Sunday, February 25, 2018

A week of dance

Without really realizing it, I ended up with a week of dance, not me dancing, but was in the audience for several different performances. It started out last Friday when I had a long weekend for Chinese New Year (Welcome the year of the dog). I stayed in town which gave me an opportunity to go see the dragon and lion dance on the other side of my neighborhood. It was pretty much me and a pile of small kids, but I enjoyed watching the antics in any case.

Lion dance for Chinese New Year
Sunday I headed downtown to check out a Ballet Manila performance called Ballet and Ballads. I had not idea what I would be getting, especially since I had won the tickets in a school raffle. Turns out it was ballet, but danced to live music which was being sung on stage for most numbers. I found myself a bit confused when after intermission the audience went crazy when a singer stepped out on stage. Turned out it was Christian Bautista, which meant nothing to me. I asked our taxi driver on the way home and he said he was a Filipino teenage heart throb. It definitely seemed to be the highlight of the performance for most of the audience. Not quite the experience I was anticipating as the audience sung along, yet somehow felt all the more Filipino because of it. After all people here do love to sing and dance.
Ballet Manila with live singers. Christian Bautista is in white.

Thursday I stayed late at school to watch our high school dance group run through their performance. Twenty minutes of a variety of dances with a huge amount of props (bungee cords, door frames, mini-tramps, laser lines) made me appreciate the opportunities that our students have just by virtue of being at our school. The stage they danced on was just as nice, if not nicer, than the other performances I watched this week. The time they put in was clear as the produced an impressive dance experience.

Dancers of the Bohol Dance Project

Friday night I ended up at a free performance at the Fringe Festival, a performance by the Bohol Dance Project taking place just a block from my apartment at the BGC Arts Center. They brought four male dancers in for their first performance outside of Bohol. You could see the emotion and thrill they had on being a stage in Manila, and couldn't help but get caught up in the excitement. Their two pieces were drastically different - one choreographed by a Romanian and the other a Filipino, each drawing on very different inspiration. If only more of my Friday evenings would end with a live dance performance like this.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

January’s Museum: Museum of Contemporary Art and Design

Last month we headed out for what I hoped would be a double header on museums. I had seen that there was a sculpture garden in the general area that we were heading to, one that had a sculpture for each of the APEC countries. Figured that since it was cool enough to be outside and we were in the area that we should stop there first. Only it turns out the APEC sculptures aren’t actually in the APEC garden like logic might lead you to believe. Oh we saw two sculptures but none that I was expecting...guess I’ll have to give it another shot once I do a bit more research.

So then on to our actual museum. Which, thankfully, was exactly where I expected it to be, a 20 minute walk down the road. The Museum of Contemporary Art and Design is on the campus of the College of Saint Benilde's School of Art and Design and seems to be a fairly recent addition to the museum spaces in Manila. The museum has a lovely industrial warehouse feel to the open space. For the size of the space there was not much on display. Four exhibits took up a fraction of the space. One on the empty space of buildings, one an cardboard recreation of a beach scene (I found the artist’s annotated photos much more interesting, an interesting back lit display on spaces (my favorite I think) and a video installation set in Chandigarh (a city in India I’ve traveled through but never visited).

All in allI feel like the trip this month gave us a destination but not much more. I can’t really recommend the museum unless the exhibit is one you are particularly interested in. However if you’re in the area it might be worth a stop since it was free.

Requisite museum selfie,
probably our worst one yet!

Tues - Sat 10-6, Sun 10-2
Free admission 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

December's Museum: Yuchengco Museum

This weekend was the only time that we could find to fit in a visit to a museum this month, as the majority of the month will be spent traveling for Christmas (One more week! I'm so excited that I'll be in Myanmar soon.) and next week I am in the provinces with a group of students for a week of community service.
Hanging Zen Garden

Needless to say, with all of the stress and busyness that comes with the end of the semester we did not want an all day commitment for our museum visit. Turns out that there is a second museum in Makati, one of the closest neighborhoods to where I live, and so we set off to visit the Yuchengco Museum. It is a fairly new museum, having been started in 2005 to house the private collection of Ambassador Alfonso T Yuchengco. Located on four small floors, the museum seems to be mostly dedicated to changing exhibits with a few small rooms of permanent works on display. One of those permanent installations is a hanging zen garden of paper rocks that was a definite focal point.

