Posts Tagged ‘horses’

demolition permit

After 72 years on this site, the Santa Ana Park of the Philippine Racing Club is being razed to make way for new developments on the prime property in Makati City, the country’s premier business and commercial district.

Racing operations were transferred to a new facility at Naic, Cavite, last January 6. Today, structures at the old track are coming down – grandstands, betting windows, paddocks, stables. Everything is being reduced to piles of rubble and stacks of wood.

The turnstiles at the pedestrian entrance (Gate 3).

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The right-hand grandstand (facing the track). It used to have badminton courts and a Savory Restaurant. Before that, there were rows of betting windows and open-air canteens.

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The bridgeway between the two grandstand buildings. The structure behind it had the weighing scale, viewing deck, racecaller’s booth, and stewards’ stand.

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The main grandstand, with the ballroom with the painted horses on the wall and the VIP boxes for horseowners and well-heeled patrons.

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You can still see the green staircase to the upper floor, now choked with rocks and leading to nowhere.

My children and I live just behind this former racetrack, on my father-in-law’s property, most of it given over to a twelve-stall stable, now empty, as the horses have all been moved to Naic.

The once-vibrant and noisy neighborhood is quieter. Yes, that’s a good thing, but we were used to the racket – the chatter of grooms and their families, the neighing and snorting of horses, the clatter of hooves on the street in the morning, the faintly-heard voice of the racecaller over the PA system during race meetings.

All gone from here, now.

PRC management says that part of the property, around four hectares, has been purchased by taipan Lucio Tan’s group, perhaps for an Allied Bank data center, or some other  purpose. The rest of the property, maybe 21 hectares, will also be developed in time, into a mixed-use residential and commercial area much like the Rockwell area, also in Makati.

It’s hard to imagine a Rockwell here, but if it does happen, it’ll be good for the ‘hood. Property prices will rise. There’ll be jobs and other economic benefits.

Call me a sentimental fool, but I’ll miss the old track. It’s where I trained every morning for two months back in 1990 as the country’s first female apprentice jockey. It’s where my husband asked me on our very first date, to marry five months later. It’s where I sunned my babies; it’s where they learned to walk, on the strip of grass beside the rail, while their father exercised horses in the mornings, all of us coming home smelling of sun and dust and the sweat of horses. It’s where I picked up my career when I had to go back to work after my marriage faltered.

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Murals still on the wall, barely glimpsed.

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Murals of  Gypsy Grey and Little Morning, champions my father-in-law trained.

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The jockeys’ quarters, once so noisy and alive, now silent, yawning, empty.

When a mall or condo is built here, right on the track, will the ghosts of gone horses still race, silently, where they used to run free? Shall phantasms of riders and horses, or their manifestations of psychic energy remaining in the rocks, in the soil, and carried on the breeze, still run races until entropy consumes the sun and time runs backward?

Now my eldest, Alex, is nearly 18, and in college; she took these pictures. Erika is 10. Where did time go?

And the racetrack, that stood here for many generations, and that some thought would never be torn down in our lifetime, is no more. You know what they say about change. And in fact, it’s for the better – the new Santa Ana Park in Naic is modern, roomy, and with an excellent cushiony track.

But I never thought, when I married a jockey almost twenty years ago, that the time would ever come that I would be a historian of this track’s demise.

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The far end of the main building.

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The white stripe divides the part that the Lucio Tan group bought (the right) from the Prime Channel and PRC corporate offices, and the rest of the property. The line extends to where the outer rail of the track used to be.

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PRC corporate offices; on the left, what used to be the PRC Motorpool.

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Lush vegetation frames a view of the bridgeway.

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The side of the main grandstand. Here used to be carinderias (eateries) with tables, chairs, and cases of San Miguel beer.

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The side of the grandstands facing the track. People used to stand and watch races from here.

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The tote board gapes with holes. Well, it hadn’t been working properly for years, anyway. The rails beside the track have been removed and taken to Naic. This grassy area, where my children learned to walk, is now overgrown and unkempt.

