulated, the mood quickly swung into one of anger.

The last time I had seen this many OB Vans and camera crews was EDSA II. Except now, more people had cameras and the means of getting news, pictures, and video out so people were jockeying for the best vantage point. “Pang-Facebook,” said one colegiala. “Of course I want to say goodbye to Tita Cory. But this is also being a part of history.”

Everywhere there were enterprising folks hawking everything from yellow t-shirts, pins, baller ID’s, key chains, hats, umbrellas, and ribbons. “Mas maganda di hamak yung yellow kesyo sa pink ni (MMDA Chairman) Bayani Fernando,” was 24-year old Arnel’s sales talk to curious onlookers. He lives in San Andres Bukid and ekes out a living driving a pedicab. He wasn’t even born when the People Power Revolution broke out. “Narinig ko lang sa magulang ko yung mga ginawa nila Cory at Ninoy. Wala na siya sa gobyerno pero nagmamalasakit siya. ‘Di tulad ng mga karamihan na nakaupo, eh, puro pagnanakaw ang inaatupag. Itong pagbebenta ng mga t-shirt – hindi lang kami nakikiramay, nagkakaisa kami sa pamilya ni Cory.”

It Can’t Rain All The Time
As the Requiem Mass got underway, those unable to get inside the Cathedral had to make do with the loudspeakers installed outside to be able to hear what was going on. In a nearby VIP parking lot, a video wall was installed and the area was soon packed.

Galing pa ako ng Mountain Province nung Lunes pa,” said Lucinda, who was a public school teacher. “Hindi ako nagpunta rito para umalis dahil sa konting ulan. Ano ba naman yung basa ka sa ulan eh mas matindi yng dinaanan ni Ginang Aquino nung siya’y Presidente? Ito na ang pinaka-simpleng pag-aalay ko.”

A father held the hand of his six-year old boy in the driving rain. “I want my son to witness the historical significance of this and know why people love Mrs. Aquino,” said Manuel who works at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. “We Filipino people have a special purpose in the world. I want my son to understand that first-hand and for it to have an effect on him.”

When I bent over to shake the boy’s hand, he flashed me the Laban sign.

Around the time of Fr. Catalino Arevelo S.J.’s Homily, the rains began to pour once again. I shared my umbrella with a cigarette vendor. “Salamat,” he offered. I also noticed others share their tents and other rain gear with those without any.

When was the last time this mass act of unity and kindness happened? EDSA II?

No one budged from their places even as the downpour increased in its intensity. There was a handicapped man with a hand holding up an umbrella with the other keeping his balance. And there were those came far and wide.

Cory Aquino in life and in death had reunited the Filipino people. And every one found their shelter from the storm with her and one another. The spirit of the 1986 People Power Revolution was very much alive and one of the late President’s final wishes was for everyone to continue their work for the betterment of the nation.

In years past, I had become jaded to the point where I kept thinking and planning to migrate. I had given up the fight; one I took part of when I was only in high school and continued even years after school until my more mundane pursuits became the focus of my life. Now she gave me pause to think; think long and hard.

As her funeral cortege made its way out of the Manila Cathedral for what eventually an eight-hour procession to her final resting place at the Manila Memorial Park, the huge crowd clapped, cheered, chanted her name, and cried. After it passed my position at the corner of the street. I took some final shots and a video and offered one more prayer up above thanking Him for she who restored our pride and made us believe.

I retraced my steps back home. Along Anda, through the gate and the underpass. Across the bus terminal to the LRT Line 1 at Central where I got off at Doroteo Jose for the walk to Line 2.

The train still wasn’t full even if it was close to noon. Perhaps people had stayed indoors to take shelter from the storm.

Once inside the train, I sat and it felt good. I had been standing for six hours but had not really realized it. As I leaned my head on a partition with my mind still ablaze with emotions and thoughts regarding the last few days, there was a squawk on the loudspeakers. Then “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” began playing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

At the Requiem Mass @ the Manila Cathedral

Me at the Manila Cathedral.

Watching the Requiem Mass from the parking lot.

Everyone scrambled for any vantage point they could get.

I shared my umbrella with a cigarette vendor. If I had enough space I would have asked this man to seek shelter too. But the rain didn't bother him none.

Hawkers everywhere selling stuff. Reminded me of those days after Ninoy was assassinated, the campaign for Cory, the Snap Elections, NAMFREL, the days of civil disobedience, and EDSA.

Some folks made a killing selling stuff.

Even the handicapped didn't seem bothered by the rain.
Rain or shine. No one left. This is how you say goodbye.