Special Exhibit: Blessing Manila
Butterfly symmetry
The exhibit on display during our visit was a entitled Blessing Manila and had two floors of work by the Taiwanese artist Yang Ding Xian. We were absolutely enthralled by his symmetrical butterfly pieces that resembled kaleidoscope images on the third floor. Then when we hit the ground floor and came across some mountain inspired work a woman stepped up to us and said "You know, that is the artist right there." So we had the unexpected pleasure of spending 20 minutes talking with Mr. Xian about his work and his inspiration while a nice older man generously translated for us. I will admit that having that opportunity not only made me appreciate his work a lot more, but made me realize just how special it can be to truly understand what an artist is trying to represent with his work. I would have never dreamed that our random museum choice would result in a one-on-one discussion with the featured artist, but it definitely made for a special visit.

Katie listing to Yang Ding Xian
Yuchengco Museum
RCBC Plaza
Corner Ayala and Senator Gil J. Puyat Avenues
Makati City, Metro Manila
Hours: Mon-Sat 10 am-6 pm
Entry Fee: 100 pesos

Sunday, December 3, 2017

An Update on Christmas Decorations

Market Market's lights
I thought that perhaps it was time to add an update on Christmas decorations, so you could get a sense of how over the top things get. It has taken me a while to get this together, so this is an idea of where things were in mid-November. Towards the start of the month I noticed that the red star and green Christmas tree had reappeared on the stop lights in my area of town, making me smile as I wait to cross the street.
SM Aura's sea themed decorations

The malls have gone all out. The one closest to me choosing an underwater theme this year, which I suppose is appropriate for the Philippines. I must admit their decorations are beautiful, even if they don't exactly evoke a Christmas feeling to me. I was a bit confused when I waited in line the other day to enter the display only to find a wrap around screen showing basically an aquarium tunnel. No Santa's snorkeling, no reindeer or snow. Not at all what I expected after last year. 

Powerplant mall is decked out
Of course other malls have gone the traditional route. With hanging lights and green trees. In fact Powerplant Mall was so decked out I found it a bit overwhelming. Green garland decked hallways, a huge tree....and then African Saharan animals with scarfs. Ummm...okay. The penguins on the other side of the lobby made a bit more sense to me. Until you start to think that no part of the Philippines gets cold enough for those birds. Sometimes you just have to suspend your sense of reality and enjoy the festive holiday spirit for what it is.


I guess I shouldn't be too surprised at the over the top decorations this year. After all I saw them last year. When we ventured out to a local market recently it was just stall after stall of Christmas, more Santas then I had ever seen together before. It does just make me wonder where do all the decorations go the other 8 months a year? I do need to get myself out after dark to a couple of places that will begin sound and light shows with the start of December, giving me the opportunity to realize that it does continue to ramp up as we get closer to the holiday.

Street market full of Christmas

Sunday, November 26, 2017

November's museum: National Museum of Fine Arts

We headed out this weekend with very little in mind for our museum trip. Rather a realization that November was coming to an end and we were running out of time if we wanted to follow through on our goal. So I went looking for a museum that was open on Sunday, and decided upon the National Museum. Turns out the National Museum has a couple of building, having taken over some of the old legislation sites in Manila. I decided upon the National Museum of Fine Arts for no real good reason except that it was there and I could find the name of it to look up when requesting a taxi. Needless to say I had no idea what we were getting into with a visit to this weekend. But hey, it is open, and as an added bonus is free to the public all the time.

