Saturday, September 08, 2007
A green lung in the middle of bustling, noisy Manila. The Ayala development of the Greenbelt is an outstanding complex of shops, restaurants, coffee shops, spas, with a church in the middle. Different in style from what I have seen to be Filipino style - based in large part from a Spanish colonial heritage - the Greenbelt verges on American-European geometry but in a free flowing manner. Perhaps reflecting the Filipino value systems and strong network of the family, the Greenbelt's four malls simply flow one into another, with plenty of spaces in between. These are shared spaces, and the profusion of ethnically diverse restaurants take on the spaces and characteristic overhang verandahs on the 3 different floors. The modern styled, upside- down- domed church and its huge stone cross is central to this organic architecture, demonstrating above all else the role of prayer in everyday life. Whimsical and beautiful metal sculptures dot the green lawns, while a koi pond, a duck pond and water fountain attract the kids. It's fitting that a sophisticated commercial center such as this embraces the arts, and the performing arts have a large auditorium in Greenbelt 1. The Ayala Museum, modern and glass paneled, has special exhibits and permanent exhibit of sixty dioramas of Filipino history.
The free interchange between exterior and interior spaces is tropical Asian in architectural form and the Greenbelt has the best of it. Visit it in the day and one cannot help marveling at the tall palm trees and giant ferns; visit it at night and it is Manila's most happening place. Superb dining and feet- tapping music in the central plaza of Greenbelt 3 will have you forget the traffic, construction and smog elsewhere in a flash. This is not the "real Manila" you will say. But this too is Manila, vibrant, fun, clean and very central.