05 10 / 2014
I woke up today thinking about Zamboanga. I miss my hometown.
It’s probably the Fiesta photos on Facebook and Instagram that elicit this nostalgia of colors and vibrancy. It could also be status updates about parties and get-togethers after work or school. I know that for the whole month of October, especially on the first two weeks, the schedule in the city is erratic. Everybody is somehow thinking of the Fiesta; whether it’s the annual procession leading to the Fort Pilar Shrine or the preparations and celebrations at business establishments, in the streets or at home.
It could also be all these Chavacano posters, video presentations or simply the status updates in my mother tongue. They remind me of the Chacavano Song Festival obscurely shown on either RPN or IBC network. Young and old compete (in Lantaka, always in Lantaka Hotel) then Former Mayor Maria Clara, herself immortalized by her very own Mi Ciudad de Zamboanga (aside of course from her ternos), would announce and award the singers and songwriters.
ABS CBN would also always come out with a weekend special, a sort of synthesis of the revelry. Normally, it would be shot at Fort Pilar, the National Museum or Pasonanca among others. I remember Irene Covarrubias (who for me still did the best delivery among local anchors) and Lynette Marcos (a gracious and beautiful lady who screened and interviewed me for a local award in 2007) hosting this feature at one point. If you missed on some events, because obviously there was still no Facebook annoucnements at that time and if I’m not mistaken posters were scarce and less flamboyant, you could see what happened and who won what in this television program. Actually, if you are lucky, I remember IBC or Skycable airing some of the events real time.
While I may not have witnessed the streetdance— one of the biggest highlights— every year, my parents would always bring me to the open market at the former Main High School campus (now housing the beautiful Bangko Sentral building) leading up to the Acacia-lined and historical street of Petit Barracks. I have a theory that the reason why I love the weekend markets in Salcedo and Legazpi is because as a kid, every October, I was exposed to something similar (aside of course from the yearly AdZU Fiesta which will be another journal).
There were all sorts of food and novelty items: Fiesta shirts, toys, balloons, shades, jewelry, china, clay products and many more. They also seemed to have come from everywhere! One, most of the businessmen don’t speak Chavacano and two; a lot of the products I saw were not from my hometown. I don’t know who organized and put them all together there but I know that it was one of those treats I looked forward to every year. It was noisy, crowded and festive! I am such a nerd as a kid and having read up on barter, merchants and locals converging in one place, I’ve always imagined that this activity outside the Fort Pilar shrine was something like that. It was a history-in-the-making bustle and I was a part of it. I did enjoy choosing and getting what I wanted and what was permitted which was mostly food and cheap sunnies or wristwatches but I will honest in saying that I was an observer who imagined a lot. I saw the businessmen as modern-day travelling merchants, selling their goods to curious locals. In my mind, they still wore colorful tunics and were exotic and foreign travelers and their boats were docked on the nearby shoreline (which is now the Paseo del Mar complex). Of course they probably arrived in Zamboanga by bus or really old ships like Sulpicio or one of those less popular MVs but well, I indulged myself with this imagination.
I’ve often branded myself as a citizen of the world instead of one specific town or province or country. I think it is mainly because of that incessant desire to discover more of humanity in general by experiencing culture and history and exploring the diversity of places. But I will admit that my birthplace will always be special. It’s not only because that’s where my family is based, where old, close friends come from or where some of the most unforgettable memories happened. It’s because all that I am now as a young man was shaped by my experiences back home. They were all not dulce, but it’s precisely that phalanx which gives me a better understanding of myself and my views.
I miss home and the current festivity. I miss this reminder of my childhood and wild dreams. But home has and will always be with me. Home tells me the right thing to do. Home dictates me where I should be. Home continues to make me dream. Home constantly reminds me to look back and be grateful.
14 7 / 2014
I am fond not just of writing but specifically writing to my friends. Lately, I have been trying to compile my email exchanges with one of my mentors, Mr. Simon Mossesgeld, since the time that I was a graduating college student in 2006-2007. I promised to him that I will print them so we can all laugh at how I was about five to six years ago. I promised him this after telling him that I accidentally read one or two of our exchanges while looking for an old email recently. My emails revealed how clueless, anxious and hilarious I was as a kid a long time ago.
