Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Dream of Green

It rained today, and I was glad. The city is clouded by a fine smog we're so used to that we scarcely remember it's there, and only remember when we see what we've cleaned out of our noses. The pavements and the glass windows of all the buildings bounce summer's UV rays all over, and that is why, my friends, I insist on arming myself with sunblock even when the clouds are out. We chill out in the malls, and hide behind the tinted glass in airconditioned comfort, not venturing out unless it's absolutely necessary.

Now I know why Greenbelt is named that way. Development and urbanization are everywhere, and we need green areas for balance. Thank goodness Ayala Land has kept this little oasis in Makati well-cared for. I was there, recently, to watch The Reader at Greenbelt 3, on a Sunday afternoon. After the movie Joy, Tristan and I parted ways temporarily to windowshop. On my way to National Bookstore I took my sweet time strolling. The landscaping is wonderful. Variegated bushes, tree ferns, palms, acacias, and best of all - layered groupings of beautiful, breathtaking bamboos. (I love bamboos. The bamboos in Ayala Center are uber special.) And small clean waterways, fountained reflecting pools and goldfish ponds (I wouldn't say koi, the fish are tiny and the ponds are too shallow).

The greenness took my mind off my worries, off the heat, made me forget the time. Joy and Tristan were peeved at me, but cooled their tempers near the Ayala Museum fountains. A little boy was crouching over the lip of a nearby pond, mesmerized, paying no heed to his mother, who was cautioning him not to fall in. He probably understands how I felt that day.

Two Decembers ago TDM and I went for a walk after a romantic dinner in Greenbelt 2, and he was startled to find that the ducks posing on the banks of the stream were real. He thought (he wasn't wearing glasses) they were something like Miami flamingo garden ornaments, until they moved. He then asked me, "Isn't this where the Aviary used to be?" I do think so, I remember having visited there a few times in high school. I wonder what happened to all the wildlife there. At any rate, I am happy that they kept the greenery. Last Christmas I took some balikbayan friends to Greenbelt 3 for coffee. They were astounded that there was a hidden micro-forest inside Makati, just two blocks away from their hotel! "But we couldn't even see the trees from the hotel... if you didn't bring us here we'd have no idea!" Despite the fact that the outdoor tables meant possibly breathing other people's secondhand smoke, we camped under a big acacia decked with fairy lights. They were ecstatic.

It seems too much of a pipe dream to expect Ortigas & Co. to create for the business district a safe and beautiful park. Ayala had a head start in Makati some 50 or so years ago. I might not live long enough to see such a park here, but who knows? One day, perhaps.

Here where I live, at least there are trees and a pool and and the noises of children playing. There are fallen leaves on the sidewalks. Of course it doesn't really compare to growing up in UP, amid the fruit trees, the acacias, and the wildflowers. At least, here, when it rains, I still get to smell that wet earth and bruised grass smell, which I love.