Sunday, August 10, 2008


In the hands of artists Alfredo Juan and Isabel Aquilizan, the folksy jeepney peels the layers of history, returns to the object's military origin, and freights it with gleaming domestic items -- from shovels to steamers.

"M201: In God We Trust" is the title that refers to the model of jeep and the aphorism chosen by many drivers to inscribe on their jeepneys. This jeep was first presented to the Zone of Urgency exhibition in the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003. It was acquired by the Singapore Art Museum which has lent it to the National Art Gallery of the Philippines for a limited trip, or pasada.

The jeepney in the photo below was the once ubiquitous all stainless, 'for-family-use' version. Although I have many fond childhood memories of which -- and learned how to drive in one, in fact -- the most remarkable image of it ingrained in my memory was that owned by a wonderful physician in Subic, Dr. Novales.

Every afternoon around four, people in our barrio with ailing family members would wait by the roadside, and as soon as they see Dr. Novales' owner jeepney, they would wave for him to pull over.

Dr. Novales attended to those afflicted with various illnesses regardless of whether they could afford to pay him or not. But oftentimes, by twilight time, on his way back to the main town of Subic where he lives, you could see various vegetables and a chicken or two at the back seat. Payments, I'm sure for his kind and diligent attention.

My personal interaction with Dr. Novales composed of a series of visits to his office when I was bitten by a dog. The little plastic toys and candies that he gave me after I had one of those anti-rabies shots were of no use to assuage my tears. The sight of that frightening long needle was enough to make me cry.

Through the ensuing years, Dr. Novales continued to make his regular trips in his jeep to the many barrios along the main roads and out in the hinterlands. When I returned to Manila a few years ago, an aunt told me that Dr. Novales had just received a special award for his tireless service to the indigent people of Subic and its neighboring regions. He is now retired.

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posted by Señor Enrique at 9:40 AM


Anonymous Traveler on Foot said...

We've seen this all steel jeepney at one corner of the National Art Gallery of the Philippines.

My son was so thrilled that he went beyond the velvet ropes and climb up the driver's seat.

The guards were nice enough to have allowed my son to stay for a while (probably it was a Sunday then and there are no other visitors around)

This monochromatic collage/sculpture is beautiful.

August 10, 2008 3:07 PM  

Blogger nutart said...

Hey, Eric! This is the second time you featured artists who have known quite in close range! Freddie and Sabel were such! We were co-teachers at the PHSA at the National Arts center in Makiling! I'm just so thrilled at where they are now! They're one riotous couple and with a burgeoning family (one of the them is my inaanak pa naman), they have really gone through the usual thick and thin of financial straits. Some of their earlier artistic installations were just showing all the kids' toys! Soo connected is art and their lifestyle! Kudos to them! Thanks for featuring them!

Your Dr. Novales is also one for the books of admirable Pinoys. My husband and a couple of his friends need to be told stories like these because they do not really know much Pinoys with such ingenuous and dedicated attitude towards service for others. Tsk-tsk!

August 10, 2008 4:57 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Now, ain't that something, Bernadette? What an auspicious coincidence! The manner in which you described Freddie and Sabel somehow reflects my thoughts about them while I stood admiring and taking pictures of their M201 -- that they have got to be a couple of zany and witty artists. I mean, check out the whimsical way they had created this jeepney :) Love it!

Your quite fortunate to have such friends. As the old adage goes, "All great men know one another."

As for Dr. Novales, I was actually planning on doing a more in-depth feature on him, but haven't had the chance to go to Subic just for that purpose. He truly is worth knowing and talking about. And I bet there are millions of Pinoys out there who are leading quiet lives but engaged in incredibly altruistic endeavors.

By the way, your husband's efforts are also worth knowing and talking about!

August 10, 2008 5:21 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Wow! Your son was indeed fortunate to have climbed up the M201's driver's seat, Traveler :)

It is truly an interesting piece of work. And the artists turn out to be good friends of our fellow blogger, Bernadette!

August 10, 2008 5:23 PM  

Blogger nutart said...

Naku! Thank you, Eric, for the nice complement! Everything in that jeepney would surely be an unforgettable vignette in the lie of Freddie and Sabel.

Sayang for Traveller on Foot...he sana would have visited NAC when we were the teachers then...but that was ages ago! We were a big barkada and had quite comic ways of "fighting" our bureaucratic counterparts! We had a bundy clock (would you believe??) in a live-in school and our creative juices really stirred that machine up! Now that we've all "graduated" from that experience, I can see they're still at it---making innocent fun out of everything :-).

August 10, 2008 6:57 PM  

Blogger mimi said...

coolness.. bakal talaga! ^_^ nakakalula tignan..

August 10, 2008 11:59 PM  

Anonymous TruBlue said...

Top picture of the Jeep looks so awesome! What was the owner trying to impart by the imprint "In God We Trust"?

Dr. Novales and his types are my heroes who are nothing but honorably admirable, ignoring the limelights and JUST doing the RIGHT thing. Cheers to him and likes.

August 11, 2008 5:27 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

My pleasure, Bernadette!

How I'd love to spend a day in NAC in Makiling to document student life.

As you know, many speak highly of that school, and some of our fellow bloggers once wished of attending it. It would make a very interesting "A Day In A Life...." documentary.

I'm sure the teachers are all worth knowing about, as well.

August 11, 2008 7:16 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hindi lang ordinaryong bakal, Mimi ... puros stainless pa! Hehehe!

August 11, 2008 7:18 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I guess, it also served as a short prayer for drivers wishing to be guided by God in their daily travels, TruBlue.

We ought to have an annual chronicle of local heroes like Dr. Novales to serve as role models to our youths.

I'm sure there are many more Pinoys and Pinays out there who thrive on helping their fellowmen ... and we ought to get to know each one of them!

August 11, 2008 7:30 AM  

Anonymous mandaragat said...

speaking of Dr. Novales, where is he now?

how can i forget him, my nanay used to take me there whenver I'm sick, he's the only doctor that i remember when i was a kid (and the long needle of course).
Dr. Novales is not "ganid", he is well known in Subic as a fine doctor. He treat poeople the same..whether you're rich or ordinary fisherman from Calapandayan...or simple farmer from Pamatawan or Aeta sa may Balon...

August 11, 2008 8:02 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hmmm ... 'Aeta sa may balon' did you say, Mandaragat?

From Pamatawan, we often stopped by the balon on our way to our grandfather's mango orchard up in the mountains. When my grandfather died, many Aetas came down and lined both sides of the highway to pay him respect.

Anyway, Dr. Novales still lives in Subic. My aunt told me that he has a son who is also a doctor that has a practice in Subic.

By the way, there was also a Dr. Nepomuceno in Subic. He was the one who circumcised me ... hehehe.

August 11, 2008 10:55 PM  

Anonymous aqsaqui said...

A funny coincidence that we have just came across your blog and also reading the comment of nutart whom again coincidentally our 'kumare' hmmm. Anyway Isabel and I are deeply honored.

Its was unfortunate that "In God We Trust Project M201" is now in the in the collection a museum overseas. As much as we wished it should have stayed locally, sad to say still we do not have an institution that has the capacity accomodate such object with cultural/historical interest.


April 22, 2012 9:48 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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