By the way: over at Anthology, my Project 365 is haiku.
The six-hour bus trip from Baguio to Manila is rather routine and uneventful; no accidents, the occasional bratty child, and a teenager with motion sickness vomiting barbecued hotdog, iced tea, and gastric juices out into a plastic bag. With my iPod drained for the moment, I’m forced to listen to the oldies. The exegesis of “You Needed Me,” and juxtapositions of John Denver and Jim Croce.
Ah, the stopover. Moving along from seats that smell like Clover Chips and mint candies – everybody’s trying not to vomit – and to the door. You’re greeted by the warm scent of the lowlands, diesel fumes, balut, chicken mami, and yes… My Shaldan.
My Shaldan is practically the default car air freshener, just as everyone would use generic mothballs in closets and Albatross in the comfort room. Going Steady has gone the way of the Opel Rekord – a slow and dignified death – and those little scented pine trees don’t really work unless you’re in a jeepney. The Filipino car has always been bathed and swathed in the many scents of My Shaldan: in Father’s case, “Squash.” It disguises very well the scent of auto detailing, like brand-new vinyl mats or the rather pungent scent of vinyl restorer on the dashboard.
Yet like so many things about society, we can’t agree on where to put car air freshener, no matter how dizzy it makes us. Most people place the canister on the center console where the air conditioning can waft the smell of sublimating naphthalene and fruit essence all over the car. Some would balance – or perhaps even glue – the canister to the dashboard, duplicating the same effect of incense on the ancestral tablet. Still others would glue it on the headliner, and from at least one friend, the bits and pieces smeared on the vents of air conditioning outlets. Great job, dude.
The cigarettes have been consumed, the barbecue reduced to the skewer, the large Coke held deep within the bladder until the next stop to Tarlac: two hours away, and McArthur Highway’s bumpy roads taking a toll on your blader. As I entered the bus again, I realized that the bus ride can never be the same without a whiff of My Shaldan, and Renz Verano (the dance mix of “Remember Me,” FTW) playing in the background.