I shy away from the crowd and try to make a run for it. Nobody’s going to bar me from going where I want to go, especially at this time of the century.
It’s Happy Half. That’s what the slick advertising people termed this celebration. Happy Half. Sounds like a take-out order at Jollibee’s, like a kiddie meal special or something. Happy half. It’s the middle of the century in the middle of the millennium, that’s why the Indochines said this is going to be such a lucky time for all of us people, feng shui-wise and all that. I don’t know. If it were lucky, how come their subcontinent is again enraged in civil war? Those darned Brits, never know when to stop re-conquering the old Pacific. That’s why I’m happy being a Europelan – no one left to conquer the continent. But as direct descendants of the second millennium’s Asian immigrants here in Europe, the usual “searching for your roots” thing bit me, like it bit others before me and others before them. You know, that diaspora thing they keep on discussing at the university. That’s why I’m doing this now. No other time but now.
My relatives think I’m nuts in trying to retrace our ancestry, but I really want to try. After all, I want to learn if Jollibee is the only good thing that ever came out of that old archipelago they called the Philippines. Stupid, they never entirely hooked up on the early beta testing of the web with the rest of the world. Now I have to go out there and discover the land for myself; no cyber database in this world stored enough real information about it. I wanted to see it for myself, at least once in this lifetime. Hey, it’s my birthday, and this is going to be my birthday video journal. Here goes.
Hi. My name is Jules. And no, I’m not a boy. See me.
It’s 2550 and I’m turning 25 in two days. Sweet age to be alive at this day and age. My quarter birthday of existence coincides with this crass, commercial event but I get all the tech stuff now – nationally assigned goodies like the eyecam, sonic security sensor, and of course the world passport. The eyecam is no big deal, really; my own WS-Eyesensorcam works better to detect visual assaults, but I will need the sonic sensor for pesky rapists who disable the sensors of my SRP Anti-Assault Necklace. What I’m grateful for is the passport, and my manga cum laude clinched the all-access feature. Yes, only the really brainy ones could be trusted with the world, I suppose. Or so they think. I can really, literally go anywhere now, and anytime. But I want to go to the present, the now, in the country of our origin.
Okay, goodies in tow. Now I can travel in style. Here I go.
Hi. This is Jules. Do you see me? Damn video should be capturing this.
My long, fine hair is still fine with all this traveling stuff, but the Coca-Cola figure suffers somehow. Ha-ha, Coca-Cola figure. How circa 19! A little holographic wardrobe change and I blend in with the natives, so to speak.
It’s 2550 and I find myself teleporting back to the Old Asian islands, or what’s left of it after the Brits, the Francs, the Spics and just about every damn Aryan tried to conquer every square kilometer. It’s just funny because these people want to own the other side of the world so bad while the people from that side of the world always leave and has moved to the other side of the world and is now living there. Poetic irony? Perhaps. Why don’t they just swap coastlines?
It’s 2550 but it sure feels like 2000 here. When they say Old Asian, I never imagined that they really meant old! In a fast scan, I see the whole area. They’re all here – some of what’s left of the old rice terraces, the lake within a volcano within a lake (or is it the other way around?), the mountain caves, the grass, the land, the plains, the garbage mountain, white sand beaches, everything. All here. It’s like a time capsule. The whole archipelago is a time capsule! I’ve never seen land like this – all soil. Back home, soil is a museum artifact. Concrete is the thing. But here, I don’t see much concrete. Or steel, at least the titanium kind. Where am I?
My mother’s cream-brown skin is a blessing as I roam around here undetected, them never knowing that I’m actually from another continent, the next generation mutant of the interracial kind. Not like them. Not as pure as them. They still have pure brown skin while mine has a bit of skin tanning in it. The Caucasian blotches really do me no good when they show, that’s why. I envy their color. Natural is the way to go.
Hi. I’m Jules. I turn 25 today and this is my birthday adventure. I discarded my last name because it is not mine. I may able to find its true owners here.
As I roam around, I wonder why the people here never gone with the European exodus way back in 2200. At that time, North America already banned us from immigrating there so there’s nowhere else to go but to Europe or Down Under. But these people, they chose to remain here. Look at them; it’s like a couple hundred years didn’t do them any good. Must be that old Pinoy trait of being stubborn, as my great grandfather used to tell me. He told me stories about townsfolk like them being devoured by lava and other volcanic spurts because they were too stubborn to believe the science folks about the big earthquake. Remember that church that got submerged after the perfect cone volcano erupted? Only the bell tower remained for a long time, and then another eruption finally did the trick – buried the whole church and the town along with it. Tragic. Same goes for the Ortigas epicenter mishap of 2307 – that intensity 10 earthquake reduced the whole business district to rubble. And the stubborn workforce didn’t even believe the forecasts. Too busy subscribing and liking fake news.
Now, some townsfolk are still here in these rural areas, languishing in this two season country and still tilling the land. Sugarcane all over this area I see now, rice fields on the other side from here to as far as the eye can see, but the people who till don’t own the land or the crops they harvest. It’s still a feudalistic society where the rich gets richer and the poor stays poor like the underground books said. A problem as old as the earth. Maybe they’re still hoping to claim what is theirs that’s why they’re not leaving. Maybe they didn’t have much of a choice back then, or even now. Maybe they didn’t know what was happening in the city centers during the time of the exodus. Maybe they did but the landowners blackmailed them to stay as land co-owners yet they still remained slaves. There never was justice in this land, and perhaps there never will be. A problem as old as the land will never be solved as long as the land is still here. And its owners. Like the books said.
