I’m glad that I’m more or less in line with my proposed timeline. I have already procured the materials needed, made the blackout maps, and prepared the blurbs for each building. Today, the first batch of testers (aka my friends) went with me to Escolta and Binondo and tried out the map. We got lost following the itinerary but nevertheless we were able to visit all nine spots, except for Ides O’ Racca, which is the farthest among them.
All that’s left is the layout for the guidebook. I hope it can be done in time for the other city walk next Sunday.
Assessment of Progress
Things I’ve already done so far:
Combining and hybridizing maps – didn’t hybridize the maps in a collage anymore; what I did was screencap both a road map and a satellite map for each specific points
Scanning and layouting of blackout maps – ended up doing a series of digital blackout maps instead; I liked it even more (MS Paint powers, kumbaga) and when the “guidebook tester” got printed, my friends didn’t notice the blackouts because they seemed so organic!
Addition of literary texts, quotes, and photographs about the place – was able to create blurbs based on the history of each place; they still have a lot of working on, though, if I were to turn them into a literary endeavor
Printing of “guidebook tester”– wasn’t able to have the sample layouted on time; had to do with simple texts and images in a .doc file instead
The three good things that happened this week are the following:
Was able to travel to Binondo-Escolta with my friends; I asked them for documentation and they willingly obliged to take pictures of the places they find amusing. They have been tagging me in their Facebook posts with their photos lately.
Said a friend of mine while we were on tour: “I wouldn’t have noticed the old building had you not pointed it out on the map.” Which meant to say that MAPA/LAKAD has served it purpose.
While eating at Tasty Dumplings, another friend brought up the idea of psychogeography: how do people collectively experience the feel of a city through maps? He told me to look for articles that may help me pursue my project further.
Receipts (photos by Dorothy Parungao, Arnold Lapuz, and yours truly):
Had a hard time researching information about the buildings. Good thing some people provided ample information on the Internet. My next challenge, after considering all the comments made by my friends, is to properly map out the itinerary so that people won’t have a hard time going in circles around Escolta. Now that I’ve actually been to the buildings, I will be revising the order of the maps. My friends have also wished me luck on this project, and after hearing that I plan to make this into a scrapbook-journal (ala Keri Smith), they are actually bent on going back to Old Manila to experience the city once again.
Abstract MAPA/LAKAD is a map-based guidebook that encourages people to encounter Old Manila–specifically the heritage buildings–on foot by making use of writing and photography. Through map-reading and navigation, the project aims to raise awareness on several turn-of-the century infrastructures that are on the verge of abandonment. Moreover, MAPA/LAKAD is an attempt to utilize art preservation and appreciation as a means of recovering memory, identity, and history.
The project started out with my interest for old maps and postcards, both units of culture which provide a way of experiencing a place removed from a particular period of time. Having heard of the fact that buildings (specifically in Quiapo and Binondo) are not being taken care of, combined with my own desire to walk around the district where my father has never brought me in my years of growing up, I wanted to make use of the old maps as a way of visiting the Old Manila in the present time.
By combining old and new maps together, as well as blacking out the specific areas where these buildings are located, I wanted to make sense of these erasures, both visual and spatial, and to understand how these erasures affect my way of perceiving the city. Although I am aware that a single narrative of a traveler (through text and photos) may not seem a big deal, by documenting my walking experience I hope to invite people to follow the same routes that may lead to somewhere unexpected.
Methodology MAPA/LAKAD consists of the hybrid map, its erasures, its layout on the guidebook, as well as text and photos for the narrative documentation.
The final output is a guidebook, a small printed chapbook that has blackout maps as prompts for following the routes on foot. The itinerary consists of several places, but are not limited to the following: R. Hidalgo St. (Bilibid Viejo), Escolta (Capitol Theater, Chaco, Ides O’Racca, and El Hogar Filipino), Quiapo (Times Theater), Intramuros (Aduana Building), Ermita (The Metropolitan Theater), and Paco Station (Philippine National Railway).
There are spaces around the pages that are filled out with further prompts such as poems, narratives, and even photographs, all done by me. The owner or tester of the chapbook is asked to document his own travel by posting his own narrative on social media with the hashtag #MAPALAKAD.
Method of Data Collection
I will be keeping track of my project’s progress through this blog by posting screencaps and drafts of the “new maps” I’m making. I don’t have a nice DSLR, but my camera phone will be enough to document my travels as a tester. Although I’m thinking of whether I should sell the chapbook guide of MAPA/LAKAD or just provide the digital copy for people to use, I want to make sure that there will be people who will be interested to follow the map on foot.
Process and Timeline
Preparation (March 5-10)
Procurement of old and new maps – some of them are available online
Outsourcing a possible chapbook printer – ISO Blessings or any printing stall in UP
Execution I (March 11-22)
Combining and hybridizing maps – I will be cutting out these maps to focus on the specific areas I’ve mentioned
Making of blackout maps – I will be blacking the specific areas with a marker
Scanning and layouting of maps – I might be asking help from a friend to layout the maps into a guidebook; hopefully nothing more than 52 pages!
