Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Spirit of Place

What is the Spirit of Place?

It is tuning in to the place having a greater feel for it. The writer, Lawrence Durrell suggests travelling with eyes open. Capturing the spirit thus has to be experienced first and not necessarily narrated. Capturing is perhaps what the serious mountaineer does well. With just a pause, breathing, a rest sitting in a stone, some quiet moments or a gaze at the tree and the summit, he knows the place. Because the physical trek in itself which requires some degree of effort already prepares him for the commune with nature. Slowly leaving behind the woes of organization, tasks and routine of urban living, he slowly enters into the realm of the mountaineer’s “freedom of the hills.” When this happens, he has experienced and captured the spirit of their place, the mountain.

Quoting Lawrence Durrell, a novelist, dramatist, travel writer and poet
 “It is a pity indeed to travel and not get this essential sense of landscape values. You do not need a sixth sense for it. It is there if you just close your eyes and breathe softly through your nose; you will hear the whispered message, for all landscapes ask the same question in the same whisper. 'I am watching you - - are you watching yourself in me?' Most travelers hurry too much ... the great thing is to try and travel with the eyes of the spirit wide open, and not to much factual information. To tune in, without reverence, idly -- but with real inward attention. It is to be had for the can extract the essence of a place once you know how. If you just get as still as a needle, you'll be there.”

Lawrence Durrell, Spirit Of Place: Letters And Essays On Travel

Quoting lines from Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo's introduction to the book Over a Cup of Ginger Tea
"I remember a phrase from Durrell – “a spirit of place.” He believed that travel writers needed to have a feel for that, a country’s special ambiance, compounded of landscape and history and the taste of the wine produced in its vineyards and the songs sung by its poets, which in turn affected the people’s character. And he believed one didn’t get that sense by going on tours. One got it by sitting quietly in a cafĂ© or under a tree and allowing it to happen to one."

Hidalgo, Cristina Pantoja. 2006. Over a Cup of Ginger Tea. Quezon City: The University of the Philippines Press

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Articles in Mind

High Definition History Channels' Pawn Stars is a pawn store of items with stories. The more notable and historical the story is, the higher price they can command. To authenticate high ticket items and apprise their value, the owners tap the services of consultants. The Harrisons coming from three generations of the Harrison family-grandfather Richard, son Rick and grandson Corey operate in the outskirts of Las Vegas. As a typical pawn shop, patrons usually part with their objects for money, nothing else.

In Manila, there are several surplus stores  like MSM Surplus Store along EDSA and Avenida that sell household objects sourced from the US, Australia and oriental countries. Displayed at their warehousese are second hand items mostly working, some broken. Scouting for objects in these stores is just like going back in time. Great finds are crystal glasses, hi-fidelity audio equipment, turntables and a hundred assortment of bric-a-brat. There is no authentication though but you can haggle for the price which as tagged is already at a bargain.

A store inside Adarna
Seeing how any object is restored by the Kings of Restoration on HD History Channel makes this show interesting to a Do It Yourself practitioneer. 

There are artifacts lying around when restored to its working state are transformed to a piece of beauty. It can be anything like a furnace, a scooter and other functional tools of the past decades or centuries. As any object in the past, it must have an interesting anecdote associated with it. Restorers quote a price based on materials and hours spent to service which by peso standards is astronomically outrageous. Owners almost always are satisfied with the finished product.

Old objects in commercial establishments add character to the place. Restaurants in Manila use these objects as decoratives to complement the ambiance they are creating. Thus a plantsa and a halo-halo ice crusher at the entrance of an old Filipino restaurant immediately tells a visitor local cuisine is on the menu. These objects, functionally operational and now memorabilia are worth displaying but may not still command a premium trading price relative to the items pawned in Las Vegas. But its value is priceless when it brings back to the present a feel of tradition.

Artifacts are objects from a particular period. They are key in uncovering the story of the past and are treasures. There might be as John Keats says, "a thing of beauty and a  joy forever" an object just right in your backyard.

Show visuals lifted from the History Channel website