Inside an old building in Makati City is a BlackBerry service center: a dose of overthinking revealed its subtle irony to me.
The Atrium in Makati City is a quaint, dry and dusty building. It sits on Makati Avenue, across from the Ayala Triangle, and right beside the tall, solid glass wall of the Zuellig Building. Although both are unmistakably commercial edifices, being located centrally in one of Manila’s business districts, there is a striking contrast between the two structures’ appearances. One speaks of modernity, and admirable is the manner by which it blends with the sky. Viewed from a distance, on overcast days with a uniform gray sky, the Zuellig nearly disappears behind the reflection on its mirror-like exterior, and if one had poor vision she might not see it at all while gazing at Makati’s skyline. The other building, meanwhile, is from an older era. The Atrium is more at home with the utilitarian offices like those which house SGV & Co. and National Life Insurance on Ayala Avenue; its architecture belongs to that style which still dominates Legazpi Village and the many roads that feed into Ayala and Buendia. But not on Makati Avenue itself—here the ultra-modern reigns over all. Here, steel and glass captures all attention, turns all heads, and leaves nothing for the quaint, the dry and the dusty.
On a Friday earlier this month I attended a protest rally. It was held at the heart of Makati, the country’s business capital. It was highly publicized by its organizers, and they put up quite a scene—stage, sound system, and all. The media, anticipating a momentous event, swarmed the intersection of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas. They called it the Million People March, part 2, because it was born out of the success of a similarly-motivated demonstration in Luneta. But when I arrived at Ayala corner Paseo de Roxas, I saw a crowd that could barely fill the Ped Xing-lined box on the intersection. The TV cameras started rolling, but the media, people simply doing their jobs, comprised what looked like half of the crowd present. It was barely a Thousand People March.
I admit, I myself shouldn’t be counted as a participant in that event. I didn’t participate, I was merely present. I went there, no, passed by there out of curiosity, and out of a sense that I had nothing better to do. I have met a lot of people who have witnessed Martial Law with their own eyes, even people who suffered Martial Law with their own bodies, having been imprisoned or worse for their opinions. Me, a free student who found himself in Makati with a lot of time in his hands, can do only so many things as worthwhile as participating in such a social-political movement, right?
I think it’s not really about the very issue that the people are rallying against. It’s about how they, and we, engage with issues.