Santiago, Benito

Reflections of Manilatown and The I-Hotel

I walk by the old Manilatown block in the 80’s and all I see, a big hole, where once stood the grandeur of an old building of Manilatown and I am saddened as I wonder where have all the manongs gone? I see Manilatown, the I-Hotel, now. Modern marble buildings of the City College campus and the I-Hotel Manilatown Center. It was a sigh of relief as I see people coming and going; young adults, children, families, elementary school children and people of all ages in the I-Hotel Manilatown Center; including the manongs and manangs and how they are treated with all the dignity and reverence and respect due them by our current generation.

I am honored to witness the poets, singers, dancers, dramatic artists and art exhibits. I am honored to play my drum. I back up poets, singers, and dancers as they dance and strut their body/limbs, as the poets speak their words of wisdom and inspiration. The singers bellow out their lyrics of celestial grandeur, or hot funky words to get naturally high from. The bass player plucks his bass, the sound of the drum traps, the bellow of the saxophone and flute and dance of fingers on piano keys like dew drops cascading down a mountain top; and they let me tap a bass rhythm and syncopated top/lead as I go through my riffs, starting with my bass as a heartbeat like the thump thump of elephants going into my rhythm like a heard of wildebeests or antelope; or the chitter chatter of monkeys in the trees with my fingertips; fingers and palms on my talking drum: Speak to me and I’ll set you free