Thursday, September 16, 2004


Revisiting Malate

I've always had fond memories of old Manila - that part that seems as though you've entered a time warp and pushed into a sepia-tinted photograph. I've always liked to think that even the way the sunlight slants across the rooftops and the leaves are different, quieter somehow, more subdued. (Maybe it's the pollution, but pardon the romanticism.) My father used to bring me to Manila for adventures - at least that's what I call these excursions into the historical places. We would watch a PETA play at Fort Santiago, more often than not a production of Tito Melvin, and I would always follow the footsteps painted on the brick floor. They traced Jose Rizal's path from his cell to Bagumbayan, and his execution.

After the play, we would walk from Fort Santiago to Malate, and more often than not dinner would be at Cafe Adriatico at Remedios Circle. I love these old Spanish names, echoes of a past that we always look back on: Maria Orosa, Julio Nakpil, Remedios. Cafe Adriatico for me would always be about dim corners and candlelight and white bone china. Tatay says that they serve breakfast at around 2 AM, because apparently they're open until the roosters start crowing. Dessert would always be at Cafe Breton just two blocks down from this restaurant - a little hole-in-the-wall cafe that serves real French crepes and strong coffee. (The best for me is always the La Pinay, although I've taken to experimenting with the savoury crepes.)

The baywalk that stretches along Roxas Boulevard is also a source of endless amusement for me. For one, yesterday was the first time I've experienced watching the famous sunset of Manila Bay, and how the sky looked like a watercolor painting, as if life and art were merging for a moment before the evening set it. "Takip-silim" is a Filipino term that aptly describes such a moment: the way that the clouds obscure the sunlight and yet at the same time mirror its brilliance. And there is always a hypnotic quality to water - something mesmerizing about the ebb and flow of the ocean as it licks the rocks that make up the foundation of the seawall. It reminds me so much of Dumaguete, when I said goodbye to the sunrise and the sea that last morning.

Walking along the baywalk at night, there are pockets of music that blur and fade into each other as you move from one small restaurant to another. The smell of the sea is stronger here, at night, and there are tiny ripples on the surface of black - small fishes leaping out of the water and then plunging back in, as if this were merely a sport, a game that they play. For less that Php100.00, you get a meal and drinks and good music, and later on you see lovers walking past you, hand in hand, and sometimes I find myself envious while watching them. But it's just a passing fancy.

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