Field Journal N11
You get to the airport.
You are ushered out of the plane that provided you a bird’s eyeview of the law-ang of the Ilokanos of old, your people.
It lands smoothly, its nose to the mountains, its tail to the sea.
You thank your angel of safe travel.
Outside the plane, the city’s temperature must be peaking at 95 at the very least at an hour past 1 PM.
From below, the clouds above you miles aways are still fluffy.
And they move so fast in the heavens of all the angels you can imagine.
They are like those cotton candies in their immaculate whiteness, the same candies you have bartered for a Fernando Poe Jr movie ticket one fiesta time in your barriotic consciousness in Laoag, when the town’s public plaza-cum-theatre by the northwestern foot of the Gilbert Bridge was still the hub of that town’s cultural life, what with the obligatory comedia come February when St William the Hermit’s patronage of that town is being celebrated until today.
The small trees surrounding the cemented airport area stand still, like the Luneta Park soldiers at Dr Jose Rizal’s tomb standing erect, motionless, ramrod.
The air is everywhere but not here, not in this place hurrying to become a city.
And so is the sea breeze.
This is the city of your dream, and what you have got is fantasy spelled the wrong way.
You cram into a waiting area for luggage and baggage—no, there is no conveyor belt in these parts, but conveying hands and conveying kindness.
You get away from the throng.
You have your books and reference materials in the checked-in bag, and you cannot lose those, not at this time that you are rushing to complete things, and you need to watch for that black thing that contained some parts of your future.
That black bag has the red ribbon that stands for what purports to be your rebellious nature.
Like the writing of a monolinggual thingy, and a cultural thingy, and other thingy-thingy things done one at a time, one word at a time, until these get accumulated, and lo and behold, after half a century, you can finish something from cover to cover.
Not bad for a try—for so many tries.
To pass time, you go to the information counter of that city.
The information officer is kind, gentle, and sweet, and exudes brilliance.
Her lines are memorized, but not so.
She has all those brochures, infos, and sheets to instruct you on how to go around the city, with infos on some of the lodging places you have already searched on the Internet when you were still in Honolulu.
You have known this place from afar, and now you do not know.
The tricycle ride to the city is P60, she says.
Tell those trike drivers that you know the price. Some of them, when they sense that you are not from here, take advantage of you. So arm yourself with this information. When you are in the city, you pay P7 from point to point. No more.
There is that faint sense of the Gabriela Silang in this woman, you remind yourself.
Arms, flimsy and skinny and brown, reach out to you from outside the iron fence. These are the arms of trike drivers hoping that a passenger would have the wisdom to select one of them.
One old man, possibly burdened by raising a number of children—five, he says while on your way to the city—caught your attention.
You thought he needed most your P60. On that presumptuous presumption, you hired him.
To Pension House X, you say.
Yes, I know that.
How much is it? you ask.
That is up to you, boss, he tells you.
I pay you P60, you tell him. That is what I was told I should pay you.
Damn. He did not even offer to carry your other bag, the one heavy with books, copious notes, index cards, and notebooks.
So, like a good soldier, you follow your general of a tricycle driver who will bring you to your castle of a pension house by the boulevard close to the sea.
In 20 minutes, you are there, at your castle, king traveller.
You ask for details, like WiFi, which you need most.
Yes, sir, we have, the counter girl tells you. There is no if and but in her response, and you believe her.
You got room J, perhaps to mean June, the month you allowed your soul to wander in this American summer in this Philippine month of the beginning of the wet season, Philippine-style.
You check things: aircon, check.
Bathroom, small but check.
Writing table, there is one but dirty, and you ask that the bulky non-flat TV to be removed.
You do not need idiots on boobtube.
You need your peace of mind, not those inane words of inane noontime actors and actresses who can afford to sell promises and hopes to our suffering people.
The aircon works, but its water drips, wetting your black jacket instantly, your bag of yellow paper for writing, and your entrance.
You tell the counter people: I do not need flood in my room. I want to transfer to another one.
There is no more room available, sir.
You hear her call you ‘king’ so you control your anger.
I must be kind, I must be kind, you repeated, like a mantra, like an Om-Om of Sadhan meditation you learned in your past life.
You will have free breakfast, sir, the counter girl says.
You hear her call you ‘king’ the second time around.
Your feelings are assuaged by the sound of a meal the following morning. And her reference to you as ‘king’.
My king, my lord, my master, you repeated in your heard. This is medieval Europe with its culture of subservience, you remind yourself.
You are tired. And you are hallucinating.
You slumped your tired body on the bed that reeks of pomade, woman’s hair, and so many heads that perhaps had not known shampoo in their lifetime.
You take the tattered towel that was possibly white some weeks ago but now going cream, sprayed perfume on it, and spread on the malodorous pillow with it to spare you from smelling those chemicals from the dead cells of transients.
You are not the first occupant of this kingdom, you tell yourself.
There had been transients and travellers before you, sir king, you tell yourself again.
You smile—and you are faking it.
You take in all the promise of aromatheraphy from the Black Noir that saved you from a bad, bad night.
Welcome, stranger, at Room J with no window, with the reeking bed, and with the dripping aircon.
A city in Islas Filipinas/
June 4, 2013