Aside from the raging buses and jeepneys on Taft Avenue, the sun gave no mercy to the sidewalk vendors and pedestrians who sometimes, if not often, intentionally not use the proper crossing lane. And I am no exemption to that.
It was break time. As usual, I went out to get some food while Gael and Allaine were researching in the library. This is my perennial problem and quest every Saturday, because the food inside the university is not friendly to my diet. Hence I need to spend the supposedly two-hour consultation time of my class looking for a reasonable and decent meal with no slaughtered animal on it, because more often than sometimes, hopia and turon will be my snack if I choose to stay in the campus.
As I cross to Rizal Park, I was reminded of the Facebook page that I saw last night. They featured people of Taft Avenue, some were students and the others were vendors. I got interested in their stories, specifically with the statement of the woman whom they shared last February 14, 2017. I suppose that they asked her about what she will do on the 14th that is why she answered “My plan this Valentine’s Day is to take my parents out to dinner and then snuggle with my cat and then go out and get really really drunk.” This left me with a question, what I am supposed to do this coming week? Well, this is another untimely meditation considering that anytime I can be hit by any of these pedestrians or some reckless drivers if I do not focus on where I walk.
When I reached the other side, I had no expectation of what to buy. Simply because I know that banana cue and camote cue were the only popular food on these streets. I tried to stay away from those choices due to the thick coating of sugar on each product. Not that I think that those were not delicious—believe me, they taste crazily good especially when I have no other options—but I am worried of how many times they got fried within the day or the days before.
I was too engrossed with my thoughts. I did not even notice that I was already on Kalaw Street in front of the Methodist Church. Suddenly, I remembered that there was a bookseller somewhere near here, Kuya Mario. He lays down his books on the streets near Adamson, so I went there expecting that I will be able to get some good addition to my book haul.
Kuya Mario was not yet there. When I checked my watch, it was just half past 10. He normally arrives at around 11 a.m. to 12 noon. I decided to walk around. Along Kalaw Street, I saw two white vans with a red Ñ going to the direction of the Old Instituto Cervantes. That’s the Spanish Language and Culture School here in the Philippine. With much curiosity, I followed the vans.
The two vans stopped in front of the Cinematheque Centre Manila and some people with “PASINAYA” printed on their shirts when out. I stood in front of the Casino Español, around less than 30 meters from them, to observe what they will be doing next. Then someone patted me at the back, a bald guy wearing black eyeglasses. He asked me if I was interested to get inside Cinematheque, because they were celebrating the opening of Pasinaya 2019 and that there was an exhibit inside. I agreed to his invitation without even asking for his name.
There was a registration table inside. Young men and women were there. I even noticed that when I arrived, they started to point to one another who will be guiding me towards that exhibition. I just pretended not to hear them. After filling out the form, I immediately proceeded to the corridor.
Honestly, I am not a fan of movies, especially the old ones. Though occasionally, I watch love stories or psychological films—and that just made my statement ironic.
Just beside the registration booth, I saw a medal. At first, I thought it was the usually Filipino amulet, but after taking a closer look at it, it contained that logo of the national artist. Then one guy went to me and said, “That’s the medal of Lamberto Avellana, National Artist for Film. If you will notice, around it are some of his trophies.” I thanked him with a smile and a nod. He pointed to my left side. There were life-size statues of people and some machines, I think.
I went near the figures to read their names. All of them were National Artists and directors. Lino Brocka was the only one familiar to me, though I haven’t watched any of his films.
My stomach sounded. I almost forgot that I need to get something to eat. Before leaving the place, I quickly looked at the machine that I saw from a far view earlier. They were actually cameras and editing devices. There was a guy who told me that he can demonstrate how the machines worked but I politely refused and said that I needed to go because of my next class.
I checked my phone for a time. It was 11:07. I called my friend and classmate for the next class, Gael, to ask her to have lunch. She agreed and told me to meet her in SM Manila after 10 minutes.
Our original plan was lunch, but we ended up having coffee. I had no problem with that, in fact, I just needed something to fill my stomach. We stayed in Costa Café. And because caffeine is a good starter for a conversation, I took the chance to ask her about what she was reading at the moment.
“As usual, the reading requirements in our class, but I also tried to start the ones that you gave me last week. You know, sometimes, having a friend like you is not beneficial. I just asked you for a book which I need for my paper, but you gave me nine books. So, I have no choice but to read it all. Well, that can also be a good thing, because I know that you don’t like to talk with people who don’t read. I don’t know with you! But when it comes to Arnie, you don’t care whether she reads or not.” she ranted. I smiled and took a sip of my hot chocolate.
After our coffee session we decided to drop by the Books from Underground, that bookshop in the underpass of Manila City Hall, before going back to our class. AJ Laberinto was its owner.
We enjoyed visiting that place for some good reasons. For me, because there were so many books to choose from at a friendly price and AJ is always ready for intellectual discussions about history, literature, literary criticism, philosophy and more. Moreover, I even remember getting here a signed copy of Carlos Fuentes’ Old Gringo for only P150. Who would even imagine excavating such gem under this tunnel of the metro? For my classmates, they love the review that AJ gives whenever they buy a book. They even say that it seems like your reading Goodreads when you talk with him.
We walked from SM Manila to the underpass. As we were getting close to the bookshop, I saw that it was close. I turned to Gael and said, “I forgot, they open the shop at 3pm.”