Friday, November 25, 2005

A Love Letter

Dear Manila,

I hate traveling down your streets. They hold no pattern, no grid, no meaning. I do not like that I have to be constantly vigilant whenever I duck down alleyways, or that your building stairwells may hide the Filipino version of Jack the Ripper in the morning shadows. I do not like your taxi drivers - they are uncouth and refuse to take you where you want to be taken, often exercising the fact that since I am from the northern part of the metro, I am ignorant of your ways. I hate the smell of sewage and garbage, of buses running at breakneck speed without thought or reason for safety. There is no MMDA in Manila. I do not see the pink fences anywhere.

However, I must admit that you have your moments of shabby glory. Malate is still particularly inspired, though I do miss the presence of Cafe Breton and I've never visited Blue Onion, though I've always wanted to. Roxas Boulevard and the bay is still beautiful and ever-changing, but I do not agree with the insanity of whoever designed the lamppost lights. Have you been consorting with aliens lately? And Intramuros, yes, the Walled City is always a lovely, sepia-lit place that bears the weight of this country's history within its walls. There are always stories to tell in Manila - climbing up the parapets, slipping on stones covered with the moss of the ages.

But still, Manila, I do not like traversing your land. I feel like a foreigner on local soil, as if I am crossing an invisible demarcation line that separates me from the rest of your children. I do not envy them - I cannot tolerate the chaos of your alleys, the rainwater in the gutter, the dissonance of life in your streets. Your allegiance to history is commendable, but I am afraid that you have transcended mere memory. There is beauty and fear around every corner, packed like cheap wares in stalls set up by street hawkers, smelling like shit and horses, much like it did a century ago.

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