Sunday, December 09, 2007

Why I hate Makati

Howl, great wind of the Western skies!
Grind against our human truths and lies.
Carry the news of our destructive ways.
Forewarn those before us to seek another place.

I hate the city of Makati. That much, however, I am sure you can infer from the title.

It's a rather nice and busy place, the hub of commerce and the fulcrum of the Philippine economy. It is, therefore, expected that it should be the site of numerous attacks to and from the government, overt or covert. In my recent memory, it has been the victim of a bombing, which is still seen in the public opinion as seesawing between an intentional government scheme, an intentional terrorist attack or an unintentional gas leak. Much more recent is a bloodless, pointless coup staged by no less than a Philippine senator, which, instead of resulting in some sort of change in our beloved nation, only served to call the attention of the masses to the "brutal" treatment of the media, much to the aforementioned senator's consternation, I suppose.

Still, overall, it is still a very advanced city, what with its towering buildings, insolently piercing the skies as Longinus spears. It has a hotline system people could call in case of an emergency. When, in the past, a typhoon knocked down pylons supporting major power lines, Makati is as lit and busy and cool and alive as ever while, around them, neighboring cities and districts languished in agonizing heat and darkness. Each year, from January to June, Makati also draws a throng of hopeful yuppies, all hopeful to land a spot in the corporate world they could use as a foothold in beginning the long, hard, arduous climb up the career ladder.

However, it is, for me, a terrible place to be in, especially the area around Ayala Avenue. It is a wind-swept place, the air being pushed, shoved and whirled around in howling torrents as they ground against the artificial canyon we, humans, have erected. It is quite an orderly place and I found one reason for it: bus and jeepney stops aren't just stops. There's a spot for buses to load, for jeepneys to load, for passengers to disembark from buses and for people to get off jeepneys. As a consequence, if you wanted to get anywhere, you'd have to do a lot of walking.

Walking is actually good for the body. It is quite an ordeal, however, when gusts of cruel winds batter your frail frame and your ears are filled with a cacophony of revving engines, honking horns, howling winds, droning air vents, people chatter and just chaos, in general. Your lungs are treated to different aromas of engine exhausts. Indeed, the world seemed like a cold, harsh and uncaring place that only catered to professionals who had nothing but money in mind. Then again, those are just my impressions.

When walking at a brisk pace, as people hurrying for their job interview or application exam two blocks and five minutes away usually do, it is quite easy to miss all the little details. However, after those exhausting interviews and exams, when one tends to wander slowly, gently meandering between shops, cafes and fastfood (They have McDonald's on every block, I believe), one gets to see the finer details. Scattered about are sunburnt soot and grease-coated people, peddling candies and cigarettes, sometimes offering to buy your empty printer cartridges. Some of these people, the spitting image of poverty in a city of wealthy elites, just settle for dreams; you'd see some of them in nooks and crannies of buildings, happy in their own personal dreamworld, despite the glaring sunlight, the oppressive heat or the blasting noise.

When crossing streets, as walkers are often wont to do, pedestrians are provided the stifling discomfort of claustrophobic underground tunnels. In truth, I am sinning against charity here; the underpass systems at each intersection are actually roomy, almost cavernous when compared to those of Manila. Still, the harsh lighting, the cold, hard tiles, the frozen faces of fellow pedestrians, the echoing click of numerous pairs of leather shoes, the intimidating Cylon guard, they're all enough to drive a poor peasant like me into temporary insanity. Well, to be fair, I don't generally like being underground.

Speaking of underground, the Metrostar Express, a light-rail transit system, goes underground at Buendia and Ayala stations, an ordeal I had to face during that summer when I am being summoned to job interviews in the Makati area. Where, one moment, there was the sky and space, a few moments more and you'd be in a dark, cramped tunnel. Ever and anon, halogen lights would flash by, cruelly reminding you that the tunnel walls are less than a meter away. If you're a really unlucky claustrophobic, on the other side another train would thunder past, also painfully reminding you that they are also less than a meter apart.

Still, there are some things I liked about Makati. People generally tend to be orderly, in the sense that they generally do not cause undue distress on fellow pedestrians. In a cold and impersonal way, everybody minded their own business. Also, when riding the Metrostar Express, there is, when approaching Ayala station, a neat nook illuminated by the sky, filled with mold, stagnant water and, among other things, lots and lots of ferns. I really liked this reminder that life is a hardy thing, struggling to find their spot in a world that, altogether, doesn't seem to want them here.

In Makati, I met a man who made my dreams come true. Twice. And that man was the first of the many people I met later on in my life. He was, all in all, my first. I'd have to admit, I really liked what happened between us back then, to say otherwise would be hypocrisy. However, as things usually go with pleasurable things it quickly became an addiction that, even now, I am struggling to conquer.

It is said that he who has tasted ambrosia will go loony in his life in trying to capture the same taste later on. I'm not loony yet. I'm just hateful of the place where it all began.

These are the reasons I hate the city of Makati.

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