Metro Manila Musings
I’ve been in Manila for a “vacation” for nearly a week now and it has already made an impact on my internal makeup. I’ve spent most of this first week getting stuff together (i.e. New headshot photoshoot for fourth year at Juilliard, a trip to the salon, studying a script for a play I’m doing in fourth year, going to the bank, having a dress altered, scanning copies of newspaper articles with my names in them). Most, if not all, of these errands involved commuting.
Commuting was my M.O. in the five years of my “professional” life in Manila – from the time I graduated from college up to my last year in Manila before I came to New York City for graduate training. “Commuting in Metro Manila” to me means a number of things: tricycle, FX, LRT, MRT, jeepney or "jeep," bus, the occasional “taxi,” and the rare "pedicab." Those five years on the road has made an impact on how I saw the world and how I saw myself in the world as much as my work as a practicing theater artist. They have undoubtedly prepared me for New York City, where I got around 99% of the time through walking, the subway, and the occasional bus. I rarely hail a cab or an Uber in New York.
Fast forward to July 13, 2018 (Friday, Manila time), I set myself to do three things that afternoon: 1) Go to the bank to have my dollars exchanged into pesos 2) pick-up the dress I had altered and 3) go to either UP or Katipunan to find a decent but inexpensive photocopying service for all my newspaper clippings for my portfolio.
It didn’t matter to me that it was Friday the 13th – I’ve been through many a Friday the 13th before and managed just fine. I did see that it was dark and cloudy outside, so I brought an umbrella, a plastic to protect the folder containing my newspaper clippings and called it a day. When I got to the bank, the manager said that today was pay-day – that there were likely to be a lot more people in the bank today than usual. It didn’t matter to me, I was able to get my dollars exchanged with minimal waiting time (I had visited a new branch) so I considered myself lucky. I was also able to pick up my dress with no problem. Two errands, check!
I took an FX to Philcoa (if you’re not from Manila, these terms will probably sound alien to you), crossed the pedestrian footbridge and searched for jeeps going to the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman. UP COOP – the compound where I used to have stuff photocopied and printed has been destroyed by a fire. A friend recommended Vinzon’s Hall in UP for me, instead. No luck. I showed my newspaper clippings to a staff member and basically said he couldn’t do what I asked him to do since the newspapers where too big to be resized/reduced into short bond size. He referred me to the scanning service next door, no luck either. The woman said their scanner was too small to scan full-page newspaper articles.
By this time, rain began to pour aggressively. I had another option in Katipunan which had a very good review at Yelp called YZA Coloured Printing at Prince David Condominium. It took me a while to get a jeep but eventually did. The paper bag I used to carry my dress and folder already gave away due to water damage. I tossed that once I got to YZA. YZA had large print and scanning machines so I was able to get all my newspaper clippings scanned (terrific service). Whew! All three errands done!
It was past 6pm now. All I needed to do was to get home. Rain was pouring intensely. I had an umbrella, but walking the Katipunan stretch to try to hail a cab drenched my pants and my shoes. I was really cold by now. I decided to make a stop at Cello's to check out their donuts (haha). I texted my parents to ask if I can hitch a ride with them. They were both in Makati, my dad was waiting for the traffic to subside himself. "Rains plus pay day is formula for clogged streets," my dad said. I didn’t want to use the “Grab app” because I didn’t want to pay Php200 to get home (Uber was phased-out in the Philippines due to legal issues). I had a budget for my Philippine trip and I wanted to use that money to have lunch with a friend. When I decided to get out on the street again, the taxi drivers who I hailed refused to give me a ride home because my house was not “on the way” to where they wanted to go (typical Filipino taxi bullshit). As I stood there, drenched in the rain, I was looking for something or someone to blame. Was it 1) My parents for giving birth to me in this country 2) Myself for getting myself in this situation yet again or 3) God, for allowing this to happen to me? After a while, none of those three options seemed to help me cope with the situation. After 30 minutes of walking, hailing and by now, shivering, I resigned myself to take the long way home: 3 jeepneys (with different routes), a bus, and walking. It was still raining hard by now.
In the three jeepneys I rode home, similar faces greeted me: exhaustion, resignation, and contained anger. These people must have been travelling longer than I have. It was the same in the bus to “SM Fairview” – which was standing room and where we were all squished together like sardines. I wondered, what would it be like if the average, middle-income Filipino could get to work and go home with a less than 30-minute commute every day? What would we do with our time? We would have more time to our families, or even to ourselves. We would have more time to LIVE.
I got home safely, albeit drenched, near 9pm. After almost 3 hours of trying to get home from an area not so far from where I lived. As I type this the day after, I was nursing a slight fever and a cold from being “basang basa sa ulan,” hopefully recharging as to not let my inner light dim out after less than a week in Manila.
Here's a fan-made parody of one of my favorite Filipino songs.
Note that even though the video comedically captures what I've been through and how I felt, I did have an umbrella that day.
Notes to self for the remainder of the trip:
• Beware of pay-day
• Check the weather!
• Health first!
On a lighter note:
Long-time collaborator Kamole Orense and I are upgrading www.reginadevera.com this year and I can't wait to share the new photos with you all! Here's an (unedited) sneak peak:
Photo by Kamole Orense
I am a Graduate Drama student at The Juilliard School from Quezon City, Philippines.