Bright walls!
I was not prepared for the bright walls that greeted us as we explored the ground floor galleries. Although I suppose in some ways they helped to brighten up the sometimes dark 18th century paintings. I'll admit I wasn't all that into the painting that were on display. Although I did find it interesting to note that the portraits, at least, were of Filipino people, easily distinguishable as they wore the recognizable traditional pina fabric made partially out of pineapple fiber. I was also fascinated by the sculptures that were made from concrete, marble being too expensive or not available. To be honest though, I found myself more distracted by the bright walls than engaged in the paintings.

One of my favorite statues, although I don't think
this one was concrete.

So then we had to decide if it was worth heading upstairs to check out another level of galleries. We're here, might as well, right? I was relieved to find the work on this floor more colorful (and the walls less colorful) and modern, more to my taste. In fact I found some work by Vicente Silva Manansala, the National Artist for Painting in 1981, that I quite liked. Not only was the majority of his work of local scenes (landscapes, cock fights, religious ceremonies, etc) his use of color and shapes were quite appealing to me. 

Isda, The Philam Life Manansala Series (No 7)
All in all we spent about an hour and a half in the National Museum. It was worth a visit, especially if you enjoy old buildings. I particularly liked the stairwell near the entrance and the handles on the gallery doors reminding you that you were in the National Museum. All in all, a pretty good way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, November 12, 2017


My favorite new mural 

One of the things that I really enjoy about the area I live in is that there are a pile of murals (just ask my mom, when she came to visit I made her go walking to see most of them) and new ones are getting painted every year. It seems that there is a mural festival in BGC every year, not that it is all that well advertised, nor it is easy to find out where new murals are going up. But in some ways that just makes it more fun, more of a discovery when you realize that there is a new one over there, behind that building.

Stranger Things inspired mural on my walk to school
When I was walking down High Street recently I saw the top of a mural (the first picture) that I had not seen before, which led me on a wander around the fort to see if there were other new murals up. I found three, and saw two more this weekend that were in the process of being painted, although I know that it is not currently the mural festival, that happens sometime towards the end of the school year. 

Traditions inspired
In any case it is fun to have something to "discover" when walking around the neighborhood, and I love being able to watch the evolution of some of them go up. (Although I will admit I'm not so thrilled that they are painting over my favorite one.)

Detail of one mural

Saturday, November 4, 2017

October's Museum: The Ayala Museum

October always seems to be one of those months when life and work just get busy. It has been great in some ways, as I feel like I'm finally out of my apartment more than I am in it, but frankly it is a bit exhausting. I'm very much looking forward to the week long break we have coming up, and can't wait for a bit of down time. 
Katie and I outside the Ayala Museum
Things have been so busy that it was a bit difficult to find the time for Katie and I to get out to a museum this month. So we chose to stick close to home. Heading to the Ayala Museum in Makati, a short 10-20 minute taxi ride away. I really had very little expectation for this museum, having no idea what they might have. Only knowing after a brief search on their website that I could actually get in free if I brought my teacher ID with me. Not a normal part of what I carry on the weekend so I was glad I had read that. Otherwise, the only other thing I knew is that the Ayala's are one of the business tycoon families here in the Philippines - having their name on many malls, and so it isn't really a surprise that the museum is at a shopping complex.

Spanish galleon replicas

A little to my surprise, the museum was quite nice. Particularly the two floors that housed the permanent collection. The top floor with a fairly large collection of Chinese pottery that seemed to have mostly been found at archeological sights in the Philippines. An extraordinarily large gold collection was the highlight of my visit. It was mostly taken from burial sights in the Philippines. We were wondering how there could actually be that large of a collection here, in a fairly small museum, but upon reading we realized that most of it was discovered after 1960 when archeologists began working in the Philippines. The second floor had an extensive set of dioramas detailing important events in Philippine history. I will say I learned a bit more about that topic, since I didn't know very much at all. Although it gets a bit depressing to realize just how much war and violence is part of their notable history. All in all quite an enjoyable two hours visiting the museum.
Sculpture outside the museum
The Ayala Museum
Tue-Sun 9am-6pm
Entry: free for teachers with id, price ranges from 100p to 425 p
Makati Avenue corner De La Rosa Street
Greenbelt Park, Makati City 1224