Under the streets and dreaming
By Igan D’bayan (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 6, 2015 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Moscow maybe gray, mostly granite and immaculate with snow (on some days, above ground) but underground, in the metro stations, it is a different story altogether. Each is like palatial spaceship radiating with throbbing artificial suns: Elektrozavodskaya, Mayakovskaya, Shosse Entuziastov, Nakhimovsky Prospekt. Each stop is like an everyday commute through time and space and alternative histories. These stunningly futuristic, steampunk-like stations give the city (already boasting a Dostoevsky-and-Tolstoy level of coolness with its Bolshois, cosmonauts, revolutions and human drama by the Moskva) infinitely more charm. So, when we heard the city of Makati is turning its underpasses into art enclaves, we had to check them out for ourselves.

“Makati is rich in history and heritage, but our vision is to make the city even more beautiful through something as simple as art murals,” explained Dave Balangue, president of MaCEA (Makati Commercial Estate Association). “Beyond aesthetics, we want to promote Makati as a livable city and to give a more enhancing experience to pedestrians.”

Last year, Balangue and company approached Ayala Land Inc. and Art Fair Philippines to develop murals in the Makati Ave. and Legaspi areas. This time, MaCEA has partnered with four corporations — Nestle, Security Bank, RCBC and Shell — in transforming each underground space into something else entirely.

Art is an extension of Ayala, according to Ayala Land Inc. assistant VP and head of corporate brand marketing Cathy Bengzon. “It is important to see beyond the infrastructure. Those kinds of artwork will not only make pedestrians forget that they’ve been walking a long time, but — more importantly — will inspire and uplift them.”

At the press launch, Nestle’s Kitkat was represented by Gian Ricalde of J. Walter Thompson. The Sedeno underpass has been festooned with “patterns of ‘breakers,’” a sort of message to the hardworking employees in Makati to, as the slogan goes, “Take a break.” Ricalde explained, “We’re so used to a particular way of thinking, a certain way of doing things, but art opens up minds of people.”

Geraldine Dy of Security Bank said the motif for the Paseo de Roxas underpass is “the company as rocket-launcher” for the youth to reach for the stars and follow their dreams — whatever they may be. “When we started working on the mural, we wanted to have this sense of motion going through the tunnel.” Security Bank EVP Belen Lim added, “In a city, all see are traffic lights and CCTV cameras, it’s time for us to see something more interesting.”

The idea of RCBC, which was in charge of the V.A. Rufino underpass, was to illustrate its role in “bridging community gaps” and “building blocks of development.” RCBC marketing support services head Letty Armada said the mural focuses on its corporate social responsibility initiatives as well as its e-banking services. “With our Yuchengco Museum, art is already an important part of our company.”

Shell’s Paulo Gavino revealed how some of the winners in the company’s art competition created the Salcedo underpass mural. “It’s a collaboration among 10 past winners of the Shell National Student Art Competition. For the past 47 years, we’ve been nurturing student artists. We are all here for business, but art is all about enriching lives.”

Moscow and Makati, well, the difference is interstellar. But for the Makati pedestrians working their tails off every day for the almighty wage, it will be refreshing to look up when they’re walking through any of the particular tunnels, expecting to see blankness.

Seeing, instead, a stun of colors.