He dreamt a lot about this trip for years now. He often visualizes himself walking on the streets he is walking now. And he is feeling good.
He sets his activities in the quietness of his room yet the first thing that comes to his mind upon walking up to go outdoors
He is no longer obligated by people who demand his assistance. All he needs to worry about is his own self
Intramuros is the zero ground of his Filipino heritage.
My ramblings of an old Filipino man in English that targets a nonEnglish speaking, reading audience is comical to say the least. It is like writing in code to non programmers.
I feel stupid doing this but then - that is precisely the reason I write my ramblings in English, nobody hears them, nobody reads them. To understand me is definitely difficult. But here I am writing all this shit.
I am seated on one of the benches in front of the Manila cathedral. I am facing the church without any desire to enter. It is better I sit here, the breeze sporadically coming from Manila Bay is refreshing. Manila is always full of people no matter where you go. Intramuros is no exemption. All other benches around me are occupied by kids, and you know what kids mean for a senior citizen like me. I am the only oddity here. The kids, mostly in college, wear old classic uniforms, white polo shirts, khaki pants, and other colors depending on what schools they belong to but the majority are wearing casual clothes now, just like every college kid anywhere in the world. They talk loudly and connivingly. I avoid listening to their conversations, mostly composed of incomprehensible utterances followed by peaks of laughter. I sometimes steal furtive glances towards them. Filipinos aren’t exclusively Asians, the way I see them. Take a group of four college girls and most likely 1 or 2 or them resemble Latinas while the other two are native-like or Asian. The difference is subtle but I can see it. When I lived here in Manila in my youth, I didn’t exactly see what I see now. All the 4 girls don’t even see their differences. They aren’t appearance-conscious unlike where I live in the US, where the differences among people are quite stark. Black, white, yellow, pink. Caucasian, Black, Asian, Latino and each of these races have their own layers of hues. And though Americans, at least those in urban places, try assimilating by ignoring differences as much as they could, it remains hard and difficult to do because everybody lives in their separate sub-cultures, I, for one, cannot understand the lingo of the others. I get shocked by the way others talk with me or among themselves. And yes, I still get the stare of one who thinks I should not be around them.
It is different here. Or maybe I am overly speculating. If I opt to stay in this country longer I would see the real big picture. I am lucky so far that there remains, at least, respect for the elderly. When kids see me seated alone on a bench staring at empty space, he is thought to be tired and bored and sick. He is to be left alone unless he needs help. It is something that I sense.
This city is full of young hyperactive people. If you come from a place anywhere in the world where silence is premium, you will be disappointed in Manila. This city revels in its noise. People seem immune to the noise. They can focus on what they are doing despite the noise. They can have deep conversations with their companions despite all types of vehicles blowing horns and playing loud music and yelling peddlers simultaneously through blaring mouthpieces.
Being old and alone amidst this noise, I am pretty much ignored. I have no features to attract people, nothing specific in me to elicit their interests. Here, most people my age are presumed to be home-bound with families or with old friends no farther than the community where they grew up. The concept of a senior community is alien here, unlike in Florida where seniors create their own worlds without apologies. I feel like apologizing for being old in Manila.
You cannot observe a human being intently without another human observing you. The option is either you chat with them, and chatting is always welcome here, even with strangers, or you just pretend to be indifferent though apathy isn’t regarded well.
But somehow I get away with my oddity. I probably still exude some of the local vibes and attributes, some cultural traits outside of the physical that never leaves a Filipino no matter where he chooses to live. I still carry some attributes that are unique to the locals except for a few minor things. The outfit I wear in the name of active lifestyle is a far cry from what the local people my age usually wear here. So walking around with a backpack personifies the aloofness of someone who is too careful because of lack of familiarity to the ways of the city. Being old with a backpack and sporty outfit is probably odd here. But then, why do I worry? I don't think I exist in the eyes of the youth enjoying their own companies around me. Everybody is preoccupied with his or his group thing here.
This sense of invincibility gives me freedom. I can move around anonymously and when I feel like taking notes of what I see, I simply pull out my smartphone to take a photo or video or even type on my google doc my random thoughts to review later. This I did without inviting curiosity although I remain vigilant. Just like anywhere else, looks can be deceiving. There is always the possibility of someone watching me. Paranoia keeps my senses sharp in Manila. It is a protection in a way.