It’s my sixth month in Manila, and I’ve become extremely depressed.
The route home from WordCamp was a depressing one. I had some time to look around what lies beyond – in this case, just next door – to the chaotic train system in Metro Manila. I never get used to it: girls selling sampaguita, boys asking you for spare change for heaven-knows-what, and the tragic disgust you get from seeing the elderly ask for money for medicine. I don’t know how much of it is feigned; truth be told, I could care less.
It doesn’t need a little getting used to. It takes the collective balls – and gall – of an entire population to keep these things ignored, at the background, and relegated to the ordinary.
Taken at Doroteo Jose-Recto crossway, Sta. Cruz, Manila
A family lives in that shanty. There’s a kid’s plastic bicycle, probably bought years ago when Ever was still doing good business in selling cheap stuff. Those pieces of corrugated iron were never new, as much as they were already salvaged to begin with. You can imagine if there’s any “shelter” to speak of from the elements, much less if there’s any peace of mind to be found in this place.
I’ve seen pigsties larger than this house.
Maybe I’m overreacting, that I’m getting too emotional or too caught-up over a completely normal, ordinary, everyday fact of life in the Philippines. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be this way. We often whine and moan – yes, even bitch – about how “pathetic” things are, when “pathetic” is usually right in your face, when it’s an everyday occurence, when it’s so normal and ordinary. When these things are supposed to be the first that should be changed. Yet they can’t; they’re so normal, so everyday, so ordinary. After all, it’s far easier to change a President than to provide families a decent roof above their heads.
OK, let’s find solutions… no, we can’t, actually. If there was a solution to the indignity of living in the “lungga,” we won’t be seeing one. It’s not that there is no solution, it’s more like it’s doomed to shrugs and the onomatopoeia of indifference. Every solution will be a band-aid one; every solution will have a hundred reasons to disprove it.
You want to tell off the father of this family to work his ass off, but I doubt you’ll be hired if you didn’t finish school. You want to tell the mother of this family to stop having children, but I doubt you’ll stop having children if you have nothing to do but lay in that cardboard box and do your wifely duty. You tell anything to the children, and they’ll be off begging for money or having meals at the soup kitchens of Paco or Quiapo. You tell the Government to do something about it, and you’re going to expect more scams.
You ask me, I don’t know. I’m just a writer; I don’t have a lot of money, and I don’t have the faintest idea of how I could do something about the biggest pile of bullshit to ever affect me in such a profound way.
A few blocks away is my favorite drinking spot, and I’ll down a few beers just to clear the weekly depression of work and the lungga’s of Sta. Cruz on top of it. Some kid will ask me for spare change later on, and I’ll just shake my head and say that there’s no spare change on me right now.
Then I’m going to go home, lie down, get some sleep, and make a promise never to pass by that crossway again.