Addition of literary texts, quotes, and photographs about the place – while this won’t be done for all places, I will be trying to add texts and images related to the place in question as much as I can; I can also do the same thing for places that are not “blacked out” in the maps as points of references
Printing of guidebook (March 22-25) – Still thinking if I should print in color (which is more expensive) or in black and white (which is more apt but not too aesthetically-pleasing)
Execution II (March 25-April 8)
Travel and documentation – I will be posting on this blog my travels and the interesting observations I have noted while walking
Inviting interested people to use the map and document their own travels around Old Manila – this includes friends and family plus student organizations in Ateneo (Baybayin, WriterSkill, LAHI) that may be interested in participating in my project
As much as I am excited to do this, my main point of contention is the layouting since I’m not sure how long it takes to layout about 10 hybridized maps with text and photos. But I know I can do it; I just hope my commitment sees me to the project’s completion until the very end.
In order to propel my project even further, I’ve listed down several references that are formative to my understanding of the medium. Consider this as a Review of Related Literature of some sort. As prompted by our class instructor to push myself out of the comfort zone, I’ve decided to work on the hybrid form that plays with the different boundaries of the genres, especially essay and poetry.
Three (3) works that fall under the same medium/form/genre
Lisa Charlotte Rost, “Map Poetry”
Rost emphasizes on the significance of an internal map and how viewing destinations through this kind of map affects our way of perceiving these locations. She believes that no two internal maps are the same; what separates one from the other are the personal aspects such as feelings, memory, values, and beliefs. She then merges this medium with poetry as the genre makes use of ambiguities and these ambiguities are connected to the simplification and therefore limitation to other people’s view on someone’s internal map. Other questions she prompted are as follows: What do we overlook? How would a perfect city look like? How does a city feel like?
Read the entire article here or view the slideshow here.
2. Anneli Mikhelev, “City Poetry: Interaction between Material and Verbal Signs”
Mikhelev’s critique on city poetry first and foremost explains the web of connections among the city text, its history and context, the reader and interpreter, as well as the new meanings unlocked by their interactions. She calls the poet the interpreter of text in the city as he or she is able to create new layers of understanding in the city through his or her language. She concludes that the city is also a social text, inter-playing several viewpoints, narratives, and ideologies.
Serrano’s abstract provides a background for his poetry, explaining the experience of walking in and writing about Manila as a complex activity that has to make use of several forms such as quotation, parataxis, and photography. Many of Serrano’s works–such as “Short Walks,” “Making Scenes,” and “Eskinita” refer to the Old Manila, making use of fragmentation and lyrical narratives to provide a walkthrough of the area.
Three (3) works that affect my way of thinking, treatment of the subject, and/or creative practice
4. Toronto Poetry Map
A digital map of Toronto that has a lot of navigation points. If you click on one, a poem about that particular location will flash on the side. The idea of curating several poems written by different authors on a particular area is interesting–you have an intersection of different views of how they see the places which you may or may not have visited in person, and yet the encounter in text is quite engaging, especially if you’re the type to read poetry.
The digital print is, as provided by the title, is a guide for those who are interested in walking around cities. It’s supposed to encourage people to explore the places that are not usually expected to be explored–an idle wandering, so to speak. The guide is separated into different options: Urban Safari, Point of Interest, The Way You Know, and Find Your Own Way. I’m thinking of making one like this, but more specifically tailored for Manila, just so to add an element of fun in my project.
6. Sven Birkert’s “Walter Benjamin, Flaneur: A Flanerie”
Birkert explains Benjamin’s idea of a flaneur as a persona that enters the city which he regards as a labyrinth. Furthermore, he zooms in on Benjamin himself as the person that needs to walk around cities–according to Birkert, “[Benjamin’s] conception of himself as flaneur was part of a process of self-reconciliation.” For him, the flaneur is a representation of everything that the particular person is not. But it is in this acknowledgment of the “boundaries and borders” of one’s personality that such an identity can be further grounded upon.
Because my project dwells on encountering the city through other means–a mix of maps, navigation and walking, as well through literature, it must always come back to building the identity of both the project-maker and project-doer (although I will be both at least for the first try). By understanding how these various forms of engagement can also assess one’s way of perceiving the city, together with the issue of the abandonment of some of the heritage of buildings, perhaps this project can provide a means for people to access Manila through other means.
I’ll add a more appropriate mood board once I have photos (I don’t usually take them while I’m walking around Manila).
The maps I used in the photo above came from the following resources:
Will be procuring maps (both old and new). Printing stock maps from online archives (which are available for free) is also an option.
Will be blacking out the parts of interest–in this case, the spots where the heritage buildings can be found.
