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Manila Jul 21-28, 2010

Manila, Manila, I Keep Coming Back to Manila

Dad's Birthday
Back in the day, the title story was a hit song popularized by Hotdog. I didn't realize how true that is until I made another unplanned visit to Manila to celebrate my Dad's birthday. My impending trip was fraught with all the baggage Manila used to weigh down on me.

From the airport, my first stop was the hipster scene, Mogwai. Immediately, I defaulted to a group none of whom I knew. It was all good. Reinald and Jam are denizens of the punk culture and Kim is an interior art decorator who also runs a new art/resto joint in UP Village. By the time we ended, I had an invite to their upcoming gig at Kim's Leona Art Restaurant. Cool!

When they left, I drifted to another table where I recognized Vehm - a classmate from the UP College of Fine Arts workshop. With her crew, we talked about travel and the possibility of doing a Burning Man version in Mindoro where a Burner-baptized friend, Rmin, runs his own resort. Whoa!

Charlene, my dear ex who remains my best friend, became almost a constant companion whenever our schedules allowed. I had to acclimatize to the new landscape. Last time I saw her, we were still together. Now, we spend time together as friends. Despite the breakup, the friendship and the love remain intact. This continuing relationship blazes a path of uncertainty and surprises as we encounter unfamiliar challenges in these uncharted waters. She would be one of the cornerstones of my visit.

My Exs, My Best Friends
With a few exceptions, I guess I can categorically say ALL my exs remain my best friends. The four people I feel closest to on this planet are my 4 kidding! When shit hits the fan, I'll call on them first before anyone else. Likewise, they can call on me if the need arises. Some people find that strange. Well, it didn't happen naturally. It took some thinking to sort out the building blocks of a relationship, understanding the underlying template that keeps it together. Yeah, it sounds clinical, but hey, it works!

Well, here's a touchy one. He's not getting any younger and this is a good occasion to clear whatever cobwebs that still linger. People who love each other can grow apart, even with the best intentions. Sometimes, you just have to continue loving each other from a distance. Human relationship is inherently fragile and the interweaving layers of the human factor only add complexity to its dynamics. It's a tight wire act to keep the delicate balance between loyalty, love and harmony without eroding yourself in the process.

Reggie A.
Rej has been a constant source of support from day one. I can't really say enough about her. Her friendship saw me through the difficult times when I was homeless, when I came back from Thailand as a broken voted-out Survivor Castaway, and during the many times the lid fell from underneath me - she was always there. If she even suspects I have a need for anything, whatever that is, it's as good as done! Her generosity is equalled only by her reliability. I hope I get to reciprocate all that at some point. I remain thankful to manage a small coffee talk with her.

Leona Art Restaurant
My fav movie resto, Gaite de Coeur, has gone out of business...sigh! I haven't fully recovered yet from the closure of Backdoor Blues Café, and now this. Thankfully, a new chill place opened up in UP Village - Leona Art Restaurant. I'm glad I met Kim at Mogwai otherwise this would have escaped me. It hosted Manila Maynila, a photo exhibit of Manila's landmarks which was attended by la artsy peeps from the art world. It was great seeing familiar faces from the UP College of Fine Arts who graced the event. Having a chill hub in the area for like-minded artists and indies add a spice to the community flavor.

   Charlene: Ateneo has no bike culture.
TheLoneRider: Why? They can't be weaned away from their chauffeurs?

Ateneo de Manila
I spent nearly half a day in Ateneo watching some students pass by. Not surprisingly, they're better dressed, talk mostly in English, and walk with an air of youthful optimism. Being privileged, they're lucky the challenge they face is mostly the learning process. All the facilities are laid out nice and dandy. My point? When I was teaching in UP, the students had to put up with slow computers, sometimes sharing them. Not all the programs were available and it took a while before I could get them the overhead projector. In short, they had to endure a few logistical hurdles before they can get going with the learning process.

I can't help feel a disparity in demeanor and outlook with the students here compared to UP. I'll make it simple.

  • In UP, the students carry themselves like this: I'm intelligent, therefore I am.
  • In Ateneo, it comes across as: I'm intelligent. Let's do some work.
...and I don't think it's got anything to do with the thickness of their wallet. I'm coming from my very limited exposure. I'm sure many others will disagree.