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The saddling paddock, with the jockeys’ quarters at the end.

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Right across the saddling paddock was this viewing area where horses were walked for warmup/cool down. People came right up to the fence, where the stacks of wood are now.

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This is what it looks like from the other side of the fence.

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Open-air grandstand and private boxes being stripped of anything usable.

Photo credit: All photos taken by Alex Alcasid with a Nikon D60.

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worth a thousand words

I’ve been taking a lot more pictures lately, since we got the Nikon D60. There’s something about a kick-ass SLR camera, that, well, kicks ass once you’re squinting through the viewfinder, with trigger finger itching to pop off a shot.

Mind you, I’m nearsighted, and often all I see through the teensy window is a mass of color. I try to frame using shapes and lines and forms. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you’ll never know what you’re going to get until you upload those files into your hard drive and look at the images you captured on a 19-inch color monitor.

Then in comes Photoshop or Windows Photo Gallery for a dose of  “auto-adjust”, increased brightness/contrast, cropping, or whatever it takes to resolve the images’ minor issues to bring them to full, colorful, spectacular beauty, ready to tell their story to the viewer.

Here are some of my personal favorites (mostly taken on a recent trip to Hong Kong) and the stories behind them:

A dragon dance ritual for luck in Hong Kong, Feb 2009. From the demeanor of the store manager and other people nearby it was clearly an important ceremony; yet they allowed me to get as close as I wished to take this shot.

View of a hilly street in Hong Kong, taken from the top deck of a #973 bus on the way to Stanley Street.

View of Repulse Bay, enclave of ritzy homes and yachts.

The Stanley Street market.

Jade jewelry on display.

Lanterns like colorful bubbles.

Another view of Stanley Street.

One of my favorite images. Macro shot.

Miniature “terracotta” warriors at Stanley Street.

View at Stanley Street main. I love landscapes and macro shots.

Another favorite macro shot – a sign in Braille somewhere in the bowels of the MTR (subway) system.

The Happy Valley cemetery, as seen through a moving bus.

A traditional Chinese building on a hill in the New Territories looks more at home in its setting than does the modern tower beside it.

A cup of Chinese tea. Gazing into its depths, I tried to read my future…and couldn’t. So I drank it. *burp*

A serving of chocolate mousse at Bambu buffet, The Venetian hotel, Macau.

View of a bay and harbor in Hong Kong. Taken from the top of the revolving tower ride at Ocean Park.

Australian wool tapestry designed by artist Michael Santry. It took several weavers three months to finish.

Drain in the shape of a horseshoe at Sha Tin stable.

Saddlecloth and helmet at Sha Tin.

A groom leads a horse into the John Size stables at Sha Tin.

As a graduate student of communication, anything to do with signs and symbols (semiology) interests me.

I love this shot of jockeys, their owners, and trainers huddled together before a race at Sha Tin.

Jockeys wait for their mounts.

One of my favorite shots – I love how the jockey’s leg is parallel to the horse’s back. This is one of France’s leading riders, Cristophe Soumillon, getting aboard Steel Nerves.

Soumillon’s face is set, strained, serious.

In contrast, Hong Kong’s leading rider, Douglas Whyte, always had a half-smile on his face.

Hong Kong Jockey Club race judges bank to see the action better. I love this!

A judge makes notes as horses cross the finish line. I like how the shot incorporates part of the indoors with a view of the outdoors.

Another nicely-composed shot of a scene at Sha Tin.

The huge video screen in the infield at Sha Tin shows the jockey in the lead looking over his shoulder. It’s a metashot – a shot of a shot.

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pens and horses

It was the 13th running of the MARHO (Metropolitan Association of Race Horse Owners) at the Philippine Racing Club’s Santa Ana Park racecourse last November 23. A historic occasion, since PRC is all set to move to its new facilities in Trece Martirez, Cavite, in January 2009, this year’s MBC is all the more special for the interesting racecards formed for the raceweek-long event.

