The touching story behind the beautiful garden beds in PGH

Visual artist Toym Imao turned old hospital beds at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) into beautiful garden beds as a tribute to healthcare workers who died of COVID-19. 

In a lengthy Facebook post, Imao shared the story about how his art installation called “Whispering Flower Beds” came about in the weeks leading to the first anniversary of the pandemic lockdown in the Philippines. 

Apparently, Bibeth Orteza told Imao about how Carlos Siguion-Reyna felt when he saw the “condemned” hospital beds lined up along a street inside the PGH complex after having a swab test. 

According to Imao, he coincidentally had a scheduled meeting about an art installation project for the National Institute of Health two days later. And so, he went to see for himself the beds which were supposed to be refurbished and donated to other public hospitals. 

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“I, myself, was overcome with the power that these beds emanated, the stories they could tell. It was at that moment, in the presence of hundreds of these hospital beds, amidst a backdrop of the side street and greens along its periphery that an epiphany came to me: beds with flowers,” he said. 

He went on: “When I arrived back at my studio after my PGH visit, Zena Bernardo was at a meeting with my brother regarding an office project. I relayed to Zena, a friend/plantita who was very active with feeding kitchens in the Marikina community especially during the height of the lockdown about the PGH beds and asked her if she would like to help, because the coincidence of meeting her on that exact same day was so uncanny.”

Sharing what made him passionate about doing the project, he said: “Bibeth’s brother, Dr. Neil Orteza, was one of the first frontliners to fall in the line of duty because of COVID. (It was so heart-warming to have his three daughters, one a medical resident and two students of medicine at PGH, help us plant the flowers on the hospital beds on the first day of working on the art installation).”

He then thanked everyone who took part in the project. 

“We are grateful to the pool of volunteers who helped us put up the installation yesterday at the PGH grounds, despite an infection surge not only in the PGH but the entire country. We worked early on a Sunday morning when the PGH has the least number of visitors and we observed proper health and safety protocols,” he stated.

Imao said the 12 beds represent the 12 months of lockdown in the Philippines. 

Meanwhile, a tribute program called “Aluyan Ng Paghilom” will be held on March 30. The said event will be livestreamed online. 

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