Urban

Last Monday I was given orders to personally deliver a package to an office located somewhere in Ermita. It was just a one-day thing: I leave for Manila on Tuesday night, only to return to Naga City the following night.

It’s been a while since I last had a “solo-mission,” and though I had difficulties in my trip to the designated location I was able to once again take in all the chaos that is the Metro.

——

I arrived in Manila via bus at 5 in the morning. I then immediately checked-in in a traveler’s hotel along EDSA. After a short nap, a breakfast of Tapsilog, and freshening up, I started my trip to Ermita at around 7:30AM.

Despite the allowance provided by the office I resisted all the urge to hail a cab. Morning wasn’t rainy, and I wanted to feel the flow of the city again. Back in college I was all into public transportation as it was cheaper and easier.

I took the LRT2 train to Recto (which wasn’t a problem). I just realized that the crowd inside had thickened. Back in college not much people were still using (or even aware of) the LRT2. I still love this train line. It runs smooth, it’s wide, and the people inside are orderly.

The other lines — MRT & LRT1 — suck.

——

When I got out of the train my real ‘adventure’ started. I thought I was all ready because before I took the Metro trip I had consulted with Google Map to check which jeepneys to ride. I had even consulted with a correspondent from Ermita to ask for some advice on which route to take. I thought it was gonna be easy. I was fucking wrong.

Holy shit there were a lot of possible jeepney routes. And the small, confusing markers in front of the vehicles didn’t actually help. I got confused and so I started asking around — from security guards, to traffic enforcers, to street barkers. They all gave me confusing directions.

I took Plan B: I walked along Recto. I looked at my watch. 8:15AM. Not bad. Perhaps I still had time.

While walking I took in all the details: people waiting for their ride, dogs chained in the street corners, people sleeping on cardboards, shops selling similar wares [DVDs, clothes, cigarettes, electronics, gadgets, etc…], sidewalk stalls selling watches and jewelries, cheap cinemas featuring X-Rated movies, people smoking everywhere, the symphony of engine sounds — everything.

——-

Upon reaching Escolta I saw a bridge. Should I cross it and continue walking?

I stopped. A lot of jeepneys converged in the area and I felt that it the right place to look for the right ride. For the last time I asked help from someone. This time from a random guy who was also waiting for his ride.

“Just get the one with Mabini and Baclaran,” he said. “Ask the driver if he’ll pass Sta Monica. If he says yes — that’s your ride.”

“Will one pass by here?”

“Of course,” he answered. He got on a jeepney a few seconds later. Lucky bastard.

I waited for more minutes. The morning heat was getting heavier. My shirt was all damp with sweat and dirt. I looked at the passing jeepneys. The one with the “Mabini-Baclaran” route was nowhere to be seen. I looked at the bridge, I remembered the printed map. Was I still that far? Should I just continue walking?

An empty cab was right in front of me. Should I get it. Fuck no. Not yet.

I waited a little longer. I thought I spotted a slow-moving jeepney with a “Mabini-Baclaran” route but I wasn’t really sure, and it wasn’t stopping. I ran after it.

I asked the driver if he was passing Sta Monica. He nodded. Yes. I got in.

——

Aaaand Ermita was still far. Good thing I decided to get a ride. We passed by Intramuros, then Luneta, then United Nations Avenue. When we got to MH DelPilar the view became familiar. I finally spotted the right landmarks: Andok’s Chicken, 7-Eleven, Amazonia Bar, and a small red plaza. Thank god for Google Street View.

When I saw my target (Ermita Center) I asked the driver to stop. I thanked him. I went inside the building and successfully delivered the package. It was 9:30AM.

Going back was easier.

——

trip

——

Achievement Unlocked: No Taxi.

——

After my business trip I went to Katipunan to check some art supplies at the Common Room, to check for new titles at Fully Booked, and to grab some lunch. I thought about visiting my alma mater across the street but I decided not to. My feet, still encased in battered Chuck Taylors, were getting sore. After eating lunch I looked at the sky: the clouds were getting heavier. I decided to go back to the hotel.

