Manila: On Occupying and Being Occupied.

NEB.My office building at twilight, shortly before we all left for the holiday break. We had to vacate our third floor premises some months ago to make room for renovations but we’ll be back in here soon.

Looking at it now, from the outside, standing across–on the intersection leading up to the main street and the outside world–I realize how much of this I take for granted.

It’s the same with the places we inhabit, I suppose. Our homes, our offices, our routes to and from work. All of these places, magical to those who only see it once or twice in their lifetimes, offer nothing to us but a tossed coin with either boredom or comfort on each side–never adventure or newness. Never a dose of uncertainty.

This of course, unlike the job itself which, after nine months, I can surely say has been more like six-sided dice and less like just a coin with two faces. Uncertainty is but one of the characteristics of this job but as I realized whilst transitioning from last year to this year, its nature made it very difficult to speak honestly about things as they were. Messaging is a tricky profession that’s all about giving credence to McLuhan’s ‘medium is the message.’ If you stay long enough in it though, attempting to immerse yourself in work, you’ll find, as I have, that becoming the message can completely drown out the essence of the medium. When I got wind of this and noticed myself changing, not necessarily for the worse but not for the better either, I turned to the joy of displacement and relished instead the fact that twice each day, I could move from one city to another taking in the calm familiarity of home and trading it in for the hustle and bustle of an old, wise, yet exciting Manila.

On some days, I don’t know why I work where I work but always, on the way home, passing these buildings, imagining how people had occupied them in various stages of their history, I decide to stay another day. One more day for one more train ride, one more jeepney ride, another glimpse of this beautiful city–at dusk, just before the world sleeps. This makes it all worthwhile.

 

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