manila skyline

By: Maan “Maggie” Villar

rainy day makati
You know how what you are reading relates so much to your realities, like where you are with your life at present? It’s weird. I’m reading Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a softbound copy my dad bought me and at the same time A Picture of Dorian Gray by the great Oscar Wilde, a digital edition I downloaded to my trusty tablet. Perfect combination, a killer combination – this is the reason why I reflect on life too much these days.

Last night, before going to get a few hours of snooze time, I stopped at Kundera’s lines: “A person who longs to leave the place where he lives is an unhappy person”. It sent me chills to my spine and felt the thrust of the words. I moved here to the city with my big suitcases because I was unhappy, I was on a dead end in my comfort zone, I was going nowhere, I was stuck in the four walls of my room watching reruns of movie after movie and eating ice cream, stuck with my friends who had their own lives to live anyway and stuck in hiding away from the fright of my biggest dreams. I was numbed by the pain and the fear that I had to really pull myself up from the lowest of my low and gather up all the courage and strength that I could to pack my things, get a job, ride that bus and settle in. Whatever happened in my old zip code gave me the will to start over and a drive to finally to shoot for the stars. Little by little, I made new friends; I got used to the crazy schedule, built up a good credit and savings in the bank and finally felt happy seeing where my life is heading.

Moving out meant my first steps to adulthood, see… I have had a very sheltered life, if that’s what you call it. I am an only child. We had maids in our house and I never had to worry about money, food on the table, laundry and someone opening the door when I get to the door almost passed out from alcohol. I had all the necessities and luxuries I wanted with just one word or command (probably why I’m an A-type personality). Our family also experienced hardship when our business failed which is why I dream, and I dream big and really go for it, I am not used to not getting what I want, you see. This is a big adjustment for me.

  • I have to make sure I don’t leave my keys, access cards and IDs at home because that would really ruin my day, it would make my head somewhere you could fry eggs in.
  • I have to worry about bills, I have to make sure that I budget wisely and constantly go to the bank to make sure my finances are built up
  • I have to think about my laundry and if my toiletries if all bottles and supplies are still okay because it would take a good amount time and money to visit the department store for all that and I don’t ever want to run out of the bare essentials – panties and bras.
  • I have to make sure I always have enough money for a taxi ride just in case I would not be sober enough for the buses or trains or probably because I am not fresh enough to ride them the next morning.
  • I have to eat my meals on time and on a budget, 7-eleven and Family Mart would be your best friends because they are everywhere and they are budget friendly, they have the necessary grub and necessities – microwaveable meals, cold water, cigarettes, shampoos, hair pins, ball point pens, magazines and energy bars.
  • I have to worry about saving up for membership at the gym, enrollment for June, law school expenses, and many other future expenses that you have to think about today just so you’re prepared. (This is my control freak self speaking.)
  • I have to have extra shoes in my bag since I have to chase after buses and be pushed around in the trains during rush hour.
  • I have to have a pillow, blankets, toiletries and an extra dress in my office so that I would not hesitate to sleep in for an overtime or for a tight schedule or even just to enjoy the AC.

Many other details, lo and behold, my being an adult.

Moving out also meant getting used to spending a lot of time alone, which is not a problem for me since being an unica hija meant that I was left alone to play with the company only of a few toys and my imagination. I just can’t call on a friend random times of the day or when the schedule fits because they too are busy being adults, it’s either they’re on a date, still in the office or back at home with their families. The corporate animals they are. Alone time meant eating most of my meals alone, commuting alone, sniffing the pages of old books at the bookstore alone, and the ultimate peak of alone time, watching a movie alone and hitting a bar by yourself.

Today is one of those days.

Everyone flurried out of Manila off to their hometowns for Mother’s Day and Election Day. When you are a single and independent woman, you really get to appreciate the meaning of these occasions. It puts a smile on my face while I gaze out the glass of Krispy Kreme to see mother’s scurrying around the mall with a big bouquet of blooms on their hands while chasing after little tots on Mother’s Day or while driving around with my friend while accompanying him to vote as he declares that he would not vote for Mrs. Binay all because he “doesn’t want another Caramel Macchiato” holding office and he said this after we got coffee from a Starbucks drive-thru which made it extra funny.

I’m still in yesterday’s clothes today, a hangover form a night of drinking and a huge workload on me that I was getting burned out from it all. I just close my laptop, turn off my tablet and my phone which is dead on the batteries anyway, my books and notebook, dumped it all in my big bag and felt the need to walk it off and take a few drags on my cigarette. The rain suddenly poured as I was trying to light my cigarette with a defective lighter, perfect timing. With me being not a huge fan of umbrellas, I traipsed around the Makati streets, raining and all, in my short floral skirt, a big red bag filled with electronics and books (a big bag full of stress) and my favorite hand bag. I felt so tired already. I came from work the day prior to today, took the train to get to UP, drank Jim Beam and coke in a friend’s flat, slept a few hours in the office, did my research work slash journal reading and planned the days ahead on my journal – I have been up and running for hours on end and my make-up is smudgy, my hair all over the place and I don’t have perfume on me. I had to get out of the rain.

I ended up in a noodle shop in the bustling pockets of Makati – a noodle shop. It reminds me of Mr. Man who at his time is caught up in his office getting big contracts signed – he is a big fan of noodles and got me to the habit recently. I wish he was here with me but my phone is dead and I can’t just barge in his office wet and smudgy from the rain. I just sat in the noodle shop alone, I might look like a sad vision to the people around, they might think I’m some poor girl with no umbrella who just found out her boyfriend was cheating on her with her officemate. That is so sad, but I’m just a workaholic cum busy person, with a head buzzing from a hangover, wanting refuge from the rain and finding the inspiration to write about the whole shenanigan. I want to write! But, the noodle shop has no outlets for their patrons, my trusty tablet is at 2%, my laptop is dead, my phone dead and I am left with my battered down notebook and blunt pencil in order for me to get the words down.

The house tea is served and I begin to write. I realized, this is the first time I’m writing in Manila on a rainy day. The atmosphere is nostalgic, the interiors minimalist and the conversations around me are hushed and in Mandarin or Fukien which I don’t understand, I feel like I am in Binondo or Hong Kong and to make my alien self more alien to these people, I’m the only one with big eyes and I’m acting like some elementary kid from years ago scribbling down on a tattered notebook with a blunt pencil.

The noodles were perfectly firm, the beef melts in your mouth and the vegetables are fresh and crunchy. The house tea is warm and tastes like earth, pair it with the gray skies and the falling rain, this is the fuel for me to write and write and write even more. I even want to sketch the scene, it is so quaint and quiet and warm, I want to rush home after filling myself with the ambience so I can put out my blue sketch book and put my hands and my imagination to work. Had Mr. Man been here, we would be enjoying the hot bowl of noodles and talking about our gossip, foreign policy, economy or whatever comes up by now. Or I would be staring into his immaculate handsome face the whole afternoon.

I just had the perfect rainy afternoon by myself today — writing all these, reading a book, sipping hot soup, eating firm noodles and the melt-in-your-mouth goodness of the beef and sipping earthy tea. I just wanted to say Mr. Kundera that I am not an unhappy person anymore, even if I left the place where I once lived.



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