It was a good choice. As soon as I arrived in my hotel, the rain started to fall.

——

In the evening I passed the time in Cubao X. I was tired. I bought two bottles of beer. I looked above and noticed the mix of old and new structures. The place continues to evolve into a complete stranger. I have lost my ties with this city years ago.

The music was just fine, the people weren’t rowdy (it was still early), the sky looked lovely. How I wished for Ahj to be there with me.

7

——-

I used to go to the Metro every year to remember my old self. These days it just sucks to be in the urban chaos alone.

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Upon [re]Reading Galeano’s Take on Sentipensante

Back when we were kids our perspective was quite literary.

Clouds were made of fluffy feathers which had parted from lost birds, lightning cracked the skies and broke the latter with thunder, the wind was an angel’s whisper, crayons were simply made from the earwax of gnomes, and death was nothing but the gentlest sleep.

But growing up and rules and adults and cars and portable phones came along, replacing our imagination with charts and facts and taxes, turning the literary into the literal. And we try to recover; we attempt to recall that wonder, that amazing spark which had fallen from our pockets when we climbed the mountain of adulthood.

And here we are: on top, looking at the somber sky, the lifeless clouds — nothing more.

Riviere, 27 January 2014

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{Soundtracks}

Currently working on something new — I don’t know if I should transpose this into prose or poetry (or both). But I would like to have my work be embedded with this texture:

By the way, Saturday Night Wrist is just way underrated. As I listen to some of its tracks, I’ve just realized how certain songs have helped me carry on while I was still working in the Metro, especially during my Ortigas and Makati days. Cherry Waves will always be that special Deftones track for me (on that particular timeline at least).

Continue reading “Riviere, 27 January 2014”

Pull and Find, 24 January 2014

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{Seek and Ye Shall…}

I was supposed to go to work early this morning but unfortunately I got here almost an hour late. You see, for this suite of poems that I’m desperately trying to complete I need to check on some of my older, almost forgotten memories. This is just my attempt to re-experience the critical points in my life back in the day and reallocate them on paper. I tried to read some of the written accounts but unfortunately — much to my embarrassment — I couldn’t decipher my shitty handwriting (what the hell was I on back then?).

I also noticed a great number of resolutions I’ve written over the years. So many checklists and enumerations but so little actions. I’ve been promising myself a lot of things, only to be [self-]disappointed in the end. This shit has got to stop.

{Pulling Teeth}

I have an appointment with the dentist later; a problematic tooth is about to get pulled. The horror, the horror: the image of a long needle violating my gums is just, ugh, nightmare.

But I can’t wait.

{Seek and Ye Shall…[II]}

Found an old folder.
Opened it.
Read the file.
Old poems.
Eeeeewwwwwwwwww…

China New China New China New Oldness

1

Somewhere in Centro — just near the city’s glorious public supermarket — is a cafe so old. It cannot hide its true age, despite the occasional reinforcement of paint on the sturdy surface of tables and chairs. The tiles give away the clue.

Even the wide wall mirror reveals the subtle lines. Years of constant cleaning has scratched the face, forming unintentional wrinkles on the skin of those in front.

Notice how the servers hold the glass.

2

The typography remains handwritten despite the rise of print and tarpaulin. Human hands, the style is so imperfect, yet they feel more welcome than the ones smeared with pixels and bad type combination. See, the scribbles on the menu made me order a plate of crunchy lumpia, add some fried rice, and please don’t forget the yellow dip.

Ahj and I would usually contest over the last piece.

[I remember cousin Gilbert and I going to this place after watching The Island of Dr Moreau. We talked about the amazing man-creature designs, gobbling the thick noodles of salty beef mami between discussions

As I grew older I soon found out that the movie (starring Kilmer, Thewlis, and Brando) was a complete failure. Everybody hated it, even the actors]

3

I look over the window, beyond the grills, and see another old building. I can’t remember the name. I feel I’m starting to get so old that names slip past my memory bank. The windows are open, but the dust conceals the everyday stories of people within.

