Monday, July 13, 2015
11:49 AM |
The Most Beloved Filipino Gardener in San Francisco
Yesterday Jack and I spent the entire afternoon in the wildest, most enchanting garden in the city. Not too many people know about this whimsical wonderland that often gets listed among the city's top hidden gems. This precious secret is tucked in a residential neighborhood between Interstate 280 and the elevated BART tracks.
In the garden we saw an elephant, a tiger, giant lizards and other strange creatures hidden in a carpet of wild flowers. We climbed hidden trails and saw a red-faced giant reading the book of knowledge under a tree, mermaids and acrobats amidst blazing trumpet vines and white lilies. If you look closer, you'll see hundreds of faces along the trails and on tree trunks overgrown with vines. There are towers, Native American totem poles, a tribute to 9/11, and a man riding a bicycle in midair. I heard others saw John Lennon and Herb Caen in the garden. I believe I saw Jose Rizal, the Philippines' national hero and a Filipina wearing a terno
This was the work of an immigrant, Mang Demi. He said he wanted to make something beautiful out of darkness. He felt that it was his duty. He learned how to garden back home and took a few art classes when he took industrial art courses. Mang Demi was once asked about the sculptures. “These are not mine," he said. "Whatever this creative ability it is that has been given to me, it’s not mine to claim for myself, but to use for the good of all.”
Born in the Philippines, Demetrio Bracero arrived in the United States in the seventies. In 1986, he got hired as a gardener for the city and was assigned to clean up a park. When Demi first arrived in the area assigned to him, there was a lot of gang and criminal activity in the park. Little by little, the old man singlehandedly cleaned up the place. One day after a storm, he saw a fallen log and decided to carve it. He continued tending the garden and every time he would see a fallen log he would carve a sculpture and leave it there. He did this for twenty years until he retired in 2008. And then the garden fell into neglect.
Last year, when the park reopened after renovations that cost 9 million dollars, they found a total of 376 sculptures hidden in the park. The neighborhood and city agencies decided to preserve Demetrio Bacero's work.
These are some of the pictures I took.
© Wilfredo Pascual
Labels: art and culture, gardens, immigrants, san francisco, sculpture
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