Monday, July 6, 2020

Of Murals and Nesting Pied Fantail in the Middle of Makati City: Wildlife and Wild Art Thrive in the City

Philippine Pied Fantail nesting high on a tree in the CBD
Friendly cats
Out of necessity, I had to meet up with my best buddy yesterday. We chose to meet up at the Ayala Triangle park, perchance to go birding, perchance to breathe a bit more fresh air.  Being cooped up within the confines of a building for days on end can be suffocating although I must say that having a lot of full-grown plants on my ledge and the sparrows regularly visiting and singing outside my window help take off some of that feeling.  Still, it was welcome to see trees (and dogs) outside my usual environment on a Sunday yet so off we went to meet up.
PLDT hornbill homage

THE GIFT OF BIRDS.  Little did we know that we would chance upon a nesting Philippine Pied Fantail (locally known as Maria Capra/scientific name: Rhipidura nigritorquis) high up a tree right in the middle of the central business district, right beside  the towering building of the Makati Stock Exchange.  It's a privilege and a gift really, one that I didn't realize got captured when I was shooting it with my Nikon B700 (with luck, I brought it along even if there's little chance of going birding for the afternoon) that there's a nest up there.  Here's proof of wildlife right in the city, hidden in plain sight, thriving and not just surviving side-by-side us city folks. Birds are like that, I guess, they're just in the background until we learn to appreciate them, their singing, and later exercising great patience to spot and identify them. Maybe, the pandemic prompted us to take heed of things that get drowned out in the course of "normal" life when the traffic din and other sources of noise pollution keep us deaf to the sounds of nature and insensitive to nature's rhythms.

Perhaps, the pandemic helped reset some of the rhythms we've been ignoring or taking for granted for so long.  When I hear of people turning to pets or plants to cope with the mental stresses caused by the pandemic quarantine, I can't help but smile.  It's the same thing when I hear of wildlife being spotted in places where they've been absent for a long time, from pawikans visiting places in the Visayas to sea otters frequenting the quay in Singapore. 
If one cares to listen, there are quite a lot of Yellow Vented Bulbuls in Makati, flying from tree to tree along Paseo and Ayala.  It's a case of wildlife finding us where we are since we can't go out there to seek it.

Sycip Park cat mural

CATS IN THE CITY. It was also a nice time to reacquaint myself with the cats that frequent the parks.  I love dogs but I'm not cat-averse.  I've also been known to lure cats away from their human owners LOL.  Nice to know that kindhearted people leave kibbles for them or feed them outright by sharing whatever food they're eating.  The pandemic has not taken away the instinct to be kind to our furry friends, regardless of whether we know them personally or not.

MAKATI TURNING INTO MURAL CITY.  There were also very interesting murals that went up while we are in quarantine, like the indigenous wildlife paintings that PLDT featured on its facade.  The giant hornbill on the west-facing wall looks like a hybrid futuristic rendering, the familiar head and beak combined with futuristic, metallic plated body armor.  It's like a cross between Ironman and a hornbill really.

Mural artist/environmentalist AG Saño
Revisiting Sycip Park located parallel to the rear side of the Asian Institute of Management and a few steps away from Greenbelt, we are treated to a bright cat mural on the facade of the men's restroom, framed by the bike rack (as we know, bikes are now unofficially a must in the age of the new normal).  If you spend a bit more time here, you can also spot interesting birds and sand lizards (bubuli in Filipino), like the resident Maria Capra that calls the area near Gamboa street its turf.  It is a very territorial and fearless bird, swiping at guests if you come near "its tree". 

While the elevated pedestrian walkway that cuts through the city (from Landmark to Makati Med) has been featuring ceiling murals for years now, the newer murals seem to me as living proof that Makati is carving quite a reputation for being a mural city.  The ceiling of the underpasses are incredibly breath-taking to behold as well, the one nearest to the Ayala Triangle done by acclaimed muralist/artist/environmentalist AG Saño, whom I met in the RARE Philippines assignment last year.

In conversations with AG during the course of our Camotes Islands assignment, I showed him the murals we saw while on assignment in Kuching, Malaysia, last quarter of 2019. 

Of course, the styles are vastly different owing to the culture but AG appreciated the murals I took with my Nikon B700 and iPhone.  Specially at a time like this, when nothing is certain, seeing art, especially larger than life renderings, can be life-affirming and invigorating.


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