Thursday, October 29, 2009

Missing the Marapait

Perhaps the unwanted visitor named “Pepeng" delayed the much-awaited appearance of sunflowers. Their yellow blooms cover the vacant lots of Baguio that haven't been overbuilt yet. I hope it is just a delay, not a no-show. In the meantime, I’ll content myself with my friend Toottee Chanco-Pacis’s version of the last-quarter sunflowers. She calls this piece "Love the Sun." A fellow flower lover says give them two weeks; they'll come out. Yes, the green stalks are still very much around like cock-eyed optimists.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Waters of September & the Aquarelles

The boys, as we call Roland Bay-an, Norman Chow and Patric Palasi, went down to Manila on the evening of Sept. 25 , bringing with them in Tam-awan Village’s old Volks Combi large-size framed watercolors (minimum size of 18” x 24”) for the Sept. 26 opening of “Baguio,” the first Metro Manila show of the Baguio Aquarelle Society (BAS). Before noon, they had taken down the previous works hanging on the French Corner’s walls and installed the new watercolors.

Meanwhile, the other members of the year-old group were on the road that fateful Saturday, eager to make it to the 5 p.m. opening. Jennifer Cariño and Merci Javier Dulawan found themselves stuck to their seats in separate buses for more than double the six hours it normally took to traverse the distance between Baguio and Cubao. Somewhere in Bulacan, as they neared the Balintawak exit, the traffic ground to a halt.

The concern of a few others (Baboo Mondoñedo, Toottee Chanco Pacis, Fara Manuel and myself), who made it down earlier, was the torrential rains were making the streets, roads and highways leading to the Alabang venue impassable. The text message reached us around noon: opening moved to Oct. 4, Sunday, 5 p.m.

Now and then I’d check the Facebook home page and grow alarmed at the calls for help. After assurances from friends through SMS that they were safe, except for some seepage in lower parts of their houses and soaked documents, things would be better in the morning. Or so I thought. The last image in my mind before I slept was of Brenda Fajardo, my former professor in modern art, ready to clamber to the roof of her house because her first floor was completely flooded.

As soon as the skies cleared on Sept. 27, I took a cab from Kapitolyo, Pasig, to the Victory Liner terminal in Cubao. The cab’s floor was wet, the seat damp and the cabbie’s eyes swollen from lack of sleep. He had spent a harrowing 12 hours stranded somewhere in Pasong Tamo, Makati. His last passengers, en route to the domestic airport to pick up a returning relative, paid him P350 out of P500+ fare. He said it took them close to six hours to cross EDSA from Cubao to Pasong Tamo. When the waters rose rapidly, the passengers, who expected their balikbayan relative to pay the balance of the fare after pick-up, decided to head home in the MRT, leaving the cabbie stranded with his vehicle.

I never thought I’d write and paint myself to irrelevance, but apparently I just did. It has been difficult to put on a mask of normalcy each day and night I continue my routine, little things like attending classes, doing my minimum load of housework, eating a meal with my family. Anyone who survived the worst environmental disaster in Metro Manila is wracked with a form of guilt and must be moved to do his/her bit in the huge rehabilitation work that lies ahead.

Just the same, the Baguio Aquarelle show must go on. "Baguio" opens today, as earlier mentioned, at the French Corner on Commerce and Filinvest Avenues, Westgate Center, Filinvest Corporate City, Alabang. Part of the proceeds from sales made will go to the cause of the Ondoy victims/survivors.

Photo shows the Aquarelles safe under an Ifugao hut minutes before they felt Typhoon Kiko's fury (Photo by EV ESPIRITU)