Post-Valentine reflections on the streets of Manila at night

A view of Roxas Boulevard from CCP

She broke her promise to be with me today, but still, I am in no position to complain. Yes, we might have spent the night of Valentine’s together in a coffee shop, with her ranting about her feelings and how he treated her, but at the end of the day, it was still him.

We have agreed to meet at Plaza Salamanca. That place near the Methodist Church along Taft Avenue which was established to commemorate the pioneer female medical doctor of the country, Olivia Salamanca.

Though I had the feeling that she would not show up, because over the past two days that I was trying to reach her, no calls nor messages were answered, I still played along with our supposed plan. Sometimes, if not often, this is my problem: I know for a fact that something will not happen, but I will still take my odds on things.

The bus was near the Cultural Center of the Philippines when I received her message that she was cancelling our meeting. I replied plainly, okay. Besides, there was nothing more I could do, because the power for fulfilling her promise lay within herself.

General Vicente Lim’s statue in front of the CCP

I was hurt, and confused about what to do next. So I got off the bus when it reached Vito Cruz, in front of General Vicente Lim’s statue. The general with the binoculars seemed to be keeping an eye on what was in front of him, CCP. One of the so called monumental histories left by Ferdinand Marcos. From a personal perspective, I thought that the general wanted me to look at it, so as to remind the future generations, that our generation, that another dictatorship may be on the rise, if we do not choose our leaders carefully, just like what happened during the dark days of Martial Law.

I walked leisurely, not heading in any definite direction. She was still on my mind. That time of us in the coffee shop seemed to be a movie that has been playing since then. I can still see those tears which hit me like bullets. Every sob of her and gasp for air still felt like a thunder in front of me, ready to release its destructive lightning at any moment. Her vulnerability then gave me strength, strength and confidence to comfort her, but I gave no actions to my thoughts and feelings. That night, I just sat in front of her, listening and watching a precious young woman whose beingness was torn apart by her “man” who was an apologist of the dictator.

I did not notice that I’d gone so far due to my contemplation on things, or shall I say, because she kept on bothering my mind.

Maximo V. Soliven’s statue along Roxas Boulevard

On my side was another statue. A guy was standing with arms crossed and with a typewriter on top of his table. I immediately assumed that he was a writer. It was later confirmed, when I read the inscription on the marker and saw the name of the newspaper beside him. He was Maximo Soliven, a journalist, which reminds me that I just met his wife a few months ago at one of the book launches I attended in Makati.

I started to look around and, even before taking a step away from where I was, I easily recognized the place by smell. I was near Manila Bay.

If my memory serves me right, last month was the hype about the cleanup of this area. Then, some people—at least those who were on my friends list—started to associate it with the incumbent, that he was the only President who was able to mobilize the people to clean it, and so on and so on. And I to find out I found that problematic, for a few good reasons.

First, when I searched the internet if there were other people who cleaned Manila Bay aside from this administration, there were a lot of articles featuring NGOs and different sectors who have been doing it yearly.

Second, because the administration was praised due to this “excellent idea” to clean Manila Bay and some people claimed that we should all credit it to the President, a simple question arose in my mind: Where was the President when the cleaning happened? Shouldn’t the people receive all the thanks for their effort and not the President?

Finally, I am doubtful of the purpose of the undertaking. Was it genuinely for the nature or the there is something that we need to look forward soon? Who knows?

I decided to continue my stroll along the Bay, because I thought that with this, I might be able to get rid of my thoughts about her, at least for the time being.

A few meters away from Soliven’s statue was another guy. I don’t know, but I found their juxtaposition funny, because the other guy was reading a newspaper. At first, I thought that he was reading the newspapers from the other statue, which was really impossible.

Arsenio H. Lacson’s statue along Manila Bay

The other statue was of Arsenio Lacson, another journalist, a former congressman and mayor of Manila. It reads on the table beside him that “Lacson became highly popular, result if his radio show called “This Corner,” where he delivered social and fiery political commentary.” And that was interesting to me.

Neither Soliven nor Lacson were familiar to me. This was my first encounter with them. I can even say that, because they are both dead, I just met them after they died, which appears to be a good play on words.

I was getting accustomed to the smell of the Bay when I heard some kundiman music playing from across the street. So I crossed to see what was there, aside from the fountain which seemed to be similar to the one in Luneta Park, though this one did not have any movement which might appear like a dance.

There weren’t much people around the fountain. As I was expecting, there was a big speaker behind it, and that was playing the music. I went around it, but I found nothing interesting. I heard one of the fountains that changed color depending on the mood of the song.

Paintings beside the fountain in front of Manila Bay

When I was about to leave, I saw something on the right side of the street, a few steps away from the fountain.

Paintings were lined up for sale. I asked the guy manning the paintings if he was the painter, but he replied no. He even added that he was just an agent for the agency that hires painters. At a reasonable price, the paintings might be a good buy for those who want to decorate their homes with these artworks. But I am not the kind of person; I would rather have my house filled with books.

Finally, when I was ready to go, I saw someone familiar walking on the street. I couldn’t be wrong about who she was. I was certain this time, but, she was with him. I did not know what to do, if I should confront her or just leave. I wrestled with myself about whether I would tell her that, after everything that guy did, she still had the courage beyond reason in taking him back. I wanted to talk to her. Remind her of the pain caused by that guy. Bring her into my arms again to make her feel safe, she broke her promise to be with me today, I am in no position to complain. G



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