Crowd says thanks to the late President. It showed that the spirit of EDSA still lives. People want real change. Now.

Cory shirts for PhP 100.

Wall of Gratitude.

Balloon man.

Balcony tribute.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Finding Bea

Finding Bea
by rick olivares

I don’t know Bea Soriano. All I know is that she’s studied in the Ateneo while doing modeling on the side. I know her older sister Charo a little better since she was a volleyball player for the blue and white for five years and I’ve written about her team’s exploits in their quest for athletic glory.

In case you’ve noticed, the Bea I know is Charo Soriano’s younger sister.

As I see her up close for the first time outside a magazine pictorial or a television advert she tells me that her full name is Maria Bianca Mae Soriano or simply “Bea” for short. I notice that she’s tall at 5’9” with long and silky jet-black hair perfect for those shampoo commercials where models like her throw their hair back while flashing those pearly whites.

Almost immediately, what’s maybe even more arresting are those deep and expressive brown eyes of hers. They’ve got that disarming doe look that alternate between probing eyes that speak plenty of her desire to learn to a look that constantly ruminates her place in the firmament. “Yes, I do like to lie down and think a lot,” she laughs as if caught in an unguarded moment. And those eyes light up.

With a more popular (for now) sibling in Charo, the inevitable question crops up – why didn’t you play volleyball too since you’re just as tall? Turns out that she played in high school with her sister while also seeing some time in the softball diamond. That confirms the presence of an athletic bone in her body.

“I played volleyball because it was my sister’s passion,” she admitted. “I tried whatever she was into like photography which is very interesting because it’s like looking at the world through different perspectives. I love volleyball too which sounds like a strange thing to say since I’m hardly visible at my sister’s matches. It’s not that I don’t support my sister or the Ateneo teams, but when I’m there, I get caught up and I’ll want to play. It brings out the competitive urge in me – I feel I can contribute and help. But I want to find my own passion.”

“As of now, I try to do everything while I still can.” she revealed. For quite some time she considered going to medical school before planning to go to the London School of the Arts where she plans to take up Cosmetic Science. “I thought that being a doctor would give me a chance to be a productive part of your community where I would be able to give back. However, my plan changed. Chalk it up to being young.”

“It’s best to adapt to change. I thought that it’s not something a lot of people in this country become. So I wanted to become a specialist if you can call it that.”

Yet even as she goes for further studies, she has no plans of hanging up her burgeoning career as a commercial talent (see KFC and Cream Silk among many others) and the catwalk.

She pictures in her mind the demands of two diverse and opposite careers and laughs, “You know me, I will always try. But right now being a Cosmetic Scientist is my goal.”

And true to her creed of trying to do as much as she can in her lifetime, she loves music and deejays every chance she can. “I’m not good at it yet, but I will be,” she coos playfully.

For now she’s a student and a part-time model who clearly knows her priorities. “My agent gives prospective clients my schedule at school so anything else I do has to be worked around classes.”

Growing up in a house under the watchful eye of her father, Police General Jefferson Soriano, there were rules but the children were given leeway to find themselves. “My parents – most especially my father – give us freedom to be ourselves. It’s hard to break that trust.”

When the opportunity to model came up (a scout gave her a business card inside a comfort room at the Power Plant in Rockwell), Bea mulled it over for two weeks before showing up for a VTR. She soon landed a spot in a Nescafe commercial – something she watches on youtube from time to time to pinch herself that its was for real never mind if she appeared for a few seconds only. She followed that up with some commercials for KFC and Del Monte and some runway modeling.

“For me, modeling helps me to be more focused on things,” she reveals. “When you’re on the ramp, you focus on doing what the director wants of you and presenting the designer’s clothes in the best possible way. You cannot think about the crowd or the photographers because then you become distracted. It’s an approach that helps me in my studies too.”

And the opportunity to earn money while in school has given her a new perspective on education and work.

“You can see what you can apply what you learn at work in what you learn school and vice versa,” she notes with pride. “It’s a jump start to life outside school. And it provides as good balance. Modeling taught me the value of hard work and the value of money. And it also taught me to make the most out of your life.”

Even as she has graduated from Ateneo with a degree in Psychology, in between modeling gigs, she busies herself by reading a lot of books and saving up to go back to school in London.

“I just have that thirst to learn more about life. As for school, deejaying, and modeling -- who says you can’t do all three at the same time? That’s the fun part of being young; you have the energy for that. And I guess we’re all going to find out how successful I’ll be at that.”

So that was Bea Soriano, full of promise and potential. And ready to conquer the world.

Oh, and she has an older sister named Charo.