after three years, a friend have finally convinced me to go back to malate last week. i admit, i was really quite hesitant at first. but not because of any downbeat reasons. perhaps, i just find the place not or no longer my turf. but then i thought of giving it a try again.
we were walking down the long and busy saturday stretch of nakpil. I could see the pounding music of every establishment mildly shaking the tables soaked with warm and blinking lights along the sidewalk. men on their tight shirts were calling out passer bys. i must say that they were carefully handpicked for the job. but we decided to have dinner first since the night was still young. when suddenly, we saw a familiar face, it was Y. he was gracious enough to invite us over their table and we were able to convince them to join us afterwards.
but while we were having dinner, I could not help to notice how interesting the place have combined the diversity of people: rich, bourgeois, poor, straight, gay, local, foreigners and the classification could be endless. But malate has this certain magic that dissolved these differences, to a point where everyone could only care less. I am not sure though if this is already acceptance, or tolerance or perhaps it could go as far as sheer apathy. And probably, I am there that night to realize it myself.
the place had a very large crowd that night. but my company told me that it was actually smaller than usual. a number of people approached our table. I could no longer remember there faces. but their begs definitely echoed inside my ears up to this very moment. there were vendors selling almost everything. A woman, probably in her 40s, even offered us to tell our fortunes. there was a father showing us a piece of paper, asking for his son’s medication. a mute who was wearing a two piece bikini and vibrantly dancing to each table for change. a group of children eagerly waiting for our leftovers. Until a familiar woman stood in front of our table, face sunk and cheekbones swollen, her body was the frailest I have ever seen and has a voice that scratches the deepest of our conscience.
now I remember her. she was the same woman in this local show, where they reunite separated relatives. how could I forget? It was her episode that I was moved the most.
when she was young, she abandoned her family in mindanao to look for a greener pasture here in manila. she never wrote to her family and basically cut her communication from them. many years have passed, but her life here in the city went from bad to worst and when she thought she had the nastiest blow, she found out she has cancer. the show’s staff tried to look for her family and bring them back together, only to know that the woman’s mother just recently passed away. while the furious father would not just simply accept her despite her conditions. probably, if I did not see her there in malate that night, it would not occur to me that the staff made them to look that the father finally accepted her, just for the sake of the show.
all I could do that very moment was to look at her as she moved away, carrying a sackful of empty bottles and cans. she approached all occupied tables that night but none of them spare her some change. i could see on her face that she has been numbed with the same blank reaction from people. Then I thought, when all cancer patients are resting and gaining all the strength they can have lying on their beds, she was there in the wee hours of the night getting all the trash and pity she can have to live and staring how life for most people are being enjoyed. i could imagine how horrible that could be.
when another friend arrived we decided to hit the bar. I pulled a couple of bucks from my wallet, with the picture of the woman still in my head. as I hand it over to the doorman, i then realized, how happiness could cost that much. how we can have the most advantage and benefits in life while some simply don’t no matter how they strive. and lastly, how decadence can make me realize all these.
as we entered the place, I was surprised how dark and many people were inside. it was an explosion of senses: the ear popping music, the humid, clashing sweating bodies and probably a hundred of faces that welcomed us, as we made our way inside. I only had three bottles that night, stripping almost all my hesitations with a friend and just allowing the spirit of the place, succumb me. but at the end of it all, as I was riding a cab home, beating the sun rise, i realized that life in malate was not really what’s inside its bars rather whats outside of it.
Now, I know why I don’t go to malate anymore, because in a way it reminds me of how my life was before. true enough, malate is a destination of escape to many, while a place of hope to some.
well, enough said.
i will just leave the rest to the mind of the master.hahaha. wink! wink!