Chinese Kidnapping
Chinese kidnapping for ransom used to populate the news headlines. Not anymore. People now think it's a thing of the past. That's what I thought too - until I met this Chinese lady whose brother has been kidnapped and remain unreleased. Apparently, Chinese kidnapping has flourished into a lucrative cottage industry. It's so rampant now that there are different support groups - families recovering from the trauma, families still negotiating with the kidnappers, families awaiting closure, etc. For the life of me, I don't know why there's a news blackout on that. Hopefully, with P-Noy at the helm, this atrocious practice comes to an end and people responsible for this are hanged by their balls and left to twist in the wind.

The Missed Ones
7 days proved too short to meet up with other friends I wanted to spend time with. I missed Carina's art show opening, I missed hooking up with Leah for her birthday, and I missed saying goodbye in person to Sylvia who'll be leaving for Austria. I also wanted to attend a satsang with the Amma community and at least say Hi to Grace, Eric and Lucy. Of course it won't be complete without a sit with my Vipassana friends or a get-together with the ABS Showdown crew, but it didn't happen.

New Horizon
I thought I've seen the last of Ateneo philosophy prof., Guss, in Dumaguete when he visited with his family for a seminar. Our paths crossed again at Char's Peace and Love picnic and yet again when he hosted a casual dinner for me and Char. I have a feeling there's more to come. I'll be touching base with Kim, Jam and Reinald - perhaps I get an immersion into the punk realm. Vehm and her crew might one day revel in a local version of Burning Man with me and some Pinoy friends who have participated in the event in Black Rock City.

Ending Thoughts
A lot of things happened within these 7 days - closure, new beginnings, reconciliation, etc. Manila is not so much the place anymore but the human dynamics that shape it. As much as Manila remains the city I love to hate, I'm sure I'll keep coming back to it.

--- TheLoneRider

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Metro Manila Blogs by TheLoneRider

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Reader Comments:

"People who love each other can grow apart, even with the best intentions. Sometimes, you just have to continue loving each other from a distance. Human relationship is inherently fragile and the interweaving layers of the human factor only add complexity to its dynamics. It's a tight wire act to keep the delicate balance between loyalty, love and harmony without eroding yourself in the process."
Vehm Reyes
(Feb 3, 2011) This one hit me a lot...
This has been roller coaster of thoughts. And yes, I'm still down for Pinoy Burning Man. =)

Leah Agrava
(Aug 2, 2010) Thanks for including me in your story.....cheers to continued friendship...

Carina Guevara
(Aug 1, 2010) I hate that I missed your trip to Manila... but maybe it means we will bump into one another in further even more exciting destinations. Keep the fires burning my dearest friend. I am so happy you are where you are and look forward to seeing where life will be taking you.

Tony and Eva
(Aug 1, 2010) ...nice to have you again in our household. You take care there.

"Vehm and her crew might one day revel in a local version of Burning Man with me and some Pinoy friends who have participated in the event in Black Rock City."
Rmin Bernardino
(July 31, 2010) lets do it!

Kim Javier
(July 31, 2010) It was fun meeting you and thanks for coming to the exhibit. Hope you and Charlene still get to pass by once in awhile. I read your story, it's really funny how we get to accidentally meet people. Thanks also for mentioning us! And for supporting Leona :)

Elsie Yang
(July 31, 2010) ...hope you have time next time you're here in Manila.

Milay Ventolina
(July 31, 2010) haha

Conch Eugenio
(Jul 30, 2010) ...see you soooooonest! :)

Guss Rodriguez
(Jul 29, 2010) It was great having you for dinner! I hope we can do it again sometime when you visit or we visit. Good luck with settling in.

Charlene Tan
(Jul 28, 2010) I wish you all that you wish for yourself. Know that you will always have a place in my heart.

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Manila Bar, Cafe and Resto:

Trigo Bakery and Cafe

Serye cafe resto

Black Kings Bar music bar


Coffee | Food

Serye cafe resto
Cafe | Resto
Quezon Memorial Circle

Trigo Bakery, Guijo Street, Makati
Trigo Bakery
9629 Kamagong
San Antonio Village

Music Bars

Black Kings Bar music bar
Black Kings Bar
Bar | Cafe
107 West Ave., QC

Good Food Co

Leonas Art Restaurant

Manila Maynila