Monday, October 31


I wish I can say I was an overworked city boy who needed the break, but alas - the most valid wear and tear I can protest is a bad back; not, sadly, from grueling manual labor but from a combination of (1) bad posture, (2) aversion to pillows, and (3) the type of baggage one cannot check in. Ha ha. And so when, after five days of gallivanting in Mindanao, a sheep-voice announced via the airport's PA system that my flight back to Manila was canceled because of "issues" (self-esteem? series of bad partners? turning 30?), I felt tired, but not really and, lining up to check in at the hotel the airline assigned us, I gave myself a mental kick in the shins to the tune of "There is nothing/no one waiting for you in Manila," and "This is actually nice."

It was actually nice.

But it is not as if the Five Blissful Days began with bliss: while waiting for my boarding call, my name was ordered to report to the nearest gate. My heart, naturally, pounded and my mind raced with explanations, only to be asked, nicely, if I was willing to move to another seat as weight distribution on the plane was unequal (as if one's 160 lbs - give or take - was enough to tilt aircraft to one side). The next five days went by in a daze, and if one was to assign a focal point to the blink-like pace in which it passed, it would be the divan. Our divan. From where we looked on to the verdant mountain slopes beyond. Where I gave Philline a foot massage after she cooked a veritable fiesta on our last night. Where we read on opposite sides. Where we, I hope, came to the type of conlclusions one arrives at only from a certain vantage point, i.e., distant.

This is distance: wild tango music, wide wooden floor boards that obediently creak, high ceilings, chandeliers, worn-out rugs, a chaise longue or two. This is distance: the smell of durian, a riot of stars (copyright Roger Garcia), a firefly in hand, mayas pecking at leftover rice on the table.

Five days hence, I have three new shirts, four new books, and the priceless memory of traipsing through steep, muddy slopes, after bathing in a tub no bigger than a dining table, where Philline had to tell me to lean my head back while she poured and poured until no suds remained, where she and Roger sang - in total plakado fashion - Separate Lives, and I realized, half-naked and dripping wet, this is not bad.

And here is our nice, little family for five days: "a perfect cast." On the plush chair, Lina Sagaral Reyes, whose poem was an item in the final exam of a Philippine literature course I took last year. On the morning when we left, she told me how that poem came to be, complete with girlish giggles, a gift among a trove that included a signed book, some gossip, and a casual inquiry whether I was willing to return and maybe stay a little longer next time.

1 comment: