It was my first day of school, which was perhaps the fifth for my classmates. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the class. Perhaps because I was not as narrowminded as usual. Perhaps because it was a great motley of old and new faces. Perhaps because I encountered Rumi, Jorge Luis Borges, Shirley Jackson, Anais Nin, Aida Rivera Ford, Estrella Alfon among the usual multitude of William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and Guy de Maupassant. Perhaps because like a freshman, I took pleasure in the usual antics of my professor.
After school, under the soft afternoon light, I walked the familiar street—past P del Rosario and its vendors and pedestrians—and indulged in a different pleasure downtown—La Belle Aurore, a bookshop that offers intimacy. While browsing, my head swayed with the euphony of Bach, Handel, or was it Wagner?
And it was amusing to see a basket for “Christmas Gift: A Love Letter to Stranger,” a project propagated by a poet friend. JB the owner—who personally manned their newest branch—shared that Cindy dropped by that morning.
I encourage everyone to join. Who knows, you—imaginary reader—can make someone happy with pure words. Address the letter to a balot vendor, a kargador, a cancer patient, a street kid. Prove it to yourself or to others that words are far from being dead, that words do not only exist on text messages, Facebook, email, yes, blog. Write a love letter. Yes, to a stranger. Ted Talk’s Hanna Brencher’s love letters to strangers must propel you to join.
I picked “The English Patient” since I gave my copy away to a friend at work—for her to read one of the most poignant love stories ever written. Because, again, the saddest love stories are the most beautiful. But P does not agree. For him, the saddest love stories are the most moving, not the most beautiful. (For more La Belle Aurore pictures, visit my photo blog.)
Then I indulged in the fried chicken across from Copytrade. It has been three years since I had their juicy chicken breast.
Then Colon. It is in its most crowded in December. The streets are flooded with hagglers, Christmas shoppers, sock vendors, pirated DVD vendors, lovers, sim card sellers, locksmith, whetters, and yes, snatchers. The fruit sold in the alley between BestBuy and a restaurant looked more vibrant and juicier.
The street led me to Sto. Niño. Inviting poinsettias circled a Christmas made from white stars. Since I arrived earlier than intended, I checked the park surrounding Magellan’s Cross, where 03B used to pass over. Black birds, galansiyang I suspect because of their hoots, gradually arrived on the trees to perch for the coming night. The city tourism office parceled out rice, sardines, junk food, and balloons to the candle vendors. Some Ms. Cebu candidates wore five-inch wedges and makeup for the event.
Upon hearing the good news, the people from the small neighborhood by the basilica swarmed the area.
The policemen asked me if I was a Filipina. I denied it for the first time because I’ve always been mistaken as other variations of Asians in my trips. He warned me to be careful with my things.
I got back inside and waited for the Christmas lights to be lit. The 5:30 mass just started. And when the priest signaled “Himaya didto sa langit,” all lights lit up. It momentarily wowed me. Its extravagance sank later. When the women in yellow with their sibot arrived, I entertained the thoughts—if nobody donates, what happens to the church? Instead of donating to the church, why not directly buy a burger, a sweetcorn, bread for the poor, for the street dwellers?” Isn’t this act more admirable?
I left Sto. Niño with these thoughts and rode a jeepney to Fuente Osmeña. With the roundabout, it always needs courage to cross the street and enter the Circle. Perhaps one of the unsightly overpasses about the city can be put to real use here. The Christmas tree looked different up close. Diamonds and parols alternated. Sto. Niño stood on a big diamond.
The Circle did not look and feel notorious once I got in, but it does when I see it from the jeepney or from Robinson’s overpass. Seeing it from the outside is one of my daily interludes.
Fuente Circle is in its most humane in December. It has kids. It has parents looking at their kids looking at the Christmas Tree. It has magic wand, puffer ball sellers.
Getting out and crossing the street was not as scary as getting in. I walked to Abuhan Dos for our post-climb dinner/meeting. Mt. Talinis is, by far, the most beautiful trek I have ever experienced.
Over two huge bowls of pocheros, we reminisced about the scenery, the experience, the lakes, the peak, the biting cold of the early evening, the moonlit campsite. Everytime we remembered a funny scene from the trek, we broke into laughter.
We called it a night. I boarded 03B. The Christmas lights glimmered down the sides and middle of the streets. When I reached Metro Colon, the night market on the left was tempting. I got off, looked around, bought a pair of knee socks for the next major climb, talked with the sock sellers who came from Marawi, and ate pungko-pungko. I went home with an ever bloated tummy.
Saturdays are now saved for purposeful strides along the half-remembered, half-forgotten city streets.