I thought it would be a good time to invite fellow Fountain Pen Network-Philippines members to watch the races and enjoy a penmeet.

I’m standing with my kids Alex and Ik, sharing racing tips with fellow FPN-P members Chito, Caloy, Butch P, Butch D., his wife Beng, and Chito’s son Max. It was around 2 pm; there weren’t all that many people around yet.

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A view of the left-side grandstand and the track.

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A tarp to mark our box. Photo by Butch Dalisay.

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By the time Leigh, Pep, Pep’s niece, and Raphael arrived at around 330pm, the place was packed.

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Pep, doodling. Photo by Leigh Reyes.

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Good thing the weather cooperated – it was a fine day for racing, not too hot. Here’s a view of the stage, and beyond, the left-side grandstand, with the FPN-P box on the level left of the glassed-in VIP Lounge.

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bedside reading

Whenever I’m asked, “What are you reading now?”, I’m sometimes hard pressed to answer. I do read one book at time, but there’s always a stack or two of volumes beside my bed,  some of which I’ve read, the others newly acquired and next in line for reading.

My tastes are eclectic. There are marketing and business books, holdovers from my MBA days – Marketing Gurus, all the Franklin Covey books. Lately I’m into memoirs – Matthew Polly’s hilarious American Shaolin, A. J. Jacob’s tongue-in-cheek The Year of Living Biblically, Laura Shaine Cunningham’s poignant and brave A Place in the Country.

Near the top, where I can easily reach them, are the latest thoroughbred catalogues from Australia’s Magic Millions and Keeneland in Kentucky. Keeneland’s November 2008 sale catalogues are the more interesting. It is a set of eight thick books, the information on weanlings and other bloodstock printed on thin paper. I open to the Index to Sires and roll their names in my mouth like candy – Cryptoclearance, Langfuhr, Star de Naskra.

Somewhere in those stacks are the latest edition of Strunk and White, my style manual ever since it was introduced to me in my freshman English class at the University of the Philippines; a Dummies guide to Adobe InDesign for print publication layouting; and three volumes of the Plaridel journal, the academic publication of the UP College of Mass Communication.

And at the bottom of the shorter pile is Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside-Out – probably not the best place for it to be, if I want it to be of any help.

Any house I live in will be filled with books. It’s almost a psychological given; a house is not a home for me unless there are many books in it, spilling from shelves, stacked against the wall, piled on the coffee table.

My love for books stems from childhood. My mother raised me on science fiction and fantasy. This is a woman who kept her Lord of the Rings trilogy on the shelf below the TV set in her room, while all the other books were kept in the living room. This was back in the early ’80s, before fantasy became fashionable and when all of Tolkien’s books were out of print. Her copies, which she bought as a teenager at Lopue’s and China Rose in Bacolod City, were printed in the ’60s, before “acid-free” was heard of, and the pages were yellowed and crumbled at a touch. The spines were battered and mended many times with tape, which had also discolored to a color like weak tea.

In the tall wicker bookshelves in the sala she kept cookbooks. One of them was a ’50s hardbound Betty Crocker cookbook from her nanny who migrated to the United States. I have it now, and treat it as an heirloom. Others were cookbooks from the ’70s; those were filled with recipes for fondue, which seemed to me to be highly impractical since you needed a fondue burner.

That didn’t faze my mother. She improvised with a miniature saucepan on the stove. We gathered in the kitchen, dipping cubes of Kraft cheddar cheese in beaten egg, then breadcrumbs, then plunging them in hot oil till toasty brown.

Also on the shelves were my stepfather’s encyclopedias and his mother’s collection of children’s “two-in-one” hardbound classics. For instance, one side was Grimm’s Fairy Tales; flip the book and you got Hans Christian Andersen’s stories. My mother also had a good collection of adult classics – Aldous Huxley, Jonathan Swift, Charles Dickens, the Brontes. I wore out Bullfinch’s Mythology, though I later lost that particular copy.

