Antipolo City, the Philippines
July 10, 2017
Squad goal achieved! Way back when the world was not yet a wide web, I lost touch with grade school friends Ramir and Antonieto, one of my first beshies (best friend in non-millennial speak). It took the invention of Facebook to reconnect us. And a road trip through Antipolo, where Tony (three decades had cut his name) relocated in the intervening years, to regroup our squad long-disbanded before the Spice Girls’ swan song!
Curiosity drove us to our first stop, the environmental disaster that was Hinulugang Taktak, a waterfall known to be choked by pollution. But surprise! The city government had finally made an effort to rehabilitate the river. A canopy of trees provided cool shade, but less paving would have allowed for a more natural environment.
At the foot of the falls, foamy water collected in the lagoon. It was common knowledge that garbage and soap suds from residents upstream eventually killed the river. Were they still doing their laundry? That explained the concrete pool; the water was not fit for swimming.
We were soon back on the road. Ramir at the wheel took directions from Antipolo resident Tony. Our road trip turned to a laugh trip when we kept making the wrong turns and missing the right ones. This was why Waze was invented.
Despite the detours, we made it to 1 Sierra Madre St., Grand Heights, Antipolo – aka Pinto Art Museum, a major player in the vigorous art scene of Rizal Province. Its pinto (Tagalog for door) thrust us to an enclave of eye candy, thought-provoking, sexually explicit collection of contemporary paintings, sculptures, and art installations by various local artists.
PAM was not only a museum but a living environment, a landscaped compound of six villas-turned-galleries housing thematic artworks. There were nationalistic art, erotica, murals, and the avant-garde. The variety sustained interest; the open spaces overlooking the plains provided breathing interludes. The gardens contained hidden nooks to lose yourself in away from the crowds. It was a place where the physical and the metaphysical collided.
Gardens surrounded the galleries and cafe with photogenic old Spanish architecture. The place begged to be ‘Grammed. My and Ramir’s cameras captured Tony’s slim and statuesque figure amidst art and nature that brought out his inner supermodel.
Kudos to museum owner and art patron Dr. Joven Cuanang whom we bumped into at the museum restaurant, Café Rizal. It turned out Ramir had been acquainted with him. We personally thanked him for giving Filipino artists a venue to exhibit their pieces, for sharing his own collection to the public, and for promoting culture and art appreciation.
We wrapped up our little road trip with an ambush visit to the house of another grade school friend, Pong. He gladly received us into his lovely home. Indeed, we beat our favorite squad, the Spice Girl, in going on a reunion tour!