Here, There, and Everywhere: Bits and Bobs from the Past

By: N. Mozart Diaz


The road winds and unwinds and turns cities into farms and then farms into cities. The Philippines doesn’t seem to have a dominant theme in her landscape, it always seems to change, and sometimes, it doesn’t seem to change at all. Anyhow, the trip from Baguio to Taguig isn’t an especially long one. You would drive from Baguio to NLEX in less than 5 hours and Cubao to Taguig in around 3. The traffic is astounding, but when you’ve lived your entire life in the confines of a forest and a mountain, you would take anything to be in a forest of buildings decorated by the rich tapestry and diversity of people around you.

Even as a lot of buildings seemed to have designed during the 80’s and 90’s that age of architecture marked by huge, sheer, grey monolithic structures seemingly boring to the untrained eye. Much of Greater Manila looks like it’s been stuck in time, stuck in the time the stronger pangs of poverty hit the country. Yet you come past Pasay, and take the C-5 and into Taguig and Makati, and you think to yourself: “I’m damned wrong, look here, we’re moving forward. Even just a little, slowly, ever slowly — but this is proof of progress.”

Once you come past the sea of poverty and into Bonifacio Global City, it feels as though you’ve left the country like you’re in an entirely different place. A mere decade ago, all this land was government property, part of Fort Bonifacio, one of the few camps of the army in the Greater Manila area; it was sold then, to private investors and some government sectors, its land cut up and planned, and it has seen progress ever since. The buildings were sleek and modern, its roads finely carved into the land, it was truly the place to be in NCR.

The summer wore on and most of the time I was left in my father’s apartment, that humble, four-story building surrounded by great, giant, sleek structures. We owned just one unit at that time, a meager two room apartment. It was just for my father, of course, but in the bedroom there was a bunk bed, where I would sleep.

I would spend my days carelessly. Watching movies, eating as much food, dangerously letting myself near diabetes; since my father worked I was left alone there until 5, only after 5 did we ever do something spectacular. And when my father says it’s spectacular, you’re always going to get more than you bargained for.

I can scarcely remember the entirety of things we did that summer. I remember going to Fort Santiago, to a PBA game, and drinking with my father, his colleagues, and the Philippine Army Band. I also remember shooting guns, and going to The 1975’s mall tour. Everyone has that one summer and by far I think this is mine.

This was the summer that I would fall in love with the city — its hustle and bustle, the glitz and the glamour, its lights, and its sleeplessness; in the span of two short weeks, my mind would see the city lights as its constellations, its sultry evenings as home — my mind forever enchanted and enamored by that golden mirage of a city. As a result of our odd hours, I would also fall in love with the night, that dark world lit by the passions and artists that never fail to keep the world alive.

I came and left and came again when the opportunity presented itself. The second time was during the rainy seasons, around early September when the rains were weaker and the air cleaner. Not much had changed other than that father moved to another apartment unit; this one was on the ground floor. I liked this one quite differently than the last one, especially because there was a pool table immediately outside in the lobby.

In the afternoons, it would rain and when it rained the world made sure you would know that it rained. The earth would smell of petrichor, hazy mists would envelope the city, and the roads would be slippery. There’s a beauty in rainy days, one that I can’t exactly put into words — je ne sais quoi; it places my mind and soul at peace, relaxes my senses, there’s a beauty in rainy days and no doubt about it.

The highlight of this trip would most likely be the dinner party father and I attended in which we had dined with a Japanese general and with some other higher-ups in the Philippine Army. We were served food I do not know the name of, and some of the best wine I have ever tasted — and, free chips in the lobby.

It was an odd trip and it was shorter than the other one, but it was full of life. I came back hollowed out, a husk, my soul left behind in that shimmering illusion of love and other things.

My father’s unit changed and he had to move to Cabanatuan City, and this new city was anything but. It ran on one long road, small buildings on either side and would have endless fields of rice for miles. But it offered bigger skies, brighter stars, and fresher air. It was as well and good and as relaxing as you make it to be.

There are many more things I can write about cities, about my city, my grandmother’s city, the cities I would like to go to and fall in love with but I won’t. I do not wish to spoil and ruin my memories of the place by writing about it as many times I have.

I have big city dreams; I can’t live forever here in this hill station of a city. I need the rush of the city, its fullness of life, its progressions, and my heart keeping in rhythm with the tempo of the city. I need a good, loud city; that when it does anything when its people do anything, they do it loudly. I’m sick of this silence, this quiet retirement home city, I need the fires kept alive by the glowing embers of streetlights, that orange glow of life — that golden symbol of progress.