Then I saw this letter which I sent to one of my college friends Henry. This was in 2009. I was 22 and have been working in Manila as a young professional for almost three years. This was also months before I was going to do a solo Southeast Asian trip.
Some views have changed, I think mainly because I have grown and have had much more experience and learning. But it’s a good feeling to look back, see how far you’ve gone, laugh at many things and just be grateful.
On Fri, May 15, 2009 at 11:49 AM
I just thought it has been a long time since we last went out with the group! I was answering your Fishing Trip questionnaire last night and I can’t seem to remember what my impression of you was. I think I just looked at all of you as competition. Yea, that was probably what I thought during that sunny afternoon at Silsillah.
Can you believe it, we’re finally done with college. I would never have imagined how this day would be like.
I’m stuck in the office right now, the weather’s greyish and I guess it’s drizzling. And I’m quite sure that it’s a bit hot and humid in Zamboanga; as warm and as bright as the friends and family that have been keeping you company, while I am imbued in the occasional gloominess of being left alone in Manila away from my family and dear friends such as MR, you and my best friend Marc.
I have often thought of going back there. But I have no idea on what to do if I’m going back. I know I have always wanted to get out, explore the world, that this is what I want and the way I saw myself but there are times like this that you wish you’re just there.
If I didn’t leave, I’d probably be teaching in Ateneo or working in a government office. Can you imagine? I think it’s a hilarious thought. But if you come to think about it it’s also insane that I work in a bank at present.
You know what I think? I think my parents are having a hard time because their son is not with them. As a family, we are not cheesy when we express our love and concern for each other. But I know that if the opportunities in Zamboanga are as vast and accessible as those here, my parents would have wanted me to stay. I must say that they were very selfless in understanding that I want something else. They have always been supportive and this causes more melancholy because I know how much they value me, my brother and our family.
Right now, I do not see myself being as sacrificing as my parents when it comes to the children I dream of having when the right time comes. I don’t know if I’d have the strength to let go of them and let them discover on their own how it is to be independent.
I remember my first month of job hunting. I wasn’t familiar yet with public transportation and the routes. It was exhausting to be travelling the entire day from one business district to another, from one company headquarters to another! And I know I looked like an applicant because of the folders and the transparent envelopes where I keep copies of my resume, 2x2 photographs and paper clips. I felt overly disappointed with GMA 7 because they have this transparent drop box for their applicants’ resumes that was placed beside the Wish ko Lang dropbox at the guardhouse. It was inappropriate to see people’s sacred 2x2 pictures and resumes scattered inside the box. My friend from AYLC and I just laughed over it.
Did I also mention that I applied for PAL as Flight Attendant and passed (Believe it or not, I did!)? But BPI’s offer was better at that time so I opted to be a Management Trainee.
Two years and a few months forward, I’m here, sending my thoughts to you.
I am truly blessed with a dependable and reliable team. Hell week for us is every end of the month. You know what I have learned as far as dealing with the clients is concerned? You just have to be very honest and direct about procedures, policies and things to be done. It helps to put yourself in the client’s shoes but you have to make sure that you also compel them to be in your shoes and look at things from your perspective. It becomes like a two-way thing and that’s where agreement usually emerges. I think the same thing applies in general, not just in Customer Servicing and Collections— two positions I have handled so far.
I remember Ma’am Yen, my Department Chair in college who said that in life, people who success are not often times those who are smartest, but those who have drive. And I agree Hens. But I’ve learned that you have to constantly feed this drive. If I’m too tired sometimes, the motivation wanes. When I go through this, I have to struggle with finding the lost motivation and get it back. I wonder if we’ll reach a point in our lives when we don’t have to do this, that the inspiration won’t be like a trapped pet, that when it sees an opportunity to escape, it would.
Something exciting is going to happen to me this end of August and first week of September and I hope to be able to tell you about it.
cc: Marc <missin’ Zambo like you man>
09 7 / 2014
I probably have about a dozen drafts for my write-up to this album. But none doesn’t feel right or seem accurate enough to describe what I saw and how I felt. The situation has improved though. From about 100 thousand internally displaced persons, the number is down to 25,550 individuals or 4,775 families as of June 30. 67% of these individuals and families are in the ‘Grandstand’ (Joaquin Enriquez Sports Complex). It is truly a gated, secluded community of harsh and desperate realities.
Like most of us, I am lucky. I am lucky to have not been born or exposed to extreme conditions like what the IDPs are going through. I am lucky to not have come from a marginalized group.
