I don’t play tennis. In fact, for most of my adult life I have INTENTIONALLY avoided tennis. As I have probably told many people before, I regard it as a “bourgeois middle-class leisure sport” (in the context of Singapore). I find most forms of non-competitive organised sports to be a waste of time and energy. Incidentally, out of all the sports in the world, tennis is the sport that has probably received the most flak from me in my lifetime, admittedly almost to the degree of irrationality. Somehow, for me, tennis (in the context of Singapore) began to represent all the things that were wrong. I regarded it to be in the same category of unacceptable things like people who wear crocs (COMPLETELY UNFASHIONABLE!), or people who still use IE6 as their main browsers (COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE!). It involved the consumption of a sport that required a fairly high upkeep (tennis balls, tennis racquets, tennis grip tape, tennis coaches, etc) unlike other low-rent and accessible sports like table tennis and basketball which only required a low outlay and were also very adaptable to be played in common public spaces. Tennis courts were like golf courses in that they took up space, required maintenance, and eventually were only for the benefit of a few. Another thing that bothered me was that the “beautiful game” was also frequently heavily diluted because in the context of Singapore, many people desired to play the game without really knowing the rules of tennis. [DISCLOSURE: I did take tennis lessons as a kid]
To illustrate how far back my feelings towards Tennis go, there is a story about an incident some years back during my university years. I was asked to attend a tennis game with my friends, because I decided that I would not let my friends’ choice of sport and my disdain for tennis get in the way of our quality hanging-out time, so whilst they played tennis I killed time by walking laps around the court. Unfortunately whilst walking laps around the court, I managed to trip over my own shoelaces and sprained my ankle, because I am a horrible klutz. Later, when we referred back to this incident, my friend began describing it as such, “she sprained her ankle whilst at a tennis game with us”. BUT, I was quick to correct her on this, “NO NO NO, I sprained my ankle whilst intentionally NOT playing tennis at YOUR tennis game, and not only that — whilst being COMPLETELY OPPOSITIONAL TO THE VERY CONCEPT OF PLAYING TENNIS”. Of course, I understand that most people just played tennis because they enjoyed hitting balls with a racquet, and not for any other more complex reasons. But having PRINCIPLES TO UPHOLD, in good faith, I simply could not play tennis.
…So why would I, a fervently anti-sport and anti-tennis person be going in search for a tennis court in Manila? Well, because Gene, a media artist from the US who happened to be also staying at Terminal Garden, wanted to find a tennis court to play at (for health! and enjoyment!). I could accept his personal reasons for wanting to play tennis as it was in a completely different context. I also agreed to go along because it seemed patently ridiculous to walk around asking people “EXCUSE ME, DO YOU KNOW WHERE IS THE TENNIS COURT?”. Much like the incongruous, bizarre english tourist that is always described in my french textbook, repetitively murmuring a beginner’s phrase in ever increasing tones of desperation, “excusez moi, où est…. la banque? OU EST… OU…. EST….. LA BANQUE?……. BANQUE??? BANK. OU EST…. DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I AM SAYING? LE BANK? BANK??? WHERE IS LE BANK? OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CAN SOMEONE TELL ME, WHERE IS THE BANK?”
So we embarked on a meandering search for a tennis court in the backstreets of Mandaluyong…
We walked down Shaw Blvd, which was the main road of this area. I think we turned left near “Old Wack Wack” – Wack Wack being the name of the golf course in the area.
Turning off the main road…
Very quickly it was a lot more bumpy.
There were curious pits of murky green water and piles of soil along the way
This was a very colorful street that led to a Women’s correctional facility in Barangay. I was attracted by the fruits and the banners.
First stop: Pleasant Hills Barangay Hall / Health Center and Lying-in Clinic.
Not a tennis court. Instead this was a very curious “sports facility” which also included a MATERNITY CLINIC. Alright….
They did not have tennis courts here. They told us of a possible tennis court at the city hall building, so we decided to go in the direction of the government buildings in Mandaluyong City.
This is the road leading to the Women’s correctional facility.
There was a basketball court. Now that I think about it, there were many basketball courts in Manila. Intriguingly, I do not recall any basketball tournaments from the Philippines. Are there star basketball players born from these playing courts?
Breakneck traffic on a tiny road
The correctional institution for women. Not a tennis court.
Took the right turn from there
Arrived at a street where the adults had organized a fiesta day activity for the children of the street. We watched the children try to hit a clay bowl with milk and a few coins inside, kinda like a piñata game minus the piñata.
A chicken under a table
A stream covered in rubbish. Not a tennis court.
