Only a beautiful city can repair a broken heart. After having been turned away from my alma mater and missing the opportunity to bid my students adieu and congratulate them on successfully completing high school, I took my loneliness out for a walk.
As usual, most of the crying was done on the train and by the time I reached the last station upon which I was to alight, I wasn’t sure if coming all this way was worth the effort. I risked disappointment and foreignness and being in a city that was so cruel to so many of its inhabitants. I boarded a jeepney, wary and out of sorts–but somehow, Manila embraced me in a way I didn’t ever think possible–especially in broad daylight, when the city itself showed its own scars.
There we were, two vulnerable souls, each seeking refuge in the other. Thank you, Manila, for your quiet streets filled with birdsongs and bridges that lead me back to myself.
The Manila Post Office seen from Jones Bridge by way of jeepney.
My grandparents met at the Post Office when they were younger and that’s when my grandfather claims to have noticed this beautiful, shy woman who would later become his wife. When I see this building, I miss them a lot and I remember the many times we drove past this bridge when they were still alive. They would brighten up at the sight of this building–even in their late eighties.
The Manila Cathedral seen from its side.
You walk along these streets and you remember for a moment that once upon a time, Manila was the Pearl of the Orient. Its architecture and its people were cosmopolitan and though today we’re wont to say that this feels a lot like another place, I’ve finally come to be proven wrong. This is exactly what Manila ought to feel like–beautiful, opulent and still, very much our own. The ambulance was also a dead give-away of my state of mind.
One of the older buildings in Intramuros that’s fenced and appears ready for demolition.
The birds sing loudest in empty spaces where the threat of man is so remote. They don’t sing sad songs and I love that when I was lonely, an even lonelier building cheered me up because of the life it allowed to flourish within itself. Reminds me of the true meaning of giving. Assuming the edifice felt anything, it would long to be whole again, to be used–but instead, it is seemingly at peace, giving birds a place to live, a place to sing. No matter how sweet the song, the birds can never repay the building–kindness without a cost.
The food was wonderful. It’s the kind of home-cooked set of meals you hope to arrive at after taking your loneliness for a walk. From across the table where I sat, I could see the San Agustin Church and I still recall the many field trips and school visits we would have that had this lot as our marker.
The former Philippine Constabulary.
Set against the backdrop of Cumulus clouds at sunset and paired with the moon looking over us all, this scene was quite dramatic. I had come to witness some theater based on historical events…more on that next time but for now, this. How could any theater outdo this sky?
San Agustin Church at nightfall.
It was Palm Sunday, after all. I had waited months for this day to come, for a completely different set of reasons. I was excited for my young ones–as I still am–but instead got served a heavy dollop of disappointment. Regardless, perhaps more than the joy of commencement, something can be said about going back home?
I knew my Holy Week would be meaningful when I found myself in San Agustin, attending mass spontaneously. Sometimes the Spirit calls and I don’t listen as much as I ought to–but as always, instead of punishing me, I am just led back home when I am most broken.