Thursday, June 04, 2009

The More Things Change

Oh. Just in case you guys missed it... yes, I'm back home for my first visit in over a year. And, yes, despite my current infatuation with the city I've been living in for the past year, the Philippines will always be home.

It's only been a year; nothing much has changed. There's still too much pollution, too much traffic, too much noise, too many people crowding the streets. Not much has been added to infrastructure, except perhaps another slew of newly opened super malls and new "in" places for the well-heeled to hang out. A year is not such a long time to be away after all.

But time has definitely marched on for the people I love and have come home to.

My parents look a lot older than they did before I left. My dad's hair is a little bit grayer and he moves a lot slower now. My mother has a few more lines on her face than she had just a year ago.

Change has been making the rounds among the friends I left behind, too. Suddenly tables were now filled with new faces - babies, husbands and boyfriends accompanying friends who used to come to them alone. My batchmates, who are all a year and a half into their fellowship training, are different because of the experience and knowledge that they have gained.

I sit among them, thinking of these changes that I see, and wonder if they see any changes in me. It's odd, because I feel that in a lot of ways, ever since I got off the madly spinning world I was on, I have been standing still. Despite my desire to live more of life by being in my limbo, part of me feels that my life is still on hold.

All of them seem to be pretty clear about what they want and where they are going. I haven't quite figured out where I want to be a few months from now.

And yet despite the changes, I am glad to be here with them again. My life has been blessed with the people I've met and become friends with in my new city. But it is good to know that there are people I can always come home to and know I'll always be welcome.
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Monday, June 01, 2009


Manila Traffic photo by tadzima

There is no other word to appropriately describe Manila traffic.

I'm going be the annoying, complaining, stereotypical Pinoy ex-pat just this once and not be apologetic for it... I need the stress release after just having had the most harrowing time trying to get back into the Pinoy driver every-man-for-himself mindset - easily translated as "Kill or be road kill."

Maybe cars don't go quite as fast in Manila as they do in Oz. But over there, I don't have to contend with fellow drivers who think they're either in some rally race or in Enchanted Kingdom's bumper car ring. There are no jeepneys that swerve from the middle of the road to pick up passengers on the sidewalk with absolutely no warning. There are no buses bearing down on you like huge angry monsters trying to bully you into submission by using their size.

There are no insane pedestrians that come out of nowhere and dart in front of your car just as the lights have changed. No motorcycle drivers or cyclists with death wishes who use the narrowest of spaces in between cars with no caution or heed. And it's unheard to sit in traffic for one hour covering a distance that can actually be driven in 10 minutes elsewhere.

It's utter chaos.

Try as I might, I don't think I'll ever understand the psychology of Manila traffic. Allowing one car to move ahead of you in a traffic queue seems tantamount to having one's teeth pulled. "Giving way" is a concept that seems completely foreign to us Pinoys driving in Manila - probably because any driver who practices "giving way" here will never get anywhere because other drivers will mark him as a wuss and run all over him.

I'm not sure we've realized the sheer ill logic of our behavior. We refuse to follow traffic rules because we figure no one else does so, hence not following the rules will probably get us to where we want to go in a shorter amount of time. But it's actually our refusal to follow traffic rules that increases traffic snarls exponentially - and gets all of us stuck in our cars, wasting precious time sitting in traffic jams unimaginable to anyone who's never been in one.

Driving in Manila again after just six months of driving in Perth, where traffic rules are not merely suggestions and where "rush hour congestion" means moving at 60 kph on an 80 kph road, has been akin to being thrown back into hell after experiencing a fleeting taste of paradise.

This is definitely not something that I've missed.

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