Manila lives!

It was a really pleasant Sunday. Summer is slowly creeping in and the sun was out and warm but there was always a cool breeze making its presence known and General Luna street in Intramuros was bustling with people at Viva Manila’s Intramuros Pasyal Sunday.

General Luna in Intramuros during Viva Manila's Pasyal Sunday

General Luna in Intramuros during Viva Manila’s Pasyal Sunday

I don’t remember seeing Manila like this in a very long time. It was a modest street fair, to be honest, with only the strip of General Luna having any sort of activity from Real street to Anda street but what activity there was! Booths and food kiosks, musicians, yoyo experts, people making gigantic bubbles, hula-hoopers, and all other kinds of things were happening all over.

It was really such a pleasant Sunday. It was brimming with people at 3pm and it hit full stride by 4:30pm. All kinds of people were there and it seemed everyone was having a grand time.

I was quite nervous, actually, because the theme for this month’s Pasyal Sunday (it’s happening once a month throughout summer) was Speak Out. So my friend Daniel Darwin of Viva Manila invited me to join a poetry slam that they were holding from 5pm until the evening. I haven’t read my poetry in front of an audience in a long time and Daniel is a friend and I felt that I had to test run some of the poems I am putting out for my book so I thought it was a good thing to be a part of. I wanted to meet all the other spoken word performers as well. There was so much possibilities and it was going to be a full moon.

There were so many things that just aligned properly that day.

The audience sat in rapt attention and listened to each poet, their numbers growing with every succeeding poet. For an aspiring poet like myself, it was one of the most amazing things for me to see -- an audience!

The audience sat in rapt attention and listened to each poet, their numbers growing with every succeeding poet. For an aspiring poet like myself, it was one of the most amazing things for me to see — an audience!

On a makeshift stage of two crate stands, Daniel got up and announced the beginning of the poetry slam. To my utter surprise, a lot of people came and sat on the mono block chairs and stood in the back and listened. One by one, Daniel called the poets and as they read and/or performed their works, people sat attentively and listened. And they stayed. The first set began at around 5:30pm and ended right at sunset at around 6:30pm. And the audience sat and listened through the whole program. More and more people came and stood in the back and just watched. It was an amazing thing for me to see.

Daniel called me up as the sun was setting turning into a gorgeous orange glow and I read my poems Testimonial II and Clubbing versus the “real” world (And the “real” world is winning). It felt great giving these poems voices. It felt like I was preparing them for their eventual publication for my book.

We were joined by members of Speak Philippines, a group of young performance poets, who did not read their poems but performed it from memory. There were rappers and poets who asked friends to accompany them with a guitar and bongos. It was quite lovely.

When the sun had set, Daniel announced a break as lights were to be set up for the second set for the evening and so people could have dinner. The original plan was to just read non-stop and people could just come and go at their leisure, but since everybody had sat and listened to each performance, the organisers thought it would be best to have a break so people could grab a bite to eat and to give time to set up the lights.

My friend Lara Parpan, editor-in-chief of Women's Health, was in the audience and snapped this photo of me reading In my Pocket

My friend Lara Parpan, editor-in-chief of Women’s Health, was in the audience and snapped this photo of me reading In my Pocket

By the second set, a different crowd had formed and another wave of poets came to read. And many of the performers from the first set came back for a second round, including myself. I read the revised version of In my Pocket for my second round. It was dark and the light was barely enough to see my print out, but the full moon was bright up in the sky and everyone was listening so deeply. The energy so strong and flowing so freely.

It felt so good. I can just imagine how Daniel and Carlos Celdran and everyone else in Viva Manila must be feeling. Definitely, the event was a big success, for sure.

Hopefully, come April when they hold the next one, it will be bigger and they will have more booths and more performers of all kinds filling the energy of the streets of Intramuros. It is this kind of cultural engagement that grounds a city and keeps it from being too artificial. There was very little showboating or posturing. It was just a wonderful day of having a  stroll through a street with just so much entertainment and food and maybe even shopping choices, if that’s your thing. Nobody cared how you looked and nobody annoyed anybody else. People were just doing their thing and it was awesome.

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