非暴力態度！(A Non-violent Attitude!)
by John BATTEN
at 4:39pm on 21st March 2016
1. Statue of Chino Roces in front of Mendiola Bridge, Manila.
2. Detail of large-scale 'His Only Son' installation (in homage of Christ) at Art Fair Philippines by Philippine artist Daniel de la Cruz.
3. Winner Jumalon, 'Llevame a la Luna' ('Fly Me to the Moon'), oil on canvas, 122x107cm, 2016 (Courtesy of Yavuz Gallery, Singapore).
4. Allan Balisi, 'Aspiring Act Alone', oil on gessoed canvas, 162.6x243.8cm, 2015 (courtesy of Silverlens, Manila).
5. Installation view of Romina Diaz's photography 'Stagnant Energies' photography exhibition at Finale Art File, Chino Roces Avenue, Makati, Manila.
All photos: John Batten
(Please scroll down for English version.)
當你讀到這篇時，香港的媒體將會有很多關於Art Basel Hong Kong的新聞，這是全球最大貿易展覽公司在我城舉辦的年度藝展，盛事的終極擁有人是瑞士城市巴塞爾。現時，大部份世界主要城市有舉辦藝展，上月我便到了馬尼拉參與Art Fair Philippines。規模而言，菲律賓藝術展較香港細小，但同樣引人注目，而且吸引了菲律賓當地最優秀的畫廊參展，出席的還有來自香港、新加坡和馬來西亞的代表。這個藝展自四年前便以馬尼拉馬卡堤中央商業區的多層停車場為場地，在三個樓層中加入臨時安裝的冷氣、畫廊藝術品的攤位間隔等。
奇諾羅塞斯大道就在馬卡堤近郊不遠處，這裡前稱Pasong Tamo，是一個為畫廊提供大型工業用空間的貨倉區，與香港的黃竹坑有點相似，因為租金較便宜和空間較大而備受畫廊和設計師傢俱店青睞。大道沿途有幾家馬尼拉知名度最高的商業畫廊；Silverlens和The Drawing Room均會來港參與Art Basel Hong Kong。
A Non-violent Attitude!
by John Batten
As you read this, Hong Kong’s media will be full of news about Art Basel Hong Kong – the city’s annual art fair run by the world’s biggest trade exhibition company, whose ultimate owner is the Swiss city of Basel. Art fairs are now held in most major cities and last month I visited Art Fair Philippines in Manila. It is a smaller art fair than Hong Kong’s but equally stimulating and attracts the best Philippine galleries and some from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. Since starting four years ago, the art fair has used a centrally located multi-level carpark in Manila’s Makati central business district, temporarily installing air-conditioning and booth partitioning for gallery artwork and larger sponsored installation pieces spread over three floors.
Not far away on the outskirts of Makati is Chino Roces Avenue, formerly known as Pasong Tamo, a warehouse area that offers large industrial spaces for galleries. It is similar to Hong Kong’s Wong Chuk Hang where art galleries and designer furniture shops are attracted by lower rents and larger spaces. Along this road are some of Manila’s highest profile commercial galleries; Silverlens and The Drawing Room will both participate at Art Basel Hong Kong.
This area traditionally housed newspaper offices, radio and television stations – it still remains a place of artistic freedom of expression. Joaquin ‘Chino’ Roces was formerly publisher of the Manila Times newspaper and the Makati City Council named Chino Roces Avenue in his honour a few days after his death in 1988.
While I was in Manila preparations were being made for the 30th anniversary of the EDSA People Power overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship. EDSA is a long, crowded road that runs through Manila and crucially past military bases and the National Police Headquarters.
Ferdinand Marcos had by 1972 been President for his maximum two 4-year terms and according to the constitution should have allowed an election to vote for a new President. Instead, Marcos declared martial law using “a deteriorating law and order situation” and cancelled the elections. He then ruled as a dictator under a manipulated constitution as President for the next 14 years and his administration became increasingly corrupt and arbitrarily detained, tortured and murdered his political opponents.
The assassination of the populist leader and Marcos opponent Benigno Aquino in 1983 at Manila Airport triggered international outrage and protests in the Philippines. Marcos’ position became increasingly untenable and he was forced to call elections in early 1986. He ran against Corazon Aquino, Benigno’s widow. Amidst election fraud and vote rigging, protests escalated and a military coup to overthrow Marcos was mounted - but opposed by troops loyal to Marcos. The Catholic Church, an early Marcos ally but later opponent, called on people to stand between the opposing troops’ military bases on EDSA while demanding Marcos to resign. A million people spread along EDSA and peacefully interceded in any possible military action between the opposing army troops.
On 25 February 1986, Marcos and his family and a group of supporters fled Manila to reach Hawaii a day later.
One of the sites of protests during the Marcos dictatorship was Mendiola Bridge, near the Presidential residence. Prominently erected in front of the bridge is a statue of Chino Roces (illustrated below). A plaque explains that, “On this historic bridge, countless Filipinos raised their voices in protest fighting for freedom, truth and justice.” Chino Roces was a “journalist-publisher, civic leader and concerned citizen (who) stood his ground and was a central figure in raising a non-violent struggle as he, together with various cause-orientated groups and prominent individuals, took the cause of freedom and justice directly to the people through the ‘Parliament of the Streets’. During his lifetime, Chino was clear and simple: government must listen to the people for government is for the people, and cannot be used against the people.” It was poignantly signed, “From a grateful nation.” Dated 24 June 1989.
When I told a staff member at my local chan cha teng that I had just visited Manila, she asked if it was dangerous, and made a shooting gun gesture. The appalling Manila hostage crisis when Hong Kong tourists lost their lives in 2010 has coloured our view of this passionate country. And just as the recent New Year violence in Mong Kok does not reflect the attitude of all Hong Kong people, so too in Manila.
Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, guarantees Hong Kong many freedoms…of speech, of assembly etc. The legitimacy to enjoy these freedoms is however within constitutional and legal parameters and a non-violent attitude. Otherwise, like Marcos did, suppression can easily be justified. The Philippine example is compelling: the non-violence seen on Manila’s streets in 1986 inspired the 1989 Tiananmen protests in China and the fall of the Berlin Wall and opening up of Eastern Europe. Non-violent opposition eventually prevails.
Originally published in Ming Pao Weekly, 12 March 2016.