It’s been a year since I left Manila that place where I have lived in for 30 years, that place I call home. Yet isn’t it ironic that I hate that place I call home?
I hate the no fail, daily bumper-to-bumper traffic, which would cost me an average of 3-4 hours of my day, shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow commuters, sweating from faulty air-conditioning. I hate the now more regular Milo-colored (i.e. Nestle’s popular chocolate and malt powder drink) monsoon floods brought about by progress of concrete giants, denuded mountainsides and an increasing population of litterers. I hate the blackened puddles: a deadly cocktail of water, grime, bodily waste and litter from the crowded streets and clogged canals, a bane for extensive walkers like me who enjoy wearing flip flops and other open footwear. I hate the landscape of heartbreaking poverty in decrepit shanties, which continue growing like mushrooms alongside the once pristine, functional rivers of yore and in seemingly abandoned lots, alleyways and other nook and crannies. I hate the monumental posters and placards of crocodile politicians with their artificial grins and bogus promises, who are obviously out for the people’s future vote. I hate the potent scent of urban sweat, a mixture of vinegar, cheap floral perfume, salt, whitening lotion, talcum powder and long hours of hard work. I hate the feeling of gritty stickiness, one gets from exposure to the tropical humidity, the kind that gets crusty on your clothing.
As I huffed and hauled my pink luggage through the airport’s x-ray machine, I thought “Am I really ready to come home to all that?”
I guess I should be. Despite the glaring repulsiveness of the Manila’s laudable progress and urbanity, it is where my heart is. Manila is where family and friends are. I heaved a sigh of resignation because it is still home.
I tossed and turned on my modest economy class airplane seat, struggling to get some proper shut eye and preparing for my short, sweet and errand filled trip home. I suddenly turned anxious to finally be reunited with family and friends, whom I have constant interaction with through the wonders of communication technology. My taste buds and stomach also started to do cartwheels from excitement of being reunited with familiar, almost-impossible-to-replicate-in-our-desert-home flavors and textures.
Manila truly did not fail to deliver on my expectations. From high up in the sky and through the darkness of the night as the plan was taxiing into Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), I could already see the chaos from my window: the bipolar streetlights, which are aligned in one strip then turns into a complete disarray on the following uneven strips of concrete and asphalt, the hypermarkets with screaming fluorescent signage, and the relatively narrow two-lane highways. Another exasperated sigh. Manila, somehow you have not changed. Or have you?
Torn between feelings of love and hate, I breathed in the musty air of one of the world’s worst airports and stepped out into the humid night air of my home. Manila, I have come home
Delirious about delcious,
P.S. Watch out for more posts on my two-week visit to my home country, the Philippines.