Posted by: nastypen | August 9, 2008

Woven Wings are Better than Fireworks

It was a last minute decision.  Instead of being dazzled by the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olmpics, I watched a play.  I know it would have been fantastic to witness the spectacular debut of China into the world as a formidable power player by way of the Olympics.  But I watched a play about Manila street children in tatters and in filth.  And it is the better choice. 

Hinabing Pakpak ng Ating Anak (Woven wings of our children) was conceptualized, written and directed by Anton Juan.  LAst night was the last run of the play at the University of the Philippines.  I was blown away by the production.  I liked that it was a conversation with the late Filipino children’s book author Rene Villanueva interspersed with the miserable stories of these countless street children with inclusion of magical children’s stories.


Bakwit” is the colloquial for “evacuees.”   These are people that internally displaced by war and other disasters.  Considering the strife in our country that has mostly gone unnoticed by almost everyone, it is appreciated that Juan highlighted the plight of the bakwit children.  Most of the performers are wearing tattered clothes.  One scene they came out in skirmishes onstage donning those clothes with Muslim attire.  They were running away from Military attacks implied by jarring lights and sounds of helicopters and gunfire made the hair of arms jump.


What is difficult is that I know that what the children are doing and what are being done to them in this play are true.  Organ harvest?  Prostitution?  Rape?  Terrorized by the authority?  It is painful to see the abuse, neglect, exploitation unfurl themselves on children.  We see these kids selling samapguita, rags, tapping on our car windows asking for a little.


The set design by Leo Abaya is astounding.  At once, sparse and lunar landscape-like can transform itself with the sheer capability of its cast into a warzone, a setting for a fairy tale, underneath a city bridege or a back alley at a construction site.  The lights played beautifully from the sickening hue of sleeping amidst city filth to the sweeping magical landscape of a story.


What would you do to attain scrap metal?  This question was answered in a most heart-wrenching fashion by the ladies of the cast.


Watching the play made me remember what I saw recently when I went to the Metropolitan Museum at Roxas Boulevard.  I was viewing the UP Fine Arts Centennial commemorative exhibit when I noticed an adjacent exhibition called Postura.   It was a “celebration” of painting and fashion.  The paintings are of noted (read: rich) personalities donning Filipiniana costumes.   I chuckled when I remember the contempt of my professor for works like these as just insipid “Paintings of matrons and their filigrees.”

The sitters were in their best posture emulating the grand portraits of European royalty complete with sitting wistfully at a Louis XIV chair, or standing with such pomp as medals glistened on their torso, or sitting amidst idealized nature holding a parasol with rings at every finger.

I never laughed so hard at an art exhibit.

I left the museum thinking about how rich people generally view art as a masturbatory endeavor; that art is just part of their investment portfolio, that art is a showcase of their power, that art is meant to capture their ideal selves bedecked in lush ruffles inside cavernous halls.

As I was walking away from the museum looking for a ride, I passed by the creek next to the museum and saw two street kids…..fucking.  They were in their early teens and both were high from sniffing solvent.  the solvent inside plastic bags are at their feet, the girl’s underwear dangling like a dead pigeon on her thigh as the boy pumped into her.

I was so shocked.  I looked to my right and saw they were doing it in the shadow of the museum and thought what I saw inside was mere fantasy.  Outside?  Pixies do not exist by the dead creek where two street children are fucking, heaping filth and stench as the police patrol was nearby with the cops pointing and laughing.  I ran away.  Yes, I ran away.

From shock I quickly moved to sadness.

I remember all the fire and brimstone spewed forth by the Church into this highly conservative nation of junking the reproductive rights bill.  Isn’t it also abuse to bring children into the degenerate miasma of poverty in Manila?  Isn’t it abuse to let the people go about their lives mired in ignorance and fear that can only bring more misery to them?  Those two street kids fucking out in the open are a testament to the failure of the system and a legacy of ignorance.


People are gushing on how fantastic the Olympics opening ceremony was.  The fireworks were dazzling.  The performances were spectacular.  I don’t know.  I saw the eyes of an actress glisten wildly last night as she recounts abuse and murder and I thought not even the biggest fireworks cannot snuff this away.



  1. I’d heard good reviews of Anton’s play and I’m sorry I failed to catch it, dying as I had been from deadlines. But last night’s Olympic opening ceremonies were impressive beyond words: it was a spectacle possible only in the country that invented fireworks (and paper, gunpowder and silk–though the last had historically been produced in China’s outlying areas before the empire appropriated it as a potent trade currency). It was better than what Hollywood could have mustered. The spectacle, in terms of number and grandeur, evoked both the terra cotta warriors and the Red Guards. All the time I was thinking, God, look at what’s possible when everyone moves as one for a spectacular good! But what do I really know about what it’s like to be a Chinese at this juncture in history? Wa. Except that as a Filipino, I came off that spectacle with the unequivocal conclusion that democracy is overrated.

  2. Hello, Gou! Hahaha…so true, but I guess Filipinos do not get the concept of “what’s possible when everyone moves as one for a spectacular good!”

    I mean, regionalism is greatly mired in our blood.

    You have the Tagalogs making fun of the Bisayans for their tongue. You have the Bisayans hating the Tagalogs for their Imperial language. And the list goes on and on…..

    Sure, China has a massive and complex culture, but they are under the iron fist of authoritarianism. So, perhaps, this is why some people say that Filipinos do not deserve democracy because they ultimately need a leash. A short one.

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