My mother also possessed nearly all the Edgar Rice Burroughs books – my favorites being the Tarzan series (no, there wasn’t a “Cheeta” in the books) and the Mars series. The latter starred skimpily-clad Martian princess Dejah Thoris, who was constantly being saved by her husband, the manly Earthling John Carter, from predatory villains and robots controlled by evil scientists.

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Fanart depiction of Barsoom (Mars); in the center, Dejah Thoris and John Carter face a myriad perils

Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” stories were also well-represented. H. Rider Haggard and his endless yarns of hunter Allan Quatermain’s adventures in lost cities in Africa? Check. Jules Verne and H. G. Wells classics? Yes, there too, as well as L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” books, many of them with the original John R. Neill art nouveau illustrations.

Neill’s drawings of Ozma’s hair – confined at the forehead by a thin diadem, tresses curling in whiplash tendrils – and her gauzy draperies, floating cloudlike around her slim body – captured my young imagination, representing an aesthetic that was otherworldly and unreachable. To this day, it is one of my favorite genres of art.

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A Neill watercolor of Dorothy, Glinda, and Ozma of Oz.

Knowing of my insatiable – and indiscriminate – appetite for books, my mother kept those she felt inappropriate for my age in her closet, which we children never opened. When I was in college, she brought the books down, the ban lifted. One of them was Stephen King’s Dark Forces, a collection of horror and SF works by various writers. My mother probably didn’t object to the storylines but rather to King’s salty language.

In any case, it was just more grist for my mill, along with her more spinechilling H. P. Lovecraft books. The cover of one was horrifying - a worm snaked through the empty eye-socket of a half-decayed skull which bore clumps of matted hair and rodent-like teeth. I averted my eyes from that awful artwork whenever I opened that book to read about the Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep.

At the mere thought of that macabre painting, an involuntary shudder shakes my frame as chills riff up and down my spine. Uncannily, this is my exact same reaction when my eyes or fingers travel over the few old college mathematics and physics textbooks unexpurgated from my shelves. Cthulhu ftaghn!

My father was yet another heavy reader, but his tastes ran more to W. Somerset Maugham, John O’ Hara, Norman Mailer, Sholom Aleichem, Truman Capote, biographies. Pops lived in California for five years in the ’80s, and while there wrote me excitedly when he began Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,  Dee Brown’s novel on native American history. He wasn’t into science fiction; the most that he got into that genre was Ray Bradbury – I Sing the Body Electric, Something Wicked This Way Comes.

I usually finish what I start. The exception is one book that I bought at a secondhand bookstall in Morayta in the late ’80s, set aside because its dense language put me to sleep although its ideas were interesting; a paradox in its rules of engagement. It was Marshall McLuhan’s 1964 work Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. This groundbreaking book had a profound impact on mass communication and media studies. As a mass comm major, I felt duty bound to read it. It’s one of the books by my bed. Sometimes I feel I keep it around not so much because I plan to finish reading it, but as a talisman to keep me focused on the particular discipline that is my life’s work.

Let me see – it’s in the taller stack, under the used copy of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast that I found a couple of years ago at Booksale for P45. It’s the second in the “Titus Groan” trilogy. I got the first book in the late ’80s, also at Morayta, deep in the University Belt in the heart of Manila. I’m still looking to complete the set. Perhaps twenty years from now, in another serendipitous moment, I’ll stumble upon a copy of Titus Alone and I will add it, yet another block in the tower of books by my bed.

People come into my house, find piles of books stacked chest-high against the walls and two- or three-deep in bookcases, and ask, “Have you read all those?” The answer is, yes, except for that darn McLuhan.

And often, “Why do you like reading so much?” and at that I am rendered inarticulate. It is difficult to explain to people who do not read, who do not relish the sensation of eyes tracking words across a page to be immersed in a story, momentarily losing touch of reality.