Sigh. This is Jules, wondering why I am stepping on a ground that is still brown while back home, I step on a ground that is gray. Concrete. Here? Dust. Soil. Greens. Where am I? Ah, there’s a sign.
Didn’t they use to make coffee here, coffee that actually grew on plants that grew on the soil? Wow, nothing beats the natural thing. I hate hydro-haciendas. The Japs should be cursed for inventing them. I missed seeing roots planted on the ground, but the people here certainly didn’t. I don’t see any hy-hais here…
Let’s go to the city.
It’s 2550 and I’m in Manila, capital of the Philippines. Every century since the second millennium, the politicos have been shifting the capital from here to Cebu to Quezon City to Davao to Manila to Laoag and so on and so forth, depending on who’s president. Now, it’s Manila again. Some shmuck of a president—yet another actor—also proposed to rename the country, and I think that was the last straw for a lot of the old folks. Tsk.
It’s 2550 and I’m Jules and this is my video journal. I’m a quarter of a century old and I’m in a land where I should have been born. But that wasn’t the case. My parents are direct descendants of the first batch of Filipino immigrants in the 2200 exodus to Europe, where some of them gathered in the coldest section of the continent and started our race there. A new kind of Filipino-European community, or Europelan for short. I am an honest to goodness Europelan, made from 100 percent pure Pinoy love born in the European continent. So what does that make me?
Let’s retake that. Hi, this is Jules. I—I think I need an extra battery.
Hi, this is Jules and I’m 25 years old. I see a walled area that looks like European in design, but there are American establishments inside with lighted towering signboards. I feel that this area is older than my ancestors but the atmosphere is very modern. I wonder if the wall is the only thing old that’s left untouched here. The sign at the gate says Intramuros. Should I enter? Ugh, I see something familiar. Starbucks? Dang, I hate Starbucks. The towering signboards say
McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Jollibee, Starbucks (eech!), National Bookstore. I can’t see the small ones. The sign outside says Ayala Woodland Ridge. It’s an abandoned golf course full of shanties. Can you see it? Am I getting this?
I think I need to recharge the battery. Be back in 5.
Hi. This is Jules and I’m in Manila, Philippines. I’m turning 25 today and this is my video journal. Locking retina to remote CPU-relay scan, please download current memories of the past hours.
Hi, this is Jules and I’m in Manila, capital of the Philippines, land of my ancestors. I’m one of those university Europelans who got bit by the diaspora “search-for-your-heritage” bug, thanks to my girlfriend Angelina’s focus group discussions about this. Instant anthropology lesson here, documentation courtesy of my Warner-Sony equipment with little help from the government-issued Siemens gadgets. I love technology.
This is a video journal. It’s night and I’m magnifying the lux capacity of my WS Eyesensorcam in order to see the surroundings in this place they call Malate.
It’s dimly lit, as you can see, but wait a minute. Why the hell am I narrating this like a vintage Discovery Channel documentary? Ugh. Replace audio overlay.
Hi, this is Jules, and I’m recording stuff for posterity. Because life is a never ending series of expositions. Don’t look for any climax here. Well, at least not yet. Maybe.
Dude. That sucks. Replace audio overlay. Again.
Hi, I’m Jules and I’m in Malate.
For the record.
For my record, well, it seems like a nice place, very humid, though. It’s just creepy how some entrepreneurs converted some old building ruins into clubs and bars. And it’s just like what they say in the old travel guides, it’s a hodgepodge of restaurants owned by different Filipino, Asian, and European nationalities. It used to be a bohemian haunt but I see no bohemians here, unless they all wear Armani XII Sports and Natori-Chanel casuals. But I don’t think that’s the real definition of a bohemian.
Curiously, there are lots of Europeans here, too. I heard from people back home that there were lots of backpackers who used to come here in this area as a stopover to their island-hopping adventures. I guess they’re still at it. And funny enough, I guess that means I’m one of them. Hmm, maybe I’m not the only Europelan “backpacker” here tonight. I have to find that out. Maybe I can trade a few stories with the others, get a few tips.
The place is decorated to the hilt. See those colorful banners, intermittent light displays and rainbow-colored holograms? Yes, the famous Malate street parties and gay pride parade and stuff. Very circa 20. But yes, we have come a long way since those days of parading in order to be seen. These days, we parade to let the advertisers back home know what brands of products we are into and who we will support in the next elections. I hate that gay pride marches back home have no feel of pride anymore, at least the advocacy kind of pride. But then again, who needs to promote advocacy now that—insert political voiceover here-homosexuals have all the rights of the heterosexuals? But here, I think they still have to have some advocacy work done. It’s still the church that battles it out with them. God, don’t they know that the next candidates for popes are 70% gay? Talk about conservatism.
I wish Angelina could see this with me now. Nothing like live traveling.
But wait, no, it’s not a gay pride thing or any other thing. They’re decorated to celebrate Happy Half, too. Look at the sign at the end of the street.
>> HAPPY HALF TO ALL! <<
Huh. Is it a truly happy half, I wonder. I am here and I see a mix of worlds. Back home, some sectors try to erase the mix that’s part of the old world, this world. And then there’s my generation that seeks to discover the world of the recessive mix of our blood. Is this a happy thing? Not really, but one thing is for sure – everyone suffers from being halved. You can see here that this half of the world is still trying to survive as best as it could as the other half tries to move on without giving a damn about whether the slower half could ever catch up. But could it ever? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe that’s why it’s still confused, they’re still confused, and I’m still confused. And maybe that’s the only story here. Oh, frak, what am I saying.
Well, it’s 2550 and I’m Jules. I just turned 25 today and I’m just beginning to discover what being part-Filipino is all about right here in the Philippines, right now, in the middle of the century in the middle of the millennium.