Text and photography
To provide reference that pertains to the location, there will be photos and/or text provided. Some parts of the map that are not blacked out will have missing text and/or photos that the traveller can provide.
Creation of a brochure with the new map
Will be layouting the new map with the text and photos in the form of a brochure.
Walking around Old Manila
To try it out, I’ll be using the map to go around Old Manila and fill out the missing parts.
Documentation on social media
The documentation will be done through photos posted on this blog.
Distribution of map brochure for other people
If possible, the map brochure can be marketed to other people as well.
After receiving feedback from the class, I selected and revised my final line of inquiry for my FA 102 project. It now goes as follows:
Revised Problem Statement Having lived away from the capital, I grew up being vaguely familiar with Manila. My parents used to tour me around Intramuros and Luneta. What I remembered the most: the picturesque landscape of heritage buildings. In the downtown district, I knew all about Binondo Chinatown across the Pasig River, where my father and his relatives would eat at the most obscure places and buy parts for my grandfather’s jeepney repairs. My father still eats there with his friends once in a while, but he rarely brings me because he deems it “unsafe” because of the recent happenings in the country.
Fast forward to college, I learned that many of the buildings are being abandoned, if not being sold for their parts. I have been a part of two Facebook groups (namely Manila Nostalgia and Memories of Old Manila) that were actively posting then and now photos of certain establishments around the area. They had been reporting lost grills, window panes, and even doors that dated back to the American Colonial period.
With the rise of mobile navigation apps and social media postings of walking tours, I wanted to help raise awareness with the dilapidation of the Manila infrastructure and to possibly bring back the habit of returning to heritage art as a recovery of time, memory, and history.
My classmates whom I’ve talked to about my plans pushed me to make use of technology nowadays by providing digital maps or the scanned versions of the “new maps” that I’m going to make.
Some potential topics that may lead to the one I might find myself most encouraged to pursue:
1. Art as a possible intervention in science communication in the country
While there are classes on science communication offered in universities as of the start of the year, there is no course that specializes on science communication in the Philippines. Add to that, with the “post-truth” era where people are more inclined to base their decisions on emotion rather than logical facts, the significance of science has the tendency to diminish. Says a science communicator from the linked article: “Give the scientists the tools to communicate science. The questions now is ‘how.'”
Since the problem hypothetically lies within the technical jargon–this includes medical notes, field notes, even statistical analyses–and the difficulty of translating it into literary terms, I am thinking along the lines of bridging together art and science in terms of the literary essay. As proposed by Adorno in “The Essay as Form,” the essay is meant to fuse together art and science, not to cancel them out altogether. And by essay, I do not mean feature articles or reportage–I mean personal and lyric essays.
Upon research, I learned that this is quite an interesting field to pursue on its own–an interdisciplinary approach between science and art. See for example: a human with botflies hatching on his skin and thinks they’re actually his (if one has ever heard of the self and the non-self in Philo). Other works that I find interesting are Leslie Rubinkowski’s Notes on My Dying, Richard Selzer’s Anatomy Lessons, and Leslie Jamison’s Empathy Exams.
2. A critique on art through city writing
The disregard for artistic significance in heritage buildings is quite alarming while graffiti and other forms of vandalism are rampant in the capital. Walter Hogan in his paper delineates the public space and the quasi-public space: the Filipino culture finds it hard to create distinctions and boundaries within the comforts of what they define to be “home.”
Because I have a penchant for the flaneur (ala Walter Benjamin) as well as for traditional maps which are sadly, being replaced by mobile apps such as Waze, the most probably solution I can think of right now is to bring awareness for the deterioration in the care and attention for these buildings by returning to the old maps where they were once plotted. If people could return to the maps–a unit of culture that provides a unique experience the way postcards do–then they could also return to the “lost” heritage.
Also taking into consideration: the memory and history of old places, and why they are important.
3. The misguided information of fiction and false truths
The problem nowadays with news that are spread without proper credentials is that many people seem to adhere to what they believe is “stronger in opinion.” Taking Sass Sasot’s blatant disregard for truth, good literature is put to test side by side with responsible journalism. Since fact and (non)fiction–and to some extent, truth and art–are misrepresented by those who declare their own authority, the responsibility on who corrects what gets lost among the people.
John d’ Agata, an essayist who tries to propel the movement of the genre beyond fact-making, redefines the search for art in truth and testaments. By blurring the boundary between art and false truth in the news and allowing people who digest it to suffer the consequences, perhaps art can redeem itself from the spread of misinformation nowadays.
I find this the most relevant among the three proposed topics I made. Not only because it’s currently happening in my country but also because it is affecting the way people see literary publications–that facts are permanent while art is temporary. My goal is to shift their perspective: to make them believe the other way around, that facts have a certain lifespan for “being real,” while art, even if it is subjective and personal at times, is actually permanent in a particular context tied to the artist himself.