Antipolo as a larger-than-life diorama

Sunday, September 27, 2020


Antipolo, cradle of artists, born out of the mountain ranges, rich in historical details, relatable in its dexterity, is celebrating the spellbound that is Christmas in the fullest way it can. From the iridescent parols of the Lantern Festival to the merriment in the streets, bedecked not by the boughs of holly but of the gentlest people that forever define and live hope in days of hopelessness, love in the state of brokenness when all of it seems gone and irrelevant. This is the real Christmas high, in full Antipolo splendor. We can't help it. We are that unforgettable. 

( This particular essay was written to accompany the diorama-making contest hosted by SM Masinag last 2014. Yes, it's an old piece but Antipolo feels is the same)

Everything is smaller in dioramas. Unlike in snow globes where there is a focal point and swirling whites and in flaky transformations, the world is lost in its voiceless movements, it's a completely 360 degree turn in case of dioramas. There, the structures are diminutive, the people lilliputian, the mountains and the rivers that run through it like Google Maps in iPad Minis, discoverable within a finger's reach. 

But the story behind every small diorama is larger than life. The size no longer matters. The structures and the people and the mountains and the rivers that run through it are tales waiting to break free. There, a tradition is formed within the length and breadth. The culture no longer needs to span centuries, only moments of clarity to be understood. The sights and sounds are lost in the kaleidoscope of fiber glass, sand, rubber felt and adhesives. 

This diorama is a city. In this city, everything starts with a journey. The only way to discover it's majestic gems, whether you go by car, or by foot, is through travelling with nothing on your bag except beautiful expectations. Sometimes, you will pause now and then to admire a breathtaking sight here, a magnificent masterwork there. But most of the time, especially during clear and unclouded nights, the microcosms that are the stars seem to form bedazzled paths that lead into the truth of the matter: Antipolo is the city of multitudes, the city in the sky, the Pilgrimage Capital, and the city that celebrates Christmas in the mountains. 

As the city that prides itself by its elevated heights and its mountainous reach, Christmas is surprisingly this festive. But it is an honesty, not some misplaced travesty. For starters, there goes the Lantern Festival that showcases not only the creativity but also the resilience of its people. Wander on the streets, look around and the lanterns will smile at you with all the wattages of the twinkling bulbs put into the labyrinth. Smile back: imagine the faces that made it. The tintinnabulations are profoundly heard everywhere. The place is awakening to a whole new world. Christmas in this side of the earth doesn't feel like it is only in December. There is warmth. There is hospitality. There is enchantment all year long. 

When APO composed Himig Pasko with lines that go like this: Malamig ang simoy ng hangin, the group must have Antipolo in mind. 

Rewind to the mid-summer before the most wonderful time of the year, the city is a hustle and bustle of fascinating mores. Every May, Ang Tipulo kicks off the many months of merrymaking. The Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage is seen from a distance, ever miraculous, providing comfort and relief to the weary pilgrims, tired soles and souls who have passed through the grimes and grits, yet refuse to stay bounded. The city fiesta is where sparks fly and an ignition of talents and skills come in droves and the next thing you'll know, you are in cloud nine or that state of bliss that is titanic in proportion. Good thing Cloud Nine, a local hotel and resort, has amenities that make you touch the sky. You are that near to the firmament that from afar, the famed Manila skyline, is a reflection of Swarovski crystals hanging in midair. 

There is always a stopover in the renowned, photographable Hinulugang Taktak which has the stamp of approval from the folks who visit it, the ecclesiastically wonderful White Cross witness to the multifarious intentions of the faithful towers high above too-verdant greens that mix in with the periwinkle skies. The place is a sure magnet to the tourists who would rather run away from the smog of the metro and escape into the pristine, clean air that is less than an hour away on traffic-less days. Of course, while you are at it, bite into the flesh of the city's delectable mangoes sold almost in all corners. There is also the suman that is affordable as it is filling, the cashew nuts is that good that whenever one speakers of Antipolo in microblogging lingo, this has the most retweets. 

With all the magnificence and phosphorescence, Antipolo is that engaging melange of the the old- the rich heritage, the beautiful faith-, the new- sprawling enterprises, busy thoroughfares, delicious restos and watering holes-, and the extraordinary- the tangible warmth  , the laidback charm, the rustic vibe. 

Everything is smaller in dioramas. But in Antipolo, every little thing is always a big experience. 

Special thanks to Mr. Rhandee Garlitos for editing the piece. 


( images: Pinto Art Gallery, Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, Manila Skyline, and Hinulugang Taktak


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