“Ano ang pinaka masaya mong alaala sa park?” (What is your best memory of the park?), we asked kids in Mamala Park in Sariaya, Quezon, one July afternoon. All of them said the same thing: mag-laro (playing). Looking around, many other kids were boisterously running, while the older youths were playing basketball and volleyball in the open court.

Mamala Park, a small community space adorned with towering Narra, Talisay, and Balete trees, is one of the town’s designated public parks. It is always bustling with activities and visitors: from toddlers doing their morning folk to older folks seeking respite from the stifling heat indoors. It is also a place for Zumba dancers, athletes, and people attending gatherings.

According to Village Chief Lea Amorada, the park is always a top choice for gatherings because of its amenities. Because of the role it plays in bringing the community together, the park is always well maintained by the local officials – it is always kept clean, and the greeneries are taken care of.

Parks play a big part of our culture because our activities center around togetherness, according to landscape architect Paulo Alcazaren. Parks, however, offer so much more.

Alcazaren said that parks promote sustainability. Parks bring people closer to nature, acting as a reminder of our interconnectedness with the environment, and the importance of maintaining a balance between man and nature.

As we experience warmer days because of climate change, our parks also become a refuge from too much heat (if trees and plants are maintained, that is). Green spaces can mitigate flooding and store carbon. Parks also serve a refuge from anxiety – climate-related or not.

Reimagining Public Spaces: Sining Luntian

Unfortunately, in the Philippines, parks are not always given much attention. According to Alcazaren, spaces reserved for parks have gone down both in terms of area and number since the 1950s as these spaces were sold off partially, partitioned, or built over.

Reimagining Public Spaces: Sining Luntian, aims to reimagine urban parks and public spaces in the Philippines through art and provide safe spaces, belongingness, and a sense of identity.

It promotes rehabilitation towards a green future because parks are sustainable solutions to climate change. It is also a way for people to reconnect with nature, even in urban settings.

Art plays an important role in raising awareness about biodiversity and engaging the community, especially the youth, in socio-cultural and civic participation.

The community undergoes a series of dialogue and narrative-making through artistic expression to develop their stories. This collaborative process explores the importance of pagtatanong (inquiry) and pagbabahagi (sharing) with the artists and the community.

The artwork that is realized by the community consists of their stories from daily life and their dreams for the community. Bayanihan (working together) encourages participation and belongingness.

Sining-Luntian at Mamala Park

For Sining-Luntian at Mamala Park, the avian biodiversity of Quezon Province was highlighted. The park’s wall served as a big coloring book, with young people outlining birds such as Chestnut munia, Olive-backed sunbird, and Blue-tailed bee-eater, among others. Kids, cheered on by their parents and teacher, did not hesitate to show their painting skills once instructed that they could already start. They worked together, sharing brushes and cups filled with paint, taking turns to make the wall their own.

A short educational program on climate change and the role of parks was conducted before the main event. To engage the kids and illustrate the effects of climate change, a game where they dressed as fast as they can using clothes that beat the heat was organized. In a spin-off of “Maria went to town,” players had to wear long-sleeved clothes, caps, sunglasses, and sunblock, and carry an umbrella to protect themselves from the effects of harsher weather conditions.

The kids also shared the words they associate with the park to practice their imagination and story-telling skills. They used the words maganda (beautiful), masaya (fun), malilom (full of shade from the trees), mahangin (breezy), and malinis (clean).

Positivity, friendship, fun, and creativity filled the day as art merged with nature. “Ang saya palang mag-paint!” (It is so much fun to paint!), a kid whispered while painting. Another one said, “ang pinaka masaya kong alaala sa park.. ay mag-pinta.” (My most memorable moment in the park is painting).

Care and appreciation for the environment and using art as a medium for a better world are legacies we should pass on to the next generation. Sining-Luntian accomplishes these and more: it brings the community together, and plants seeds of happiness and hope through brushstrokes and colors.
Wall before painting:

Wall after painting: