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Opinion

The Earth seen from the moon 728

Giorgio Guglielmino - The Philippine Star

I have always found the title of the 1967 film by Pier Paolo Pasolini “The Earth seen from the moon” beautiful and fascinating. It is a phrase that I have often applied to my life to better define and try to understand my feelings towards something that has become distant and perhaps almost unreachable (the moon was in fact reached only two years after the release of the film, with the first moon landing of July 1969).

I applied this little strategy to judge loves, friendships, stages of life and places that were once significant to me but in present times are both geographically and temporally distant.

Looking at our lives from the moon – from an enormous distance – perhaps everything flattens, tones dampen, noises are eliminated. In doing so we often manage to go to the core. It is possible to remove the superfluous and the everyday to savor the essence of what we have lived and that truly has remained in the depths of our hearts.

When I returned to Europe after four years in the Philippines, I wondered what would have happened if I had once again looked at what I had left behind. So I decided to do it. I looked at the Earth seen from the moon, I looked at the Philippines seen from Italy, I looked at Manila seen from Rome.

Yes, I looked and the surprise was strong. I would have imagined seeing, even if from a distance, the problems of the city, the endless queues from Quezon City to Makati, the high prices of many foodstuffs, the many exhibitions of artists who copy instead of create, and so on. But no. Manila seen from Rome gave birth to a feeling that prevails over all the others: tenderness.

This beautiful feeling emerged when I pointed my telescope from Rome to faraway Manila and I saw small particular scenes that I realized were those that really impressed me and that have nothing to do with receptions, embassies, boring dinners or official meetings.

The first image focused by my telescope shows the very talented and beautiful opera and pop singer Lara Maigue. She once came to sing at my house, invited by my friend Ben Chan. Lara had a beautiful long white dress and I was in a suit and tie. They took some pictures of the two of us standing side by side, smiling. The images ended up on Instagram and… several of my friends in Italy congratulated me, a little surprised, thinking that I just recently married Lara!

I move the telescope a little further north and frame Cubao Expo, perhaps my favorite place in all of Metro Manila. What a magical place! The small shops that sell the most disparate objects, the pop-up shops that offer t-shirts, the vinyl record stores and at the center of all this, the restaurant of the legendary Roberto Bellini, an Italian who, if he did not exist, someone would have had to invent him: from Tuscany to Manila, from paparazzo (he still tells of when he was beaten by Madonna’s bodyguards) to restaurateur. A great character and a friend. My dream would have been to celebrate the Italian National Day right at Cubao Expo, closing the space to traffic and putting a single long table along the entire horseshoe of the area. Unfortunately this dream was shattered by the pandemic.

I move the telescope a little more and I see many smiles, especially from unknown people. As soon as I arrived in Manila, every time I walked down the street or entered a shop when I made eye contact, the person smiled at me. At first I thought it was me who didn’t remember having met that particular person before. Then I realized that Filipinos smile naturally and it is a huge treasure that Filipinos have that maybe they do not even realize how beautiful and important it is. And as a girl told me one day in times of pandemic: “Having to wear the mask, I smile with my eyes.”

When I think back to Manila from so far away, I realize that what remains are, above all, many smiles together with an intense sense of tenderness that continues to accompany me even here on the moon.

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Giorgio Guglielmino is the former ambassador of Italy to the Philippines.

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