Manila and the adjacent possible

By Kristy Drutman, 2016 Fellow

We asked our Summer 2016 Fellows to write down their thoughts, questions, and ideas over the course of their stay in the Philippines. This is one of their reflections.

Last Sunday a small group of our fellows traveled into Old Manila to explore an environment supporting local, independent artisans at Escolta art collective 98B. The space has hosted artists and creatives from around the world – Singapore, Australia, Japan, the Philippines and more – since 2012.

Wandering through the various booths, I was amazed with the attention to detail each artist took toward their craft. Every single artist made a commitment to activate this space, investing their time, energy, and resources toward a collective goal. I felt at peace in 98B, knowing that I was surrounded by people full of raw passion and hope for a better Manila.

Angelo, an architect from the 1/0 Design Collective and a friend of Kaya Co., told us about the history of the building they were located in and the support they receive from the owners to expand the space for creatives. Their goal is to redefine public space in Manila that can accommodate and enrich people’s lives. To show us an example of this, he brought us up to his architecture firm housed in the same building.

As an urban studies major, I have learned to greatly appreciate the power of design. I was instantly stunned by the dazzling white walls, grass carpets, and towering glass windows to peer out at the urban fabric.

As I sat peering through the window, I felt as though it was the first time I saw Manila as a real global city. I was used to seeing only fragments of the city through the windows of my various Grab-Taxis during traffic or through my occasional walks around my workplace. From the ground level, Manila felt chaotic, too busy to notice me or to impress me with its secrets.

Sitting at the window sill, everything seemed to slow down for a moment. As I started outside at the gorgeous pre-war design of the Don Roman Santos building, I felt I could have easily been in Rome, Paris, or New York.

I sat for nearly fifteen minutes gazing out at the roaming Jeepneys, Trikes, and pedestrians running from the storm. It was in that moment I began to realize I was falling in love with ‘the possible’ within Manila. Hearing the dreams of these architects to decentralize Metro Manila by expanding urban space and affordable housing gave me chills.

I am not sure what will happen with his hope – today, tomorrow, or when I finish this fellowship, but for now, I want to hold on to this memory. The moment where, exposed to this beautiful cooperative, I realized that Manila could be more than what people have given up on, that our generation could change the narrative.

During Kaya Co. I am learning that my creation is attached to my word. As I speak of the magic I found that day, I truly believe that anyone who comes to 98B in Escolta will begin to change their mind about what opportunities lie ahead here.