Sunday, March 16, 2008

China Town, Squatters and Youth.

Published in the Expat Newspaper on 16 March 2008

The Chinese have had a long and sometime turbulent association, especially under colonial rule, with the Philippines. Significant historical figures from national hero JP Rizal, the presidential strongman Ferdinand Marcos to the mother of people power, Corrie Aquino, all have a Chinese lineage. Chinese New Year is as important and celebrated as widely as its Gregorian counterpart. And the Binondo district, Manila’s China Town, is as integral to the city’s commerce today as it has been over the centuries.

In celebration of this significance the Yuchengco Museum with the assistance of Lopez Memorial Museum has mounted the exhibition “Binondo; Pride of Place”. It is a selection of historical memorabilia in the form of maps, prints and photographs that range from 16th Century to the present day. The oldest is of a Sangley couple circa 1516, the latest is of an ube coloured fire truck from the Binondo fire department snapped by one of the student curators who assisted with the set up of the exhibition.

The student contribution to the exhibition is arguably the more engaging section as they contrast and compare the old and new with a series of postcard size images, Although, the Calesas do look very similar even if their usage has changed markedly. That being said, for history buffs the record of times past is well presented especially the first half of the last century.

A short segue, if such a thing is possible in Manila’s traffic, down the EDSA to Pasay City and the Galleria Duemila where the neighbours have been invited into the gallery. “Living on Loring” is the culmination of a ten week outreach by the gallery to the squatters who live at the end of the street. Under the tutelage of photographer Romina Diaz and artist Ann Wizer, twelve girls from the hood have explored their creativity through photography, creative writing and art.

The result of the labour of the girls and the artists is on display at Galleria Duemila until the end of the month. The old actor’s adage of not performing with animals or children holds true here, as it is the balikbayan doll’s houses that attract and hold the attention. The pasalubong the girls have infused into these recycled boxes speaks directly about their dreams, their lives, their reality. From the glossy magazines celluloid depictions that decorate the walls to the Popsicle stick furniture a Dickensian inevitability of circumstance unfolds.

With both of these exhibitions the voice of youth has been given an opportunity to speak and has not been found wanting. Be it for the presentation of a history or the telling of a life lived they have imparted a vibrancy of presentation that engages the viewer. Which underscores one of the greatest artist’s of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso, remarks “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

“Living on Loring” is at Galleria Duemila, 210 Loring St, Pasay City until the 31st March. “Binondo; Pride of Place” is at The Yuchengco Museum, RCBC Plaza, Ayala Avenue, Makati City until 10th of May. More information can be found online at and


Anonymous said...

hi! i'am one of the student curators in the Binondo Pride of Place exhibit... Im happy that you appreciate our efforts. thank you...


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