I hate the city of Manila. That much, however, I am sure you can infer from the title.
It is a rather nice and nostalgic place, one that brings back fuzzy memories. For my parents, a visit to the capital of our country is a trip down memory lane as they both studied in a college there. Here, they used to hang out with friends now far away, dead or dying. This road, they often traversed in their cheap rubber slippers to save on jeepney fare. On this spot, they used to do their projects, sneaking about and climbing fences to gain access to the park instead of paying the entrance fee.
I, too, remember Manila from my childhood days. Oh, the horror as I, an impatient kid back then incapable of keeping still, traveled by jeepneys, sitting uncomfortably for each ride. Every time we switched rides, "Ha? Sasakay na naman?!? E kasasakay lang natin e!" (What? Ride again?!? We just got off!) I had no idea back then that jeepneys actually travel different places; I was more focused on my buttocks sore from what seemed like long hours of sitting.
Each trip to Manila only meant one thing: a trip to the doctor for my vaccines. It was always a painful encounter, probably more so because I couldn't see the needle. I mean, when it comes to stabbing me with something I can't do anything about, I prefer to see what's going on rather than be surprised with a sudden prick. I didn't hate my doctor aunt but I did grow afraid of her. On family gatherings, I always suspected she had an immunization pack handy in her handbag. I'd be wary and steer away from her whenever I can.
As a pediatrician, my aunt had a friendly secretary who sold us rosquillos: sweet ring-shaped biscuits, which I happily munched after my shots. Also, her clinic had one of the best rocking horses in the world. It was a wee white horse with large spots of different colors. Sadly, though, I doubt they make such playthings anymore. Even if they did, I doubt today's Playstation and Xbox kids would enjoy them as I did long ago.
Near the hospital was the Yellow Line of the Light Rail Transit. At the time, it was the only train servicing the metro. My mom would usually sit on the chair while I had to stand up like a gentleman. "See that sign?" my mom once said. "Tayuman," I read. "See? Exactly! Tayo (stand), man. It means you have to stand up." I was wondering if there was a Tayugirl sign somewhere so she could stand up and it'd be my turn to sit down. At the age of 7, it dawned on me that Tayuman was the name of the station, not an order for all males to stand up. Still, I enjoyed that train ride, either because I have never rode a train before or because I'm getting sore legs instead of sore buttocks.
Also near the hospital was a branch of Shakey's Pizza. I really liked their pizza and chips, though I didn't, at the time, remember liking them as food. All I knew was that if it was Shakey's, I am happy.
However, those trips to Shakey's were quite rare and, oftentimes, we usually ate at the open-aired Chinese restaurants Ma Mon Luk or Rose Canton. It was really a terrible ordeal; as a kid, I could not comprehend how my parents managed to eat at such dirty surroundings. I mean, you could really make patterns with the soot of what would otherwise have been a white vinyl-tiled floor. I remember tearfully pleading with my parents, "Ayoko dito, ang dirty-dirty e!" (I don't like it here; it's so dirty here!)
Years have passed; it's been quite a while since I've last been to Manila. Sure, ever and anon, there would be the educational field trips to Manila Zoo (I got lost there when I was 4; when I returned to the group, I fell in love with my best friend who held my hand tightly so I wouldn't get lost again. Well, granted, it was puppy love and I wasn't gay back then) or Fort Santiago (they have a splendid view of the infamous Pasig River, responsible for the drowning of several unnamed, dead heroes; the dwellers of its banks retaliated by killing the river itself) We also visited the Museo Pambata, which was not just for kids, mind you, the San Augustin museum and, of course, Rizal Park.
On my last year in college, I met someone from Manila. To be more exact, he lived in the provinces and he stayed in Manila as a dormitory occupant. A nursing student, he was my contact in a social networking site for years. That day, we both found an opportunity to meet each other offline.
To sum it all up, it was a one-week love affair. Despite having known him for only days, I felt that he just might be the kind of guy who I might be willing to spend the rest of my life with. I'm afraid I am entirely inaccurate in describing it as a love affair; it was not quite love but it was, for me, no casual date either. He is also one of the best kissers I have ever locked lips with my entire life.
He knew how much I hated Manila, but, for a week, I did my best to be there. He had been through some bad times; I went there when I heard the news. At the end of that week, however, he broke off with me. He didn't feel "the spark", which was enough reason for him. Additionally, we had differences in our beliefs; he was a practicing Catholic while I was a skeptic agnostic. I don't wish to antagonize him; forgive me but I still hurt whenever I remember those times. That night, we shared a final kiss and a promise to keep in touch with each other.
Months have passed since then; time had caused us to forget, to be busy, to fail to keep our promises. At this moment, I am wondering what disasters at work the next week will bring. At this moment, I believe he's either asleep or reviewing for the nursing board exam. For my sake, I sincerely hope he has already forgotten that week we spent together.
Ever and anon, I'd wake up in the midst of a fitcul slumber, my skin seeking a touch that had warmed it before, my lips searching for a kiss that was never there and my heart, aching for the loss of what could have been, at the very least, a friend.
I have never returned to Manila on my own again. Even now, I am being overwhelmed by the bitter memories I dug up and, in the privacy of my domain, allowed myself to shed these salty tears.
These are the reasons I hate the city of Manila.
Dust and smoke and soot and ashes,
Floatsam, jetsam and acid washes
Tell me tales of ancient ages,
Of people struggling in their cages.