There are no pictures for a bit after this point because Gene’s “foreign” appearance meant that we were mobbed by tiny cute children who started waving little white envelopes at us. Not understanding what the envelopes meant, Gene took one and opened it and found it to be empty. Both of us were very confused on what this was all about. A little while later, a slightly more articulate adult explained it was the collection of donations for their Fiesta Day Celebrations. I made the mistake of putting 5 pesos into a bucket, resulting in COMPLETE PANDEMONIUM AND DOZENS OF TINY CHILDREN COMING FROM ALL DIRECTIONS SQUISHING INTO US, RIGOROUSLY WAVING THEIR ENVELOPES AT US. BE YE NOT SO FOOLISH! If someone gives you an envelope in the streets of manila, do not take it or open it or put money into it unless you truly do want to give them some money. This was a terrifying and perplexing moment; BEING MOBBED BY A CREW OF EXCITED 5 YEAR OLDS. Their attentions were directed mostly at Gene, and since to some degree I could also pass off as a Filipino Chinese, I used this as an opportunity to slip out and away, with Gene trying to follow suit, shaking off the masses of little children.
We were forced to make a hasty escape backwards into another side street (Not a tennis court)
Fiesta Day banners
Finally back to the main road
We investigated the City Gym to see if there was a Tennis Court. This is the city hall building in Mandaluyong, along with other public services such as forensic labs, police teams, tactical teams, fire station and other essential facilities. Unfortunately, the building was completely locked up. It did not seem to be open at all…
Mandaluyong Fire Station (Nope. Not a tennis court)
Mandaluyong Mobile X-Ray
Mandaluyong – “The Millennium City!”
We made a quick pitstop at Jollibee for lunch, because it seemed integral to an experience of normal life in the Philippines. I had indeed heard much about it from many filipino friends and how its simple brand of fast food might be horrible but had also become a kind of “nostalgic” taste from one’s childhood. (Also, I was attracted to their ridiculous logo of a jolly looking bee).
The search for the Tennis Court continued, with Gene thinking he had spotted one on Google Earth.
Not a tennis court.
Not a tennis court.
Also not a tennis court.
Some people pointed us in the direction of this carpark area (which was not a tennis court either), because it was an open area that MIGHT be a tennis court. But I later discerned (via foursquare) that it was an Insurance company’s building instead. There we met another man who said there was no tennis court in the area, but if we really wanted to find one, we should try going on the other side of the highway towards “Cybergate”.
We had to cross the highway via the Metro crossing because the highway was crazy.
The area around the MRT was completely covered in brands and advertising.
When we got to Cybergate, we discovered there were actually 3 Cybergates, which was very confusing indeed. Also, it was not a tennis court. A security guard standing near Cybergate told us to go up to the other residental buildings because they were likelier to have a tennis court.
We went towards the newer luxury residences being constructed, but it was basically an area still under development or redevelopment. It did not seem as inhabited as the previous areas we had been walking through. There were barely any people about, which meant there were fewer people to ask “EXCUSE ME DO YOU KNOW WHERE IS THE TENNIS COURT?”
There was a young boy crushing cans on the side of the road and collecting them, presumably to make a living.
This area got more and more deserted as the buildings looked more and more modern. We encountered another security guard at a construction site who told us to walk towards “Axis Residences”, as he thought there might be a tennis court there.
Finally we reached Axis Residences, which apparently had not yet been constructed. They spoke great english and since they had an elaborate showroom with phones and facilities, they investigated the location of the nearest tennis court for Gene. “You’ll have to go to Madison Square to find the nearest Tennis Court”, they said, but by then it was too late for more meandering and we had to go back to Terminal Garden to give the talks.
Result: No tennis court.
It was a peculiar thing to freely waltz into all these highrise complexes simply because we looked foreign and it seemed their assumption would be that we conceivably could be the target consumer for these properties – being foreigners – despite that fact that actually neither me nor Gene were in a position to afford to purchase a luxury flat in the area (being impoverished artists). If we had been local, or if we had dressed in a very different way, could we have enjoyed the same level of access to all of these spaces?
I was up in Manila last week thanks to Wawi Navarroza who asked me down to talk at her amazing show at Silverlens Gallery. “HUNT & GATHER, TERRARIA” is on until 6 July so do go see the brilliant exhibition there if you’re in Manila. Lots of love and thanks also have to go to Clara Balaguer from the Office of Culture and Design for showing me around Manila – I can’t even being to describe the amazing places she took me to! And thanks to Tengal for hosting me at Terminal Garden and hosting the supermoon bbq talk! I also had a really funny time following Gene around on his search for the Tennis Court. It was really inspiring being there with all these awesome people doing their own exciting independent projects as well. I’m going to stop here for now because this post is getting superlong, but there will certainly be much much more to write about my trip to Manila in subsequent posts!…