The bowl of steaming lomi has arrived. I remove my eyeglasses. The can of soda sweats madly, leaving a puddle all over the side. A few old men across us are sharing stories, a bottle of Pale Pilsen is resting on someone’s hand. I looked at my wristwatch — three o’six in the afternoon.

I do not know which one is yellow, the glass, or the water.

Clean-Up: Refinding Lost Memories

Just this Sunday I spent most of the day cleaning my room. I want to meet the new year with an uncluttered mind, and with the long vacation I took the opportunity to do a general clean-up. I decided to simplify everything by throwing away redundant and unnecessary items. Some of my unused wallets were cracked, ugly, and useless so I threw them away. Some documents were obsolete and were merely food for rats and silverfishes so they went straight to the trash pile. Some of my books (unread and read) were put on shelves outside my room, while some just had to go, to find new owners who will give them care and attention that the pages deserve.

——-

It’s easy to let go of some objects now, though I’m still a sentimental creature.

Some of the items I found were my stamp collection, a rabies vaccination card (I got bitten by a stray dog and thought I was gonna die of rabies in 2007), my transcript of records, dusty journals, papers back in college (especially my early poems), folders containing my design drafts (with progress notes), and old pictures which showed a thinner me.

There were also bottles of unused perfume, Rogue magazines, calendars, bags, and a pair of drumsticks.

——-

Right now my room is wider and I’m enjoying the clean space. My next project is to draw doodles on my walls.

——-

then and now

——-

My table is now free from any distractions. Ooooh yeah.

DSC04836

My 100th Entry —

— which also happens to be my post-birthday reflection post, or something to that extent. It’s been exactly a week. How does it feel to be twenty seven? I don’t really know. Maybe everyday is exactly the same. Maybe not.

——-

I’m listening to Bon Iver. The night is warm. The electric fan hums its tune with great subtlety. I’ve just noticed that the calendar from last year is still there, near the window, flapping soundly with the wind. November. Perhaps I’m still too lazy to take it down. The past is still hanging, I jest.

——-

I can still remember how painful it was to leave my life in Manila behind. Having lived there for seven fascinating years, I found it so difficult to remove my “Metro habits.” To be honest I sometimes seek that feeling, that significant rush from work, of beating deadlines, of arguing with colleagues, of losing sanity. And the depression, that feeling of being alone despite the crowd around me.

It’s just a vestige, an insignificant trace. I can feel it, albeit fading, like some odd scar, like how I miss–

  • sitting in the park somewhere in Legazpi village, behind Greenbelt 1. I can’t even remember the name anymore, but I can still remember how I kept rubbing the soles of my battered red sneakers against the grain and pebbles.
  • walking on the bridge which starts at the Ayala MRT station and ends somewhere in… well, somewhere.
  • hanging out in some cafe right after the morning mass, sipping coffee, writing on my journal, spitting on it every stress encountered: squabbles with the boss, depleted savings, hunger, loneliness, and every imaginable nightmare.
  • daydreaming in the office amidst the busy clicks and the constant sound of shuffling feet. How I minimize the windows, how I maximize my time imagining.
  • watching movies, alone. Going home at late at night, drunk most of the time.
  • wondering alone, under the orange light. Listening to Team Sleep or Radiohead.
If I could be, who you wanted, all the time…
 ——-

Three years. Three years of working in the university as staff. This is also my second [school] year as part-time teacher. Loving it so far.

My table in the office is trashed with papers containing drafts which may or may not see their final forms. Notes are everywhere, like some scattered fragments of my mind. One note contains numbers which I cannot even remember what they’re for, another has a phrase which I think I can use in my next poem, or perhaps short story. A doodle here, a name there. Scribbled addresses, crossed-out ideas. They’re just there, and they hope to fully exist.

I wonder: what if in some alternate reality I decided not to go home?

——-

Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

Fr Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907 – 1991)