My own habit of reading is a result of childhood influence and a desire to escape. I lose myself in forests of words and in thickets of concepts, drown in rivers of language, wander through time and space. The volumes by my bed embody different worlds where I may go freely, through the simple expedient of cracking open a book and reading.

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my manila: santa ana park

Santa Ana Park is the racetrack facility of the Philippine Racing Club and was built in 1937. PRC was founded by American and Filipino horsemen and entrepreneurs in the late 1920s as a counterpart to the Manila Jockey Club, enclave of Spanish and Filipino aristocrats at its foundation in 1867 until its heyday in the ’50s.

There are three main structures on the twenty-five hectare property, all in a simple Art Deco style – two grandstands and an office building. There is a single dirt (sand) track surrounded by many stables that, over time, have mushroomed to far more than the area can comfortably hold. Stalls are built right up against the cinder-block walls that line the track.

The facade of Santa Ana Park on AP Reyes Avenue on an early morning last April

Races have been held continuously at Santa Ana Park since it was built, with a brief hiatus during the war. It is named for St. Anne, patron saint of nearby Sta. Ana town, Manila, although the racetrack itself is part of Makati. It has been the scene of countless challenging races and has seen the rise – and fall – of champion racehorses and horsemen.

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View of AP Reyes Avenue on the other side

It is also “home” to me and my children. We have lived on my father-in-law’s compound behind the track since my marriage to a jockey in 1991. A racehorse trainer and veterinarian, my father-in-law maintains his property as a racing stable with stalls for twelve. We live with the sounds of soft neighing and hoofbeats as the horses are hotwalked in the mornings after ensayo (workout), the clanking of the tin labangans as feeding time approaches. The muted thudding of horses’ hooves on the sawdust is like the hammering of my own heart.

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The parking lot is used by the community for group calisthenics

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That’s the office building on the left

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The Art Deco main building. The second level houses the parquet-floored ballroom and murals of champion horses from the ’70s and ’80s, as well as the broadcast studio, owners’ boxes, and VIP lounges

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The parade ring with the finish line in the background

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The home turn is on the far left

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The first bend; Makati office buildings in the background were built many years after the track was

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View of the left-side grandstand

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The Stewards’ Stand. The Board of Stewards watch the track with eagle eyes (aided by binoculars) from the top floor; below that is the racecallers’ perch; a viewing area; and on the ground level, the jockeys’ weighing scales

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View of the grandstand from the parade ring

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A horse trots past the finish line during morning workout

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Exercise rider Kiko Dilema asks, “Kinukunan mo na naman kami, Tita Jen?”

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A groom leans against the rail, waiting for his horse and its ensayador to finish. One trot, two canter, perhaps?

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Alex and Ik, tunay na batang karera – apo ni Doc Alcasid at anak ni jockey Oyet at ni Ms. Jen sa TV

As a young mother, I took my babies here nearly every day to catch the morning sun. When they were older, they learned to walk on the grass beside their track as their father rode by, smiling indulgently.

As a beginning broadcaster in this industry, this is where we shot many episodes of various incarnations of horseracing shows. As a former employee of PRC and of a horseowner who had two racing stables here, I know nearly every inch of this place, from the air-conditioned executive offices to the dusty stables that hug the track walls to the cockpit at the corner where the sabungeros were more vociferous in cheering than kareristas.

And all this will be gone next year, to make way for malls, condominiums, and other towers of glass and steel. The racetrack will be moved to a new, and bigger, seventy-hectare facility in Trece Martirez City, Cavite. There it can accomodate the growing number of horses in a sport that is gaining in popularity among players. It’s for the best, really.

Yet a rich part of history will disappear. Have enough photographs been taken? Videos? Interviews of old-timers who remember the place when it was still “Sampiro”, San Pedro de Makati, when the air was cool and you could faintly see blue shadows of the mountains of Rizal in the distance, before the high-rises rose up to obscure them?

But it is the way of things, that the old make way for the new, for old memories to be remembered and cherished even as new ones are created.

Read more about Philippine horseracing at gogirlracing.jennyo.net

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