You need focus, focus, focus.
It is time to count your marbles, and finish the work you are supposed to do, so you tell yourself.
You take that trip to a city hundreds of miles away so you can have peace and quiet.
Manila does not give you this, even as in the past you had Starbucks for your refuge when you were doing some of the dictionaries.
You call this the Starbucks-icization of your mind, with the promise of that Capuccino that you finish in one gulp in the hope that you can have the next one soon.
You need the kick of caffeine in your brain despite the chemist’s warning of hell letting loose and making you hyperactive.
You need the kick—even as you need to kick your brains so you can figure out your first word for this book project you have.
The first word is always the most difficult to think about.
When you have so much noise, you can only write about the noise, which you do not need.
And so you have to run to where silence has been promised, to the ends of the Islas Filipinas with your books on your luggage and some pair of clothing.
The reference materials, drafts, and writing tools—these are your armor, and you cannot leave without them.
You gave yourself ten days for the wrapping up of your writing.
You give yourself five days for the editing.
And the rest, on the sixteenth day, all things must go to your publisher.
You get to this southern city in more than an hour.
You alight, but the insult of the public announcement of the PAL Express in English and Tagalog is something you cannot shake it off.
You are going to a Mindanao country of Visayans and Mindanawons and this PAL public service announcements are telling things in English and Tagalog!
You have it in your head: To file a complaint with the PAL Express management.
The charge will be this airline’s callousness and insensitivity.
You get down the plane and all around you is green.
It is the green of life, and yet this city is poor, as poor as a rat.
And it is called a city, with practically no traffic lights, with the arrogance of filth and dirt, and a Johnny-come-lately pretender of urban ethos.
It is a city where you need to play it by ear when you cross its narrow and littered streets infested with habal-habal and tricycles, their brum-brum-brum drumming your ears, and filling them with the same drum-drum-drum of June beetles about to commit harakiri because when you were young, you tied their wings and played their lives before throwing them to the fire and eat them roasted like an exotic cuisine from your l'englengleng' place in the Ilocos.
You see all the signs of ‘citification’, this vestige of a pretense to progress and development that began in the 60s when for a place to be turned into a city, that was an honor, a relief from the clutches of a local political kingpin, or a certain sense of autonomy.
Never mind that in Laoag where you came from, you saw how your rural town was transformed into a city after a people’s referendum that hoodwinked Laoagueños into believing that their life would be better when they are citified.
And so you see this thing, this citification of the Visayas and Mindanao, this citification of Luzon, and this citification of all those pretenders of urban culture minus the possibilities of being urban, or becoming one.
It is a rush, this, like a Red Bull that gives you a quickie-quickie energy that you can only sustain you with another shot of Red Bull, until you have become prey to its addictive power.
Imagine a place where Dr Jose Rizal spent his last three and a half-years before his death turning into a city, and you can only sigh with disbelief.
There has to be a requirement for a place to become a city: that the Internet service is stable, and that you do not have to be enraged waiting for the signal to come by.
You loaded yourself with those exorbitant data plan from Globe, and the Smartbro with Smart.
You loaded yourself with so much hope that you can work peacefully and productively in these lonely and quiet and sad places only to end up with frustration and disappointment: these Internet services do not work.
Smartbro is not smart at all.
Globe data plan is not global, but 'barriotic', its power to signal only up to the vicinity of that Globe cyberstore in SM Masinag where you needed to fall in life, and wait for 30 minutes, in order to buy just a plain Globe sim card, the same card you can buy in 30 seconds at a street in Cubao.
And the WiFi?
Wide Fidelity? Forget it: not in these citified places of our rural Islas Filipinas life.
And no one seems to be complaining.
You need focus, focus, focus, not these distractions.
A city in Mindanao, Islas Filipinas/
June 5, 2013