It could have been me. It could have been my family in one of those dilapidated tents or temporary shanties. It could have been me at the City Council building; enduring the scorching heat of the midday sun to queue for rice donations. I could have been that kid who, as usual, had no slippers or clothes while playing in a muddy, filthy street. I could have been one of those men asking for referral slips from Camp Managers so my sick family can be checked and attended at hospitals for free. I could have been that little boy, trying to make out of what paper and pencil are left to try to write or draw my thoughts. I could have been the one who was judged second class, mendicant, unproductive and hopeless. But I am lucky.
I wish I was a Vanderbilt so I could be like Anderson. Then I’d have my own news program where I can talk about the plight of the IDPs. Or maybe a Bunuel, so I can be like Diego who will feature how everyday life is in Grandstand. A crazier wish is to be one of Bill and Melinda’s children, so I won’t have to worry about earning and saving but will focus instead on professional philanthropy or social service work. Even the chance of thinking or wishing about these is sheer luck. I could be thinking and wishing for something simple and practical but I am lucky to have been privileged with these kind of imagination.
Among the lucky ones, those I consider heroes are the young and determined social workers. They choose to work for more hours than they should be working. They chose to live in tents where beds do not have mattresses or rest rooms are not comfortable. They chose the challenges at the evacuation center, dealing with thousands of needy individuals, than to go home and spend time with their respective families after a day’s work.
Like most of you, I am lucky in terms of the lottery of birth. But there are many who are not. It helps set things in perspective when we realize that we could not have been this fortunate. That if not for luck, they could have been in our shoes.
02 7 / 2014
It was raining when the plane landed at half past seven in the evening. This was unexpected Zamboanga City has always had some sort of a Middle-eastern vibe in terms of the weather. More importantly, I did not bring clothes for the cold.
As soon as I stepped out of the plane, there was something about the air that felt right. It was chilly, something that I am fond of. It didn’t smell anything as it gently brushed my face. It was pure. It was nostalgic. It felt that I was home.
There was nothing much at the arrival area of the airport. The lavishly designed iron gates still reminded me that this was built during the Marcos regime. The red brick design was not only old, Spanish-Zamboanga, it also reminded me of the airport in Laoag, Ilocos. The airport’s character, though, lies in its Maranao-inspired roof design. This tells anyone who comes to Zamboanga that they have reached Southern Philippines.
While Zamboanga used to be the seat of Spanish government, the fact remains that it is located in the culturally rich and diverse island of Mindanao. The entire edifice is a metaphor for me. The pillars, bricks and exquisite gates are the migrant influences that support the magnificent series of triangular roofing which may have been inspired by the Torogans of the Maranao upper class. The mix was well thought of. It was a promising picture of great elements put together to create a masterpiece.
As if to remind of the laid-back life that I awaits for the upcoming days, which is not a bad thing by the way, the same (or same-looking) set of conveyor belts brought back memories of flying back and forth to my hometown. I remember one time, it was also raining when it arrived. While waiting for our bags, we were informed that the conveyor was not working. All of our bags were still in the cart just outside the building and I can clearly see them on top of each other. Since the conveyor was just separated by an old wooden gate from the cart outside, the passengers rushed to the cart and every man was on his own. There was little assistance from the airport personnel, everyone grabbed their bags by themselves.
That incident reminded me of two things. First, we are not yet as advanced and efficient as we think we are compared with other highly urbanized cities like Cebu and Davao. I can only imagine several factors involved why that incident happened. Second, Zamboanga, while a big city with one of the highest population in the country, is still that “small” town where people don’t demand much and would rather do things on their own then move on with their life.
Maybe because we are too far from imperial Manila or people just don’t care a lot about the Southern Philippines but this sort of neglect (I think the airport is a national issue under DOTC) has taught us to improvise and make the most out of the resources available.
Sure we dread the reality that our airport is not as polished and efficient like the one in Davao and we are vocal about it. But I guess for many Zamboangenos, the basic is enough. And this is something that I always tell myself whenever I go home, that basic is key and I’m going to survive. I like this reminder because it makes me realize that no matter where I’m at, where I am going or whatever crazy circumstances that I’m in, focusing on what’s most important and essential gives clarity. Then I’d find myself thinking and feeling that